Home / Community / Commentary / Op-Ed / Bob Marley Still Really Wouldn’t Want You Voting for Trump

Bob Marley Still Really Wouldn’t Want You Voting for Trump

By Stephen Cooper

In August 2019, in an opinion piece for the Tennessean, I wrote: “You don’t have to listen to reggae in order to navigate the perilous times we’re living in, or appreciate the depravity of the Trump administration’s assault on human rights, but it helps.”

Using songs by Burning Spear, Cocoa Tea, and Max Romeo, I argued—and I continue to assert—that the lyrics of reggae legends equip us to better understand and manage the problems Trump’s ugly presidency has foisted on Americans—and the world.

Three years earlier, in another article—published in several countries, including the U.S.—called “What Bob Marley Can Teach Us About Donald Trump,” I contrasted the two men, imagining a hypothetical conversation between them, using each man’s publicly spoken (and, in Marley’s case, sung) words; in so doing, I concluded “there can be no doubt: If Bob Marley was alive today he would denounce—using the strongest, most acerbic terms—the Republican candidate for President of the United States, Donald J. Trump”; I showed how even “A small sampling of Marley’s discography and musical mainstays evidence the disdain the reggae star would have held for the mogul.”

Now, as we advance on an election of extreme, perhaps existential consequence, I revisit—and ask you to rejoin—Trump and Marley’s fantasied conversation to emphasize: the undisputed King of Reggae still really wouldn’t want you voting for Trump.

Before we begin, recall at the end of their last tête-á-tête, Marley cautioned Trump: “You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” (Get Up, Stand Up) Marley straight up told Trump he was “crazy,” warning “we gonna chase . . . crazy baldheads [like you] out of town.” (Crazy Baldheads)

Disclaiming any hair-growing deficiency, Trump responded in typical Trump fashion when challenged, marching off in a huff. The scene closed with Bob dolefully shaking his head, observing about our President: “Pressed on his conscience . . . [he] live[s] [his life] on false pretense every day—each and every day.” (Guiltiness)

It is here, when Trump suddenly reappears on the scene—red-faced and scowling at Marley—that we pick up their dialogue, as before, using each man’s real-life words and writings (including, for Bob, a few songs he did with fellow legends Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh). Brackets are used to show any altered language, and song titles and other references are indicated after each quote.

Donald Trump: [And one more thing, Bob,] I will never change this hairstyle. I like it. It fits my head. Those who criticize me are only losers and envy people. And it is not a wig, it’s my hair (Forbes, February 2014). Because my hair—I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect. (The Guardian, August 2020) [And I’ll tell you this, Bob,] [m]y fingers are long and beautiful, as it has been well documented – (Washington Post, August 2015)

Bob Marley: What your hands do, it’s your own eyes that’ve seen. So won’t you judge your actions to make sure the results are clean? (Pass It On) Why boasteth thyself, oh evil m[a]n, playing smart and not being clever? I said you’re working iniquity to achieve vanity (Small Axe) ­–

Donald Trump: [Bob,] [s]how me someone without an ego, and I’ll show you a loser—having a healthy ego, or high opinion of yourself, is a real positive in life! (Twitter, December 2013) [And I’ll tell you,] I went to the Wharton School of Business. I’m, like, a really smart person. (NY Mag, October 2017) Nobody has better respect for intelligence than Donald Trump. (Evening Standard, November 2018)

Bob Marley: [Trump,] [i]f you are the big tree, let me tell you that we are the small axe. Ready to cut you down, to cut you down. (Small Axe)

Donald Trump: I’m just a f—ing businessman. (USA Today, June 2016) [And] I think I am actually humble. I think I’m much more humble than you would understand. (Evening Standard, November 2018) [And you know, Bob,] “[i]t has not been easy for me [either]…I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.” (Politico, October 2015)

Bob Marley: [And] [n]ow you get what you want, do you want more? (Want More) Be not selfish in your doings, pass it on. [You] [l]ive for yourself and you will live in vain; live for others and you will live again. (Pass It On) [Your administration and with it] [d]arkness has covered my light, and has changed my day into night, yeah. (Concrete Jungle).

Donald Trump: [Again Bob, you’re being very unfair.] We got the gowns, we got the masks, we made the ventilators…and now we’re weeks away from a vaccine. We’re doing therapeutics already, fewer people are dying when they get sick, far fewer people are dying. We’ve done a great job. (USA Today, September 2020)

Bob Marley: How can you be sitting there, telling me that you care—that you care? When every time I look around, the people suffer in the suffering—in every way, in everywhere. (Survival)

Donald Trump: [Look, Bob,] [t]hey are dying. That’s true. And you—it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us. (AP News, August 2020) [But,] [i]t’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear. [And] from our shores, we—you know, it could get worse before it gets better. Could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows. (CNN, February 2020)

Bob Marley: This could be the first trumpet, might as well be the last. Many more will have to suffer; many more will have to die. Don’t ask me why, things are not the way they used to be—I won’t tell no lie. One and all got to face reality now. (Natural Mystic) Yes, you have gone for so long, with your love for vanity now. Yes, you have got the wrong interpretation, mixed up with vain imagination. (Stiff Necked Fools) We sick and tired of your ism-schism game (Get Up, Stand Up) –

Donald Trump: [But Bob,] [s]uppose that we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light. Supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. (Business Insider, April 2020)

Bob Marley: So much [has] been said, [so] little been done. [The virus is] still killin’— killin’ the people, and [you’re] havin’, havin’ [your] fun—havin’ lots of fun. They just want [a] leader – (Crisis)

Donald Trump: [I’m leading, Bob! I mean, perhaps there could also be] a way we can do something like [with a disinfectant] injection inside? Or almost a cleaning[?] [I]t sounds interesting to me, so we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful. (NY Mag, April 2020)

Bob Marley: So you think you’ve found the solution, but it’s just another illusion….We’ve got to face the day…come what may. We the street people talkin’. We the people strugglin’. (So Much Trouble in the World) Some goin’ east, and a-some gone west, some stand aside to try their best. Some livin’ big, but the most is livin’ small; they just can’t even find no food at all. (Stop That Train)

Donald Trump: [But Bob,] [l]ook at the way I have been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history—and I say this with great surety—has been treated worse or more unfairly. (CNN, May 2017)

Bob Marley: [Trump,] [e]very man think that his burden is the heaviest (Running Away). [But] [i]f you get down and you quarrel every day, you’re saying prayers to the devils I say. Why not help one another on the way? Make it much easier. Say you just can’t live that negative way, if you know what I mean; make way for the positive day. (Positive Vibration)

Donald Trump: Well, I do think there’s blame—yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at—you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides. (Washington Post, April 2019)

Bob Marley: My blood runs cold. I remember on the slave ship, how they brutalize our very souls. Today [people like you] say that we are free, only to be chained in poverty. (Slave Driver) No chains around my feet, but I’m not free, I know I am bound here in captivity. (Concrete Jungle) Why won’t you let us be, to live in harmony? We like to be free like birds in a tree. (Hallelujah Time)

Donald Trump: [Look, Bob,] I’m the least racist person there is anywhere in the world (The Guardian, July 2019). [I mean I have] Black guys counting my money….[Truthfully though,] I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. (Rolling Stone, June 2015) [I mean, I just don’t get it,] [w]hy are we having all these people from s—thole countries coming here? (The Atlantic, January 2019) [Nevertheless,] did you know my name is in more black songs than any other name in hip-hop? (Medium, February 2018)

Bob Marley: Hypocrites and parasites will go up and take a bite (Who the Cap Fit), [but] who-so-ever diggeth a pit shall fall in it. (Small Axe)

Donald Trump: [Hey Bob, look, I told the] Proud Boys, ‘stand back and stand by.’ But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. (CBS News, September 2020) We have to go back to the core values of this country. They were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place, and they were teaching people to hate our country. And I’m not gonna allow that to happen. (USA Today, September 2020)

Bob Marley: I mean it, when I analyze the stench, to me it makes a lot of sense. How the dreadlock Rasta was a Buffalo Soldier. And he was taken from Africa, brought to America; fighting on arrival, fighting for survival. (Buffalo Soldier) [And] [d]idn’t my people before me slave for this country? Now you look me with a scorn, then you eat up all my corn. (Crazy Baldheads)

Donald Trump: [There’s no talking to you, Bob. And anyway, I’ve just been informed you shot a sheriff and a deputy – ]

Bob Marley: I shot the sheriff, but I swear it was in self-defense – (I Shot the Sheriff)

Donald Trump: Law [and] order! (Twitter, May 2020)

Bob Marley: Yes I’ve been accused, wrongly abused now. But through the powers of the Most High, they’ve got to turn me loose. (Duppy Conqueror) By the laws of men—by the laws of men, true they found me guilty. But through, through Jah, I proved my innocency. (So Much Things to Say) [But as for you, man,] [t]here is one question I’d really love to ask: Is there a place for the hopeless sinner who has hurt all mankind just to save his own [self]? (One Love)

Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveCooperEsq

%d bloggers like this: