Bob’s blender

Philip Sander visits the Bob Marley museum at 56 Hope Road and sees the most precious relic of them all

Illustration by Russel Halfhide

“This was the great Bob Marley’s favourite shirt. He often wore it on stage and always took it with him on tour.”

The small, faded blue denim shirt hung in a glass case, slightly forlornly.

Nearby were three women’s gowns, flowing, pleated, multi-coloured.

“These are three dresses formerly belonging to the I-Threes. They often wore them on stage when they performed with the great Bob Marley. The I-Threes were Rita Marley, wife of the great Bob Marley; Judy Mowatt; and Marcia Griffiths. They never used cosmetics and were inspiring examples of responsible womanhood.”

My guide looked like a good example of responsible womanhood herself. She was tall and grave, and dressed in a plain brown smock, such as a nun might wear. She never smiled. Her enunciation could have won prizes.

I was visiting the famous house at 56 Hope Road, Kingston 6, Jamaica, the former residence of Bob Marley — sorry, the great Bob Marley — now the official Bob Marley Museum. Formerly the property of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, signed over to Bob in 1974 as part of a record deal, and since then indelibly associated with the Marley legend. This is where Bob held court over an ever-changing crowd of musicians, rude boys, and assorted Rastamen, this is where he built the Tuff Gong studio, where the world’s best music journalists flocked in the 1970s, where Bob barely survived an infamous assassination attempt in 1976, and on this patchy lawn he played many, many football matches.

Most of the downstairs rooms had been converted into galleries, walls covered with all sorts of memorabilia, glass cases protecting precious artifacts. One dark corner contained a life-size hologram of Bob in performance. My guide was clearly accustomed to visitors being overcome by emotion. At the threshold of each room, she would announce the contents, then give a slight bow and back out through the door, closing it behind her. The first time she did this, I was puzzled. Then I realised: she was considerately giving me a few minutes alone with the relics. If I were so inclined, I could fall to the floor weeping in privacy, or perhaps paw gently at the wall.

Now here I was in the upstairs verandah, just outside the great Bob Marley’s bedroom. My guide paused with her hand on the doorknob.

“This is the great Bob Marley’s bedroom.” She opened the door.

“Everything in this room is just as it was when the great Bob Marley died. Except the bedspread.”

Well, what kind of climax was that? After the life-size hologram and the favourite shirt, surely I could expect to see the actual bedspread upon which the great Bob Marley napped?

But wait — the guide was standing at another door, leading deeper into the house. Some further sanctum was about to be unveiled. Could it be — ?

“This is the great Bob Marley’s upstairs kitchen.”

Clearly, nothing here had changed since Bob passed on — the arborite on the countertops was vintage circa-1975 off-white.

“These were the great Bob Marley’s favourite dishes. He often took them with him on tour. Brown and cream were his favourite colours — for dishes. For other things, his favourite colours were red, green, and gold.”

I was starting to wonder if my guide was making some of this up.

“And this — ” Her voice was suddenly higher, and betrayed a quaver of emotion. I turned to behold this new wonder.

“This — this is the great Bob Marley’s blender.”

And so it was.

“With this blender the great Bob Marley made many healthful juices from natural fruits and vegetables.” Were there tears in her eyes? “His favourite juices — were carrot — and beetroot.”

She bowed her head and backed out of the little kitchen, closing the door behind her. I was alone with Bob Marley’s blender.

It probably wasn’t really on a spotlit pedestal, though you can hardly blame me for remembering it that way. There it sat, the glass jug gleaming in the afternoon light, the chassis barely touched by rust, the electric cord curled in a perfect circle, like a halo. My knees weakened. I may have sniffled. I felt the distinct urge to paw gently at something.

Downstairs in the gift shop, I bought a t-shirt featuring the likeness of the great Bob Marley, and thanked my guide. At the side of the house was a small garden planted with herbs. An old man was sitting on a stool, wreathed in pungent clouds.

“Boy — you smoke?”

No, I didn’t.

He narrowed his eyes and fixed me with his stare.

“Then you must play cricket.” He turned away, exhaling with polite disgust.