Safeguarding Bob Marley with “So Much Things to Say”
In reviewing Roger Steffens’s latest book, So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley, Hua Hsu asserts in The New Yorker that Steffens’s contribution to the Marley canon is his “nerdish monomania.” But Steffens, who invited me to tour his overstuffed “Reggae Archives” in L.A., epitomizes cool – as does his magnum opus on Marley – right down to its subtle red, green, and gold binding. Moreover, it is Steffens’s avidity and accuracy that allow readers to “really know the man” as Steffens did when he toured with Marley, subsequently devoting his life to safeguarding his legacy. Jamaican poet laureate Linton Kwesi Johnson writes in his introduction to Steffens’s oeuvre, that Steffens shows “how serious Marley was about his art: his single-mindedness and his consummate professionalism.” Steffens’s book exudes those same qualities.
On July 29, 2017, Steffens blessed me with a return invitation to the Reggae Archives to interview him. The topics we discussed included what got him interested in reggae; how his passion for the music developed; The New Yorker’sreview of his new book; the book’s main dramas and themes; and finally, Steffens’s hopes for “So Much Things to Say”’s enduring legacy. What follows is a transcription of our discussion modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.