Smile Jamaica Concert – December 5th 1976

By Publisher
4 Min Read

On this day, National Heroes Park, once a 50-acre horse racing track, became the landscape of one of the most noted events in Jamaica’s modern-day history. On this day forty-four years ago, on the 5th of December 1976, the town of Kingston was lit up with the hypnotic presence of Bob Marley and The Wailers. The event was the “Smile Jamaica,” concert, attended by more than 80,000 people.

Bob Marley at the Smile Jamaica Concert

Like I said in my blog two days prior, Bob and his band were under rapid gunfire, during a rehearsal intermission. It is said that there were as much as seven perpetrators surrounding the property’s compound of his Hope Rd, residence. The premises is now a museum. However, the Prime Minister, Michael Manley, “Drew a card” to have the Country’s election set for a date much sooner than planned. This is a ploy often used in British and commonwealth politics, to destabilise the opposition, by crippling their campaigning preparations. This ploy rattled the cages of many, and could well have been the motive for Bob’s assassination attempt.

Bob was not rattled by the threats or the wounds he had endured. The event went on as planned, only that the ordeal that happened two days earlier, left a few of his band members having cold feet and therefore opted out of performing. So, his line up became short of bass player, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, percussionist Seco Patterson and the new American guitarist, Donald Kingsley. The ensemble that night was as follows:

Bob Marley,

Carlton Barrett, drums,

Tyrone Downie, bass and vocals

Judy Mowatt, backing vocals

Rita Marley, backing vocals

Cat Coore, lead guitar (Third World)

Carrot Jarret, percussion (Third World)

Michael Ibo Cooper, keyboards (Third World)


A night that was supposed to be a one song performance by Bob Marley and The Wailers, because of his injuries, went on to last as long as 90 minutes. All the hits were slamming, including the song “Rat Race,” previously recorded on the “Rastaman Vibration,” released earlier that year. Within this song were subliminal messages that highlighted Bob’s discontent with politicians in Jamaica who had possible C.I.A connections. Michael Manley went on to win the election by a landslide. This secured his seat as Prime Minister for the second time; a term lasting eight years.

Steel Pulse Reggae Band

Immediately after the concert Bob felt like “a prophet without honor in his own country,” so he made the decision to go into exile in the UK. Within 15 months of this experience he was introduced to Steel Pulse. Such a moment we still treasure today. Marley then returned to Jamaica to do the “One Love” peace concert.

Looking back on it, this was a courageous feat for him to have endured in a climate that was rife with what one would consider having all the hallmarks to that of a civil war.

Culled from the Facebook page of Steel Pulse.

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