70s cop recalls Marley shooting, hails movie

February 20, 2024

article reposted by Chelsea

via jamaicaobserver.com

On the evening of December 3, 1976 John “John T” Hodgson and fellow Detective Corporal Jackie Mason were driving through Half-Way-Tree when news broke that Bob Marley and members of his entourage had been shot at his Hope Road home.

They were reportedly being treated at University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).

As he watched a dramatised version of that incident in Bob Marley: One Love, Hodgson vividly recalled the reggae star’s words when he and Mason saw him at UHWI.

“Mason say to him, ‘Wha’ppen Bob?’ And him say, ‘Mi a rehearse fi di concert an’ Claudie sen’ man fi kill mi.’ Dat was the first thing out of his mouth,” Hodgson told the Jamaica Observer after watching the movie at the Regal Cinema in Fort Lauderdale last week.

Claudie was in reference to Claudius Massop, the then-feared Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) enforcer.

The concert was the Smile Jamaica event scheduled for National Heroes’ Park two days later to ease tension between supporters of the Opposition JLP and governing People’s National Party (PNP).

In the scene immediately after the incident, in which Marley (played by Kingsley Ben-Adir) retreats to Strawberry Hills in St Andrew, Massop (played by Brian Todd Boucher) opens a gate, greets him, and tells the singer he had nothing to do with the shooting.

There was also the widely circulated view that the US Central Intelligence Agency had a hand in the shooting incident, with reports of declassified documents years later bearing information on Marley.

The reggae artiste was shot in the chest and left arm. His wife Rita, manager Don Taylor, and friend Louis Griffiths also sustained wounds in the attack.

No one was ever arrested for the shooting.

At a press conference to discuss the show, two days earlier, Marley dismissed talk that his appearance as headliner was an endorsement of the PNP just ahead of the December 15, 1976 General Election. Five years earlier, he was part of the party’s musical bandwagon that helped bring Michael Manley to power.

In 1976 Marley emerged as a global star. His Rastaman Vibration album, released in April that year, was a hit in Europe and the United States, and he returned to Jamaica after a successful three-month world tour.

As depicted in the movie, he hesitantly performed at Smile Jamaica. Fearing reprisal, Marley left Jamaica shortly after for The Bahamas, then the United Kingdom, where he recorded songs for the Exodus album, released by Island Records in 1977.

After being visited by Massop and PNP strongman Bucky Marshall in London, Marley was convinced to return to Jamaica for the One Love Peace Concert at the National Stadium in Kingston in April 1978.

That two-year period is captured in Bob Marley: One Love, which opened worldwide on February 14.

Marley died from cancer in May 1981 at age 36, while Massop was controversially killed at age 29 in February 1979.

Hodgson, now a popular disc jockey in South Florida with WAVS 1170 AM, is pleased with the movie.

“I think it was good, I was impressed. I think the guy did an excellent job as Bob; I really never expected him to perform so well,” he said. “There were some things that could have been included, but it’s a movie, and not everything could have been in it.”

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