Book Review of I & I: The Natural Mystics: Marley, Tosh, and Wailer By Colin Grant
Published by Jonathan Cape on 27th January 2011 in hardback, priced £20
Over one dramatic decade, a trio of Trench Town R&B crooners, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Bob Marley, swapped their 1960s Brylcreem hairdos and two-tone suits for 1970s battle fatigues and dreadlocks to become the Wailers – one of the most influential groups in popular music From youth to early adulthood, they had been inseparable; united in their ambition, through musical harmony and financial reward, to escape Jamaica’s Trench Town ghetto. On the cusp of success, however, they’d been pulled apart by the elevation of Marley as first among equals and by the razor-sharp instincts of Chris Blackwell, the shrewd and charming boss of Island Records.
I & I: The Natural Mystics examines for the first time the story of the Wailers, arguing that these musicians offered a model for black men in the second half of the twentieth century: accommodate and succeed (Marley), fight and die (Tosh) or retreat and live (Wailer). It charts their complex relationship, their fluctuating fortunes, musical peak, and the politics and ideologies that provoked their split.
Following their trail from Jamaica through Europe, America, and back to the vibrant and volatile world of Trench Town, Grant travels in search of the last surviving Wailer. He unravels the roots of their charisma, their adoption of Rastafari, their suspicion of race pimps and Obeah men (witch doctors), and their quest to become not just extraordinary musicians but also natural mystics.
I & I is a remarkable story of creativity, squandered talent, and fierce ambitious rivalry – a mix of reportage and revelatory history by one of our best and brightest non-fiction writers.
Praise for Negro with a Hat,
‘Gripping and sympathetic… monumental… Grant writes with the quiet authority of a historian who has done a colossal amount of research… and knows the smells and tastes of this period as if he had lived through it. He is slow to pass judgment, but when he does so, the verdict carries real weight… his history reads like a first-rate novel…’ – Kevin Jackson, New Statesman
‘Grant is an accomplished storyteller and writes with an elegance leavened by wit and cynicism that makes this book eminently readable.’ – Margaret Busby, Guardian
Colin Grant is an independent historian and BBC radio producer. The son of Jamaican emigrants, his first book, a biography of Marcus Garvey, Negro with a Hat is also published by Jonathan Cape.
For More Information on the Book visit Colin Grant’s website.