These two quintessential musicians’ careers ended in two very different ways. The first would soldier on, addled with cancers creeping tentacles, to complete one final concert before his enchanted fans. Whilst the other was destined to feel the pressure of the wire beneath his fingers one last time before finally being overtaken by his drug of choice – only hours after completing an intimate set in a smoky London jazz bar.
Bob Marley – Sept. 23, 1980
” My music will go on forever. Maybe it’s a fool say that, but when me know facts me can say facts. My music will go on forever.” – Bob Marley, June 1975
Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley gave a husk, a form to his music the likes of very few before. His image flowed seamlessly into every drop of the music he made. This was a performer who produced music; it was not the music that had produced the person. The gaping rawness of Marley’s craft truly spoke to those who saw themselves in this slight, bearded Caribbean poet. There was little need here for corporate endorsements to convince us of how badly we needed to wear brand Marley.
1980 Uprising Tour
The popularity of Bob Marley and his Wailers rose steadily throughout the seventies and into an eighties that had declared profit margins and the pursuit of wealth to be the new chic narcotic. The “Uprising” world tour that set out in early 1980 sweep through Europe in support of Marley’s final album of the same name. It began in Zurich, Switzerland on May 30, 1980, and prematurely concluded at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, on Sept. 23, 1980.
Cancer and the Never Ending Desire to Perform
Marley’s previously diagnosed cancer had metastasised but he continued to tour; constantly looking forward, even planning his performance dates for the following winter. On Sept. 21 he collapsed while jogging in Central Park, the day after his New York appearance.
Doctors discovered a brain tumor and estimated that he had less than a month to live. But Marley still refused to succumb to his waning body and played his last ever show at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, two days later. Following the show he sought treatment in Munich Germany but his condition was by now far too advanced. Bob Marley died in transit to his beloved Jamaica in a Miami hospital on the 11th May the following year.
The Final Pittsburgh Set:
- Natural Mystic
- Positive Vibration
- Burnin’ And Lootin’
- Them Belly Full
- The Heathen
- Running Away
- Crazy Baldhead
- War / No More Trouble
- Zion Train
- No Woman No Cry
- Redemption Song
- Coming In From The Cold
- Could You Be Loved?
- Is This Love?
*Recordings of the concert reveal that ‘Work’, long regarded as the last song Marley ever performed actually plays out to a final rendition of “Get Up, Stand Up”.
Jimi Hendrix – Sept. 16, 1970
“I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see.” – Jimi Hendrix; lyric from Room Full of Mirrors, 1967
The eternal aftertaste of James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix’s contribution to music is another that shuns popular trend. It stands there alone, inspiring and adding substance to a vast array of musical pigeonholes. Contemporary artists continue to cite him as a rich seam of talent that, even these many years following his death, appears to be without end.
The Last Concert Experience
Jimi Hendrix and his newly reformed ‘Experience’ appeared on stage for their last ever concert at the Isle Of Fehman (Love & Peace) Festival in Germany on Sept. 6, 1970. This was to be a bitter fiery show that saw the culmination of Hendrix’s every present drug shadow and twisting internal politics meet head on.
Rain had delayed the show from the previous night and the audience bristled with hostility; the German chapter of the Hells Angels adding violence to an already volatile mix. A disgruntled former roadie, Gerry Stickels attempted to bring this, now historic, show to a premature end – even confronting Hendrix on stage at one point. The set did eventually play out for over an hour but this was not be the final time the master guitarist would be seen to perform his magic.
Set List for Isle of Fehman Festival
- Killing Floor (Chester Arthur Burnett)
- Spanish Castle Magic
- All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
- Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
- Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)
- Message to Love
- Foxy Lady
- Red House
- Ezy Ryder
- Room Full of Mirrors
- Purple Haze
- Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Final Calls at Ronnie Scotts
The very last time Jimi Hendrix played in public was as a guest of former Animals frontman Eric Burdon and his new group War. A low-key jam session between friends its significance passed unknown to those few that witnessed it. The location was Ronnie Scotts, London’s legendary Jazz grotto that has now long absorbed the musical vibrations of the very best.
The entire show consisted of two sets with Jimi playing guest guitar on just two tracks. The following day he was discovered unconscious in his room at London’s Samarkand Hotel. Shortly afterwards he was pronounced dead but as history has proven, he is still, very much not forgotten.
The Last Ronnie Scott Sets:
Eric Burdon & War (feat. Jimi Hendrix)
- Paint It Black (Medley)
- Spill The Wine
- Mystery Train
- Paint It Black (Medley)
- Blues For Memphis Slim (incl.Mother Earth), Feat. Jimi Hendrix
- Tobacco Road, Feat. Jimi Hendrix
Although more so in the case of Jimi Hendrix these two artists were both ultimately robbed of a dignified final curtain. This was perhaps best echoed by Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, audience member at Jimi’s final show and long time friend. In a recent interview with the Financial Times he related his last words to a distant Hendrix that night in 1970 – “He was leaving Ronnie Scott’s. He had his arm around a girl and he looked really sad. I went out after him and said, ‘Jimi, you didn’t say good night,”
- Bob Marley Talking (Bob Marley in His Own Words) ~ McCann, Ian; (Omnibus)
- Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix ~ Cross, Charles R; (Hyperion)