Back in 1973, when Roger Steffens picked up his first album by Bob Marley, there was no way he could have known how it was destined to change his life. Close to 30 years later, Steffens is considered a leading authority not only on the life of Marley, but also on the whole of reggae music. From avid collector and radio host to critic, editor, and biographer, Steffens has been involved in reggae music about as close as one can be -- short of performing.
Since 1995, Steffens has made annual stops in Cleveland to celebrate the birthday of Marley and present lectures on the life of the reggae king. This weekend, Steffens will deliver two distinct video presentations. The first, on Marley, will be held at the Odeon Saturday night as part of the Bob Marley birthday party/Winter Reggae Fest presented by Packy Malley. The two-hour lecture will feature rare and unseen clips of early Wailers concerts and continue through Marley's last rehearsal in 1980. Included in this year's show are candid interviews focused around the 1976 assassination attempt on Marley. Consequently, it promises to shed light on the figure yet to be surpassed in the eyes of many discerning reggae fans. Cleveland's own reggae sensation, Stagalag, takes the stage after Steffens. Jamaican food will be available, compliments of Tab's West Indian Restaurant, and independent vendors will be peddling their wares.
The following afternoon, Steffens delivers a one-hour presentation on Marley's tough and sassy sidekick, the great Peter Tosh (who, together with Bunny Wailer, made up the original Wailers). Though Tosh never gained quite the legendary status of Marley, his life was of equal interest. Surviving police beatings on more than one occasion, he took a militant stance on both racial injustice and the legalization of herb that earned him a reputation as reggae's outlaw. He died of gunshot wounds in a robbery at his home in 1987.