Great book. Dr. Dread aka Gary Himelburg, has been a player in the production of reggae music and distribution of reggae music around the world for many years. Through RAS Records and Tafarian Music Publishing, Dr. Dread has introduced reggae artists and music from Jamaica to the rest of the world.
This book is an extremely well written, easy to read and digest autobiography of Dr. Dread’s relationships with artists and with the Rastafarian movement. One of the most refreshing aspects of the book is that Dread is a Rasta himself and spends some time explaining what true Rastafarian beliefs entail and mean. For him, and for others involved, there is a depth of spiritual practice that goes far beyond the suburban teenage belief in Rasta as an excuse to smoke pot. In fact, although the herb makes appearances in this book, it is in the context of its place as part of the religious practices in Rastafarianism.
Another refreshing aspect is that while Bob Marley is mentioned in appropriately reverential tones as one of the founders of the Wailers and an important figure in Jamaica and the reggae movement, the book does not overly focus on him, thus allowing many other acts who have made important contributions to reggae to have their day in the sun.
The first third of the book covers the authors travels through South America, Colombia and ultimately, finding his way to Jamaica. In many ways, this third is also a love letter to Jamaica. By that, I mean that he really takes you there so that whether you have been or not, you have the feel of the people, the smell of the beach and the jungle and the sea breeze, the taste of the food and the feel of the sand as well as the sound of the music firmly entrenched in your mind. These are important elements to all world music as they establish for the reader, the setting in which this music is created.
The second third of the book is about the author’s interactions with individual reggae artists and groups. This encompasses everything from individual songs, to production of albums, to touring issues. It takes the reader from ska, to traditional reggae to dancehall reggae to rap and hip hop that have been influenced by reggae. Readers will probably be surprised by the number of acts they recognize. If not the acts, then many songs mentioned will be familiar.
This is also a valuable introduction that all musicians should read about how the music business works. Dr. Dread worked from a particular philosophy that was greatly influenced by his beliefs in Rastafarianism and personal spirituality. He takes the opportunity to point out how artists are frequently duped out of monies they should be receiving from their music: from publishing, performing and touring to merchandising and promotion.
The final third of the book focuses on the realities of life. While Dread made money in music, he also lost it. How being an artist doesn’t really pay and many artists and producers are forced to get “real jobs” in order to afford to be able to do what they love. Hands up all artists that have taken those jobs they hate for the same reasons. He talks about his loathsome experiences in working for the man and how his personal health issues played into his need for health insurance. Hands up again, artists.
A great read for lovers of reggae, musicians, artists and those leading the life on the road less traveled or those wanting to love it vicariously through others who have done so already.