There was a distinct feeling of history in the air when Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley took his place in our office with his band, and it wasn't just the legend behind his surname. For fifteen minutes, we were treated to the same socially relevant reggae that his father, legendary Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley, made popular when he put the genre on the international music map.
With eyes shut, Marley dug deep into the healing power of music with songs from his 2017 album Stony Hill. "So A Child May Follow" addresses the troubles youth confront around the globe and how to persevere to succeed. "Speak Life" sums up the message of his music and his turn behind the Tiny Desk: live a life that will enable us to survive life's slings and arrows with dignity and love. But what makes his music stand out on this session is the prominence of the acoustic guitar and piano in the arrangements, which makes the familiar sound somewhat new.
And let's address the elephant in the room: Damian's father cast a giant, magnificent shadow on the world and it can't be easy to follow in those footsteps as a songwriter and musician. "Jr. Gong" (after his father's nickname of "Tuff Gong") seems to be undaunted by that legacy and instead draws on it for inspiration and guidance. Not to mention there is more than a hint of his father's unmistakable singing voice that so often preached the same messages of self-identity and self-determination that his youngest son is now doing so successfully.
- "Slave Mill"
- "So a Child May Follow"
- "Speak Life"
Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley: vocals; Roselyn Williams: vocals; Sherieta Lewis: vocals; Sean "Pow" Diedrick: keys; Courtney "Bam" Diedrick: drums; Shiah Coore: bass; Elton "Elly B" Brown: guitar
Producers: Abby O'Neill, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, Andy Huether; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Bronson Arcuri, Jeremiah Rhodes, CJ Riculan; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Paul Georgoulis; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Shuran Huang/NPR