Our weekly segment, Juxtapoz Sound and Vision, explores a piece of substantial album artwork every Sunday to look at one of the primary ways musicians and visual artists collaborate. Many popular album covers become iconic pieces of pop art, and they’re a great excuse for us to share some favorites along with the visual components that make an album memorable.
June 30, 2019: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Uprising (1980)
Art direction by Neville Garrick
We have a theme building here with the Sound and Vision series, where we gravitate toward these iconic, almost mythical figures in the music world. John Coltrane was a few weeks back, and today we take a look at Bob Marley and the Wailers last studio album, Uprising, released June 10, 1980. Ironically, the day this album came out, Marley and his band played for nearly 70,000 people in Munich, opening for last week’s Sound and Vision, Fleetwood Mac. We come full circle. Three weeks later in 1980, Marley would play for over 120,000 people in Milan. To say he was famous, or a living legend, is an understatement. And to think he was releasing perhaps his most personal and spiritual album to play in front of massive crowds seems so mystical and rare. But like Coltrane, the spirituality was channeled with purpose. And there is so much to say about his career, but Uprising would be Marley’s last tour, last studio album, and would collapse in NY later that year and eventually succumb to cancer in 1981 at the age of 36.
It’s funny to think of Bob Marley album covers, because the two come to mind are Exodus (text-only) and Legend, the latter being the album that is almost a university-101 requirement. (I think they hand this out to every kid at liberal arts school freshman year.) Uprising is a simple work, art-directed by UCLA graduate Neville Garrick, who was responsible for many reggae covers, Marley in particular, and an icon activist in his own right. Garrick is credited as an “art director” on Uprising, and Marley depicted with arms outstretched to the heavens, mountaintop and sunrise behind him, full of strength, felt like a tribute to the power of Marley’s life even before he passed. Perhaps Garrick knew more than others, but it feels like a posthumous release rather than an artist in the midst of his career.
Uprising, before producer Chris Blackwell asked him to add a few more upbeat numbers, felt a bit like his elegy, a religious album that seemed reflective and serious from an artist at the peak of his fame. Blackwell had asked Marley to add what would be a major US hit, “Could You Be Loved,” to perhaps lighten the mood? Sell albums? Regardless, tracks like “Redemption Song,” “Real Situation” and “Forever Loving Jah,” are not quite somber, per se, but not dance floor classics like “Could You Be Loved.” That Marley’s last album, last track, is an beyond-iconic acoustic track that ends with the words, “All I ever had / Redemption songs / These songs of freedom / Songs of freedom” seems all too perfect and emotional. Uprising may not be his most famous album, but it exemplifies Marley’s passion in his last year, and will forever bookend a mythical life.