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Dead stars who keep on selling

MONEY-MAKER: Michael Jackson made nearly £60 million last year, according to Forbes magazine

IRONIC TO think of all the financial woes which blighted the end of Michael Jackson's life.

His debts saw him have to commit to almost a month's worth of shows in London alone. And yet nine years after his death he is by far the highest earning dead celebrity.

Michael just won't stop until he gets enough. 

The kid made nearly £60 million last year alone, according to the wealth magazine Forbes. His nearest rival in the dead celebrity money-making stakes is the late golfer Arnold Palmer who "only" earned £30 million last year.

And Michael's windfall is much more than his late father-in-law Elvis made (£26.5 million)

But Michael is not alone amongst dead black celebrities whose relatives and descendants are still partying like it's 1999.
Prince is an also-ran in the posthumous cash-cowing. He has been dead a year and during that time he's earned £14 million.

And our very own reggae king Bob Marley has been no celestial slouch either. He earned a whopping £17.5 million last year. No wonder Ziggy, Damian, Cedella and the rest of them Marley pickney (not to talk of Rita) can't stop "jamming" and why they hope you like jamming too. 

I mean, compare that to when Marley was alive. 

In the year up to his death in May 1981, Bob Marley earned a grand total of £7 million. Which was nothing to be sniffed at in those days and, considering he was sick for most of that time in the mad doctors clinic in Switzerland it wasn't bad. But, it appears, he's better off dead. Or at least "richer off" dead.

I know it sounds callous and unseemly. But at the same time it is reassuring that the children that these stars leave behind never have to work a day in their lives. 

The fact that Bob Marley left a trailer load of pickney notwithstanding, is it not a blessing that King Bob was taken away from us, leaving the whole world bereft of his seductive talents, just when his music started to wain and get boring?

No, hear me out. 

'Uprising' was not his best album. Not by a long shot. Let's not even talk about 'Confrontation' which I'll allow seems to have been stuck together posthumously just to kerching on the rastaman's legacy - that album would never have been released half-cocked if Marley was around to make the decision. So don't get me started.

On reflection 'Uprising' is a pretty average record. 

Its predecessor 'Survival' was better. But even that was not a touch on its predecessor 'Kaya', which arguably was the last half-decent album that Bob Marley recorded.

I know some of you Bob Marley lovers will be incensed. I was like you once upon a time. But I've had 36 years to reflect on it since the reggae king died and looking at it now, with the benefit of the old hindsight,  I have to say after "Rastaman Vibration" the group could have been dubbed Bob Marley and the Failures. 

And if he had lived this would have been even more apparent.

I mean, can you imagine what kind of music Bob Marley would have been playing today? He would have been 72 years old and it would have been somewhat strenuous for him to get up and stand up for his rights night after night on a concert stage.

As fit as he was, all that ganja would certainly have affected his lung capacity and stamina by now. And feeling it "in the one drop" would have sounded as archaic as Chubby Checker urging you to "twist again like we did last summer".

We ain't been feeling it in the one drop for many summers now and some would say that reggae, or at least the reggae that Bob Marley represented, has been dead and gone for as long as he has, if not since Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer split up from the group.

Which brings me back to the point of the music that he would have been making now.

The old reggae impressario, the late great Clement Dodd aka Coxsone Dodd of Studio One used to say that most artists didn;t have more than one decent album in them.

Certainly, he was of the opinion that reggae MCs didn't have more than one decent LP in 'em and, you will find, that with the exception of the Lone Ranger, Dodd never recorded more than one album with the likes of Dillinger and Michigan and Smiley. 

To suggest that Bob Marley didn't have more than one decent album in him would be madness. He had two.

"Catch A Fire" and "Burnin' ". 

Had he died after those two seminal albums his place in musical history would have still been secured. Had he died than he would have been like Jimi Hendrix or Otis Redding or Sam Cooke with only a handful of legitimate recordings to talk about and a back catalogue of studio jams and "test" recordings to add to the mystique. Instead, Marley has a divided legacy of pop and reggae superstar.

Of Trenchtown mystique and happy-clappy-jollification. Like Che Guevara he has become all things to all men and women and his original message of blackness has been all but lost. And the creativity of those two groundbreaking albums - Burnin' and Catch A Fire - were subsequently watered down to suit all and sundry.

And that's okay. I don't have a problem with that. Just don't try and tell me that we (black folk) would have still been listening to him if he was alive today and recording new stuff. Did we not stop listening to Michael Jackson after "Off The Wall"?

Did we not stop listening to Prince after "Sign of The Times"? By the time Marley released "Exodus" he wasn't so much a Trenchtown rebel as he was a fashion dread and his audience was more white than black. At least that's what I saw in the audience. And he started writing songs for them rather than for us.

It's always the way isn't it? When you stay black artistically, you are not rewarded as well for the fruits of your labour but your labour is above and beyond reproach. It's elevated to another level.

For better or worse, black music lovers are the most discriminating critics in the world. It's a shame in many respects. Because I love Bob Marley.

Everything he wrote and recorded. And even though he felt he had more to give the world, I feel he fulfilled his works long ago. At least as far as black folks are concerned. 

To paraphrase an old saying, when you go white you can't come black.

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