I & I: The Natural Mystics: Marley, Tosh and Wailer
By Colin Grant
Over one dramatic decade, a trio of Trench Town R&B crooners, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley, swapped their 1960s Brylcreem hairdos and two-tone suits for 1970s battle fatigues and dreadlocks to become the Wailers—one of the most influential groups in popular music
From youth to early adulthood, they had been inseparable; united in their ambition, through musical harmony and financial reward, to escape Jamaica’s Trench Town ghetto. On the cusp of success however, they’d been pulled apart by the elevation of Marley as first among equals and by the razor sharp instincts of Chris Blackwell, the shrewd and charming boss of Island Records.
I & I: The Natural Mystics examines for the first time the story of the Wailers, arguing that these musicians offered a model for black men in the second half of the twentieth century: accommodate and succeed (Marley), fight and die (Tosh) or ret reat and live (Wailer). It charts their complex relationship, their fluctuating fortunes, musical peak, and the politics and ideologies that provoked their split.
Following their trail from Jamaica through Europe, America, and back to the vibrant and volatile world of Trench Town, Grant travels in search of the last surviving Wailer. He unravels the roots of their charisma, their adoption of Rastafari, their suspicion of race pimps and Obeah men (witch doctors), and their quest to become not just extraordinary musicians but also natural mystics.
I & I is a remarkable story of creativity, squandered talent and fierce ambitious rivalry – a mix of reportage and revelatory history by one of our best and brightest non-fiction writers.