In the early Sixties, Desmond Dekker, who used to work with Bob at a welding plant, auditioned for me. He went back and told Bob, “I met Jimmy Cliff” – I had already had two hit records by then – and sent him down to the studio. I was playing the piano, and Bob walked up behind me and said, “That sound good.” I thought, “This has to be somebody.” He said, “I have some songs.” I said, “All right, let me listen to them.” The first thing I noticed was he had a thing with words. He put emphasis on words more than melody. He was more like a poet. I really liked three of the songs, and for me, those three songs summed up who he really was. “Judge Not” was a song about your individuality as a person. Who are you to point the finger at me without knowing who I am? I have a right to who I am. He always went through life like that. The other song was “Terror,” about people terrorizing people, which was something he was against. And the other song was “One Cup of Coffee,” a love song. That summarized his revolutionary side, his individualistic side, and his love side. The combination of all those songs made him who he was.
Reggae was a new form, a new beat, a new energy, and the Wailers gave him the balance he needed – he needed the harmonies, the vibes of the people around him. And that’s when Rastafarianism really started to become a force in the world, without any guns or bombs. It was a spiritual movement, and Bob was the rider on the horse for that movement. The energy in the air was that people wanted to understand themselves as individuals and how they as individuals connect with the cosmic flux. Bob’s whole thing was about god as man and man as god, as opposed to god being remote somewhere, and that was the consciousness Rastafari brought.
The last time I saw him, I was recording at his studio at Hope Road. I was working early in the morning, and Bob heard the music and said, “Who dat?” We went on the porch and were sitting on the steps. This was before he went on that tour when he collapsed in Central Park. He was always very conscious of fitness, but he didn’t look like a fit man. When I heard he collapsed, I said, “He was probably pushing himself too hard.” No one was confirming the cancer thing, so I wasn’t convinced he had it. I was getting news from people in Germany who said, “He’s still positive,” but I was really surprised when he passed. I was in San Francisco when I got the news, and at my show that night, I asked the audience for a minute of silence.
In our subconscious, we always know when we are going to go, and Bob always seemed to be in a hurry, as if he knew, “My time is short. I got to do what I have to do.” He understood what he was about, what his journey and path were. The first day he walked into that studio when I met him, he walked fast behind me. He knew. After he passed, I wrote a song, “Bob Yu Did Yu Job.” And he did.