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Bob Marley: The Stories Behind 17 Rare and Unseen Images

Photographer Dennis Morris shares his memories of a close working relationship with the global superstar

Bob Marley

Dennis Morris

British photographer Dennis Morris was a high school student in London when he first met Bob Marley. "I was into Jamaican music, and I read that he was coming over to tour England," Morris recalls. "So I bunked off school, went to the Speak Easy Club, where he was playing that day, and waited and waited. Eventually he arrived, and I said, 'Can I take your picture?' He said, 'Yeah, man, come in.'"

Morris ended up joining Marley and the Wailers on their 1974 tour of northern England, kicking off a close professional relationship that lasted to the end of the reggae superstar's life seven years later. "I call this one 'Burnin''," Morris says of the trio of images at left. "That was from that early tour – we were sitting together, and he said, 'Let me show you how to smoke a spliff, Dennis." He laughs. "That was my initiation."

On March 29th, a new exhibit called "Bob Marley: GIANT" will open at Los Angeles' Known Gallery, showcasing some of Morris' greatest photos of Marley. Read on for more rare and unseen images from the show, plus Morris' memories of the stories behind the photos. And make sure to pick up Rolling Stone's new special collector's edition on Bob Marley for much more on the greatest reggae artist of all time.

By Simon Vozick-Levinson

Bob Marley

Dennis Morris

Redemption Song

"That shot was the last photo I ever took of him," Morris says of this 1980 image. "He called me and said, 'You need to come over.' He was staying at an apartment in London. It was strange – as I walked in, he was on his own, and normally, Bob is never on his own. There were always people around, but this time it was just the two of us. Normally, he'd be jiving me about being a black kid from England, not from Jamaica: 'What are you doing hanging around all them punks,' you know? But this time, he was really quiet. When he was talking, it was like he was questioning his success and the things he had done. I'd never seen him like that before."

At some point, Morris says, Marley picked up a guitar and began strumming. "At the time, I didn't realize that he was playing me 'Redemption Song.' I was probably one of the first people to hear it."

Marley died of cancer the following year. "Most of the images you see him in, his locks have a bit of electricity, some vibrancy," Morris says. "But this time, it's like the locks have taken over, and his fingers and face are quite gaunt. It's quite sad. At the end, no one knew how ill he was."

Bob Marley

Dennis Morris

Positive Vibration

"This is a portrait I did in '76," Morris says. "The color treatment was much later, when I got much smarter."

Organizing the exhibit has been a deep experience for Morris. "Going through the photos, it just brings back the memories of being in the presence of such a powerful and influential man," he says. "He shaped my career and my life, in a sense. I was a young kid with a dream of being a photographer, and I remember when they said to me, 'Don't be silly, there's no such thing as a black photographer.' But Bob said to me, 'They will always tell you that you can't do what you want to do, Dennis, but you can do what you want to do. You just have to believe in yourself. The system is to bring you down, but you can rise up.' That was the beauty of Bob Marley, for me. He made me see that there was much, much more than what was out there."

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