OLEAN — During a presentation titled “The Life and Times of Bob Marley” on Aug. 18 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Patrick Vecchio will discuss the late singer’s messages, play performance footage and share his love of Marley’s music “with anyone who will listen.”
Vecchio’s 3 p.m. presentation at the 109 S. Barry St. church will be held to benefit the African American Center for Cultural Development.
Della Moore, director of the center, said the event is free and open to the public and will provide coffee and cookies. Donations will also be accepted on behalf of the African American Center, which continues to raise funds for the renovation of its future home at an historic Olean church at 201 E. State St.
Moore said she learned of Vecchio’s interest in Marley through her guitar teacher, Terry Bellamy, an adjunct professor at St. Bonaventure University. Vecchio, a retired St. Bonaventure journalism professor and former managing editor for the Olean Times Herald, is friends with Bellamy through the university.
Moore said she and others with the center hope to “see a lot of the community attend this event … (it’s) a perfect opportunity to hear about a super human icon who did more for human rights than we may realize.
“I can’t praise my board enough, they work hard and communication is key to our relationship,” Moore said.
In sharing the gist of his presentation, Vecchio started out by noting Marley died in 1981, “but here we are talking about him nearly 40 years later. That says something about how relevant his message still is.”
Examples of Marley’s current significance include the fact that two years ago his greatest hits album “Legend” became only the second album ever to spend 500 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 chart. In addition, Time magazine named his 1977 album “Exodus” as the “Album of the Century,” Vecchio shared.
“The factors that influenced Marley’s music are so diverse you could teach a college course on his life and times — which I did one semester in the honors program at St. Bonaventure,” Vecchio continued. “You see, to fully understand Marley and his music, you need to understand certain elements of African history, biblical history, British imperialism, slavery, Pan-Africanism, poverty and political violence.”
He said songs that include “Get Up Stand Up,” “Burnin’ and Lootin’,” “Rat Race,” “Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock)” and his most famous song, “I Shot the Sheriff,” are about what it’s like to be poor, oppressed, voiceless and powerless.
“Those and other songs are indictments against what he called “Babylon” — the corrupt elements of Western society,” Vecchio stated. “His overall message, though, is expressed in this quotation: “Me only have one ambition, ya know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see everyone live together — black, white, Chinese, everyone, that’s all.”
Vecchio further stated that “what most people don’t realize about Marley is that he literally died for his faith. That is, he chose to follow his religious beliefs, which prohibited a medical procedure that doctors said could have spared his life. For him, God was a constant presence.”