Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley
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Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  1,623 ratings  ·  111 reviews
The classic biography of reggae legend Bob Marley, updated and revised for the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death

Bob Marley left an indelible mark on modern music, both as a reggae pioneer and as an enduring cultural icon. Catch a Fire, now a classic of rock biography, delves into the life of the leader of a musical, spiritual, and political explosion that continues tod
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Paperback, 576 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1983)
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Jason
Apr 11, 2011 Jason rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
I always felt like Bob Marley got a raw deal - the only time i ever heard him was when it was walking by stoned out frat boys at Miami University. And it never sat right that this man, who inspired so much loyalty to him and to his movement, should be reduced to party music by people who weren't really listening to it. This biography completely changed the way I thought about not only Bob Marley, and not only about Reggae music, but spirituality and oppression and what it meant to be an agent of...more
Pete daPixie
Like a breath of fresh air, even with the rich aroma of mountain 'erb. Timothy White's 'Catch a Fire-The Life of Bob Marley' is wholly, and perhaps holy, unlike any other biography in the 'poptastic' genre that I have ever read.
White not only provides intimate insights to Marley, his life, family and musical journey, but also documents the history of Jamaica and its people, the politics and the fascinating origins of the Rastafarian religion. The broad sweep of this book, written with authority...more
BirdBrian
I’m a fan, so I enjoyed Catch A Fire, but it’s possible a reader with no interest in Bob Marley or reggae music could still find this book fascinating. It speaks to a worldview prevalent (I think) in the developing world, but rarely articulated in the media bubble of affluent nations.

The story begins not with Marley’s birth in 1945, but in 1892 with the birth of Tafari, grand nephew to the then-sitting Ethiopian Empress. Only just barely connected enough to the throne to merit the title of "Ras"...more
Bruce
I had been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, and I came away only slightly disappointed. In my humble opinion, as a window into a world and a culture virtually unknown to those who live outside it (meaning the struggles of the Jamaican population both against poverty and racism over the last century, as well as a glimpse into the little-understood world of Rastafari), it works wonderfully, As biography, I feel it falls just a bit short. Timothy White does a great job describi...more
Keegan LaKosh
The best artists with in our world are the ones who have pasted, but there work still lives on. For generations, Bob Marley has been known as a reggae superstar and pop culture icon. Its been a little over twenty year since Bob Marley departed our world, but his music is still honored. Bob Marleys brilliance and talent will live on for generations. In this biography, Catch a Fire The life of Bob Marley, written by Timothy White encaptures Bob and his many memories. Taking readers into the life o...more
Suzanna Passafiume
I really liked this book because it went into great detail about Bob Marley's life. I learned a lot about Bob Marley that I had not known before I read this book. I enjoyed reading about how he became successful by making reggae music become popular throughout the world. I liked the fact that Bob Marley was dedicated to his beliefs and his faith. He expressed these things in his music, and he wanted people to understand the deep message built into his lyrics.
I gave this book four out of five s...more
Ian Foster
I was very disappointed with this book. After reading it, I have a pretty good idea of what Marley's childhood was like, a hazy picture of his adult life but no understanding at all of how a poor man from a third-world country was able to popularize a genre of music that was almost universally disdained in most of the world.

I would have expected more discussion of his music; specifically how he and Chris Blackwell changed the arrangement of Marley's reggae songs to appeal to a broader audience,...more
David Cupples
Well written biography, White is (was, RIP) a talented writer. He probably could have been a good novelist. Catch A Fire is certainly an outstanding contribution to the field, i.e. study of the life of Bob Marley and his times. Is it the definitive work? No, just like the recent Marley documentary is not the definitive film account of Marley's life. That is not necessarily a criticism of the book, as there is just so much to Bob and his story. Furthermore, I argue that Bob is largely dismissed b...more
Jeff
I notice I give a lot of high ratings, and imagine that's due to my enthusiasm for the subject matter. In this case I am a little in awe of this book. When I taught General Music, I had a sign on my wall that read "Music always reflects the culture it is created in." What I like about this took is that it dives headfirst into Jamaican life, the culture, the politics, the daily struggles, the music, the technology, making you feel as if you are there in the moment watching the whole thing emerge....more
Jason Mair
Really thorough and comprehensive. A little too much for me. But I my respect for Bob being in my top people I looked up to a kid of all time was solidified. He's amazing, a musician who just spoke his heart. Whether it was politics, love, religion, or how you view and act with another human, I agree with all it. Politicians suck, plain and simple. They are just out for themselves, in the end. They don't care about the people, their #1 motivation is to stay in office, everything else comes secon...more
Meadow
At times I found this book hard to read, the language was written with the Jamacia slang if you will and I was stoned half the time I read it, so I had to keep coming back and re-reading it. But despite all that it was an incrediable journey inside the life of a ledgend! A must read if you have any interest in Bob!
Rebeca
Also watched "The Harder They Come" and together feel I got a better idea about Jamaica in the 60s and 70s generally than about Bob Marley exactly.
RL Gray
Searching for something deeper then my southern-baptist upbringings. Catch a Fire taught I what I needed to know to becoming Dread :-)
Claire
Enlightening ... inspiring ...
Cwn_annwn_13
Catch a Fire is as much about Jamaican politics, Jamaican music history, Rastafarianism, and Jamaican folk customs and belief in the supernatural as it is about Bob Marley. What you get about Marley covers his childhood at least as much as the time when he was a famous musician. At least a third of this covers the post death Marley situation with way too much for my interest about the legal wranglings over his estate after he died. You never really get inside of his head or get a true feel for t...more
Cassidy Costa
The best artists with in our world are the ones who have passed, but there work still lives on. For generations, Bob Marley has been known as a reggae superstar. Its been a little over twenty years since Bob Marley left our world, but his music is still honored. In this biography, Catch a Fire The life of Bob Marley, written by Timothy White captures Bob and his many memories. Taking readers into the life of the lionized musician. Bob Marley was born in a one-room shack on February 6, 1945 on th...more
Booknblues
I was so looking forward to reading Catch a Fire, the Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White, but truthfully it turned out to be a constant struggle. Timothy White is a font of information, rather than a good story-teller and that is a real shame.

The beginning of the book we are given lengthy lessons in the origins of the Rastafari religion, historic background on the island of Jamaica, an explanation about reggae music and how it developed and a detailed account of how Haile Selassie came into pow...more
Bill O'driscoll
White's book (I read the 1998 edition) is engrossingly written, and many key aspects are thoroughly reported. (White is print journalist who interviewed and wrote about Marley starting in the mid-70s.) It's especially good at explaining the physical environments in which Marley came of age, and in explicating the rather mysterious (to me) Rastafarian religion. White goes into terrific detail about the rural village life Marley first grew up in, and then the crazy Kingston ghetto world in which h...more
Johnny D
As a reggae lover and a Bob Marley fanatic, I thoroughly enjoyed this biography.

Unfortunately, I have to take one star away from this beautiful book because Timothy White's work occasionally flirts with hagiography. In addition, I found that there was a lack of scepticism toward reported speech. I've heard and read multiple versions of some of the stories White reports as fact in his book. This is a small criticism, but it would have been helpful if he could have weighed some of the differing a...more
Ryan
I really enjoyed this book, and it was difficult for me to put down. However, it left me wanting more in terms of Bob Marley's childhood, his personal life, how he was as a father, his liasons with other women. I would have also liked more depth and insight into his development as a musician, and I would have loved more depth into things such as the inspiration for some of his songs and more details about that. I feel like many of these things were glossed over.

That being said, I found the hist...more
Michael
Great book about the life of Bob Marley. In my opinion, one of the top 3 most influential musicians in history. Considering I haven't read any other books on his life, I can't say if there is a better one. The only reason I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 was it spent a little more time on Jamaican politics and other things than I was looking for. I felt that there was just a little to much detail. Some info about some of the obscure people in the music industry that didn't really add to the stor...more
Philip
Read this at the young, still burgeoning age of nineteen. Lived in Anchorage, Alaska at the time and had a thirst to learn more about the iconic Rastafarian, Robert Nesta Marley. Catch A Fire was my gateway at the time, it offered me a chance to connect up with the spirituality, life history and culture that contextualize the legend of Bob.
Tommy
A much more comprehensive read than I was expecting, delving into Jamaican culture, the Rastafarian faith, and the roots and evolution of reggae music. All of this background sets the table for an intimate look at the life and artistry of Bob Marley. Most intriguing were passages about Bob's shooting on the eve of a music festival he agreed to sing at, well aware that there were those in power who did not want him there, the murder of fellow artist Peter Tosh, and Bob's death, which began with s...more
Marika Alexander
Fascinating account of Robert Nesta Marley's extraordinary life, from his boyhood in Nine Miles and Kingston, all the way through his rise to become the Third World's first international musical superstar. This one is more about his personal life than the Natural Mystics biography about all three of the original Wailers.

After reading several books about Robert Marley I can now say with certainty that when people ask who is the one posthumous person you would love to sit down and meet if you had...more
Wes Freeman
I checked out on this book. Ostensibly a biography of Bob Marley, it functions as an introduction to Kingston in the 1970s and the most interesting parts of the book are when the author is going on about politics and the reggae scene. It's a loving tribute and all that, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say the book this guy really wanted to write in the end would have been about Jamaica. The Marley stuff is pretty on point until he gets famous and then you kind of stop caring about what's...more
Conor
Heavy focus on the culture of the Rastas and how it influenced Bob Marley. I would have preferred a more personal treatment of his life and recording career. Spends a majority of the book on the first half of his life and then ends abruptly just as he comes into prominence on the world stage.
Chipper
SOOOOO much more than the biography of a man at the center of a music revolution, it is the story of a once-in-a-century human being. I was not a big Bob Marley fan before I read this book ... but I could not help becoming one once I did. A fantastic and riveting read and re-read about the life and influence of a reggae and music icon. Wait until you read about the time Bob and his rastafarian brethren played the World Cup champions in a friendly game of soccer ... but that's nothing, the story...more
JP
Now that I understand Reggae and Rastafarianism, I like Marley more and the rest of it less. White makes it easy to see the progression from early rock and jazz to Reggae to hip-hop. He also illustrates the unfortunate cultural and political drivers of Jamaican poverty. None of Marley's family or associates really followed his same ideals. Rita suddenly lived a life of excess, and most of his fellow musicians and producers squabbled over his legacy. He's popular worldwide as a symbol of hope but...more
Joe
Catch a Fire is an impressive history/biography about the life and times of Bob Marley. At points the book reads like an extremely detailed political history of Jamaica while at other times it reads like a gripping novel. It is really an excellent book and deserves a less truncated review than the one I'm giving it. My takeaways:
Rastafari is a really, really strange belief system.
Jamaica is a terrifically sad place.
The difference between Bob Marley's reality, (both his physical and his supernatu...more
Ana
i will start with a disclaimer, since i do not enjoy biographies in general and the very aspect of history and time bores me to tears, especially when read for enjoyment. with this in mind i do not intend to insult anyone by saying that this book was not an exception to my rule of thumb. though this book caught my eye as i was browsing a school library, i was gradually let down more and more as i progressed through the pages. though i pictured this to be like a "go ask alice" type documentary i...more
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