Bob Marley died 30 years ago today in Miami at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, now University of Miami Hospital. I didn’t know this before today, and I wish I’d had more time to put together a post commemorating the great man’s life and all-too-early death from cancer at the age of 36. Miami tends to have Marley on the brain more than most cities because much of his surviving family lives here, because of the annual Marley Fest, and, well, because Miami loves its marijuana. But on this occasion let’s look through the cloud of smoke and pay deep homage to a man who, perhaps more than any other musician in the 20th century, epitomized an entire genre. (At least in pop culture, reggae rose and fell with Tuff Gong.)
To that end, here’s a track I’ve always loved. Feel free to suggest others as a comment and I’ll embed them in the post throughout the rest of today. As anyone who ever spent an evening on the back porch listening to him knows very well, Marley recorded more than enough beautiful music to fill a single day.
On Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami Beach, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) cashed the biggest mouth-written check in the history of sport when he TKO’d Sonny Liston, knock-out artist and reigning heavyweight world champion, after six rounds.
Absolutely no one has talked more shit — in verse, no less — before a sporting event than the 22-year-old “Louisville Lip” did in the lead up to this legendary fight. Exhibit A, a poem Clay had his sparring partner read on national television the night before the match:
Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat, if Liston goes back an inch farther he’ll end up in a ringside seat. Clay swings with a left, Clay swings with a right, just look at young Cassius carry the fight. Liston keeps backing but there’s not enough room, it’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom. Then Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing, and the punch raised the bear clear out of the ring.*
Liston’s response, also delivered by his sparring partner: “Cassius, you’re my million dollar baby, so please don’t let anything happen to you before tomorrow night.”
On Feb. 13, 1964, The Beatles (heard of ‘em?) touched down in Miami and three days later, on Feb. 16, played the second of their three epochal Ed Sullivan Show performances.* Nixon’s waxen bizarro twin (Sullivan) gave the “youngsters” from Liverpool top billing and $10,000 for the three appearances. In exchange, he got the highest ratings in the history of American television, with 40 percent of the U.S. population tuning in for The Beatles’ Miami performance in the Deauville’s Napoleon Room.
Here is the Fab Four’s first set: “She Loves You”, “That Boy”, and “All My Loving”.
Author Erick Lyle and homeless-rights activist Max Rameau talk underground history at U.M. Wednesday night.
Wednesday night, at U.M.’s Otto G. Richter Library, punk historian Erick Lyle (aka Iggy Scam), author of On The Lower Frequencies: A Secret History of The City, and homeless-rights activist and Take Back The Land member Max Rameau will discuss the importance of documenting underground and fugitive artistic, literary, and political movements, in which both gentleman have plenty of first-hand experience. The University of Miami Libraries Special Collections has acquired Lyle and Rameau’s respective archives in a broader effort to document South Florida’s own countercultural history.
I emailed Lyle a few questions earlier this week about Archiving the Fringe (the event and the endeavor). As expected, he provided some enlightening responses.
What are Miami’s forgotten/influential underground movements?
EL: I think the most important or influential underground movement in Miami that is somewhat forgotten was probably the civil rights movement. It was more “overground”, I suppose, but not as huge as in other Southern cities. And Miami was a very Southern city back in the 1960s when sit-ins started happening at downtown lunch counters with black students trying to get served at segregated public places. It is hard to imagine the segregated world of Miami then with its whites-only beaches from the vantage point of today’s Latin American Miami, but the Klan was huge in Miami up to the 1950s. When African-Americans would try to move into white areas they were often met with violence including at least one fire bombing of a home. There was literally a wall built along 12th Avenue that was to separate Liberty City from the rest of the city.
Giuseppe "I don't like no peoples" Zangara, FDR's would-be assassin.
We haven’t done a BitD in a while, so we figured we’d reprise it for an event not many people know about. On Feb. 15, 1933, an unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara fired six shots into a crowd gathered at Bayfront Park to hear President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt give a speech. FDR had just delivered the speech from the backseat of his open touring car (to spare his disabled body the walk to a podium) when Zangara shouted “Too many people are starving!” and opened fire. His bullets missed the president-elect but hit five other people, including the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who received a mortal stomach wound.
An excerpt from “FDR escapes assassination in Miami” (history.com):
Several men tackled the assailant and might have beaten him to death if Roosevelt had not intervened, telling the crowd to leave justice to the authorities. Zangara later claimed, “I don’t hate Mr. Roosevelt personally. I hate all officials and anyone who is rich.” He also told the FBI that chronic stomach pain led to his action: “Since my stomach hurt I want to make even with the capitalists by kill the president. My stomach hurt long time.”
FDR comforted Cermak on the ride to the hospital. “Medical staff credited Roosevelt with preventing the mayor from going into shock, thus giving him a better chance at recovery,” according to u-s-history.com.
While the attack ended Cermak’s political career, it worked to FDR’s advantage, as his composure and compassion apparently gave the nation faith in his ability to lead them out of the Great Depression.
As for Zangara, he was initially sentenced to 80 years in prison for attempted murder. But when Cermak later died of his wound, the ineloquent bricklayer (“I don’t like no peoples”) was retried and sentenced to death. On March 5, 1933, Zangara fried in the electric chair.
On Nov. 28, 1969, three months after Woodstock, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane and others in that historic lineup came down to Florida for another three-day music festival. The Palm Beach headliner was the Rolling Stones, who six days later would headline the infamous Altamont Speedway Free Festival where four people died, one by stabbing.
Perhaps being historically sandwiched between Woodstock and Altamont is why few seem to remember the Palm Beach Pop Festival (officially, the Palm Beach Music & Art Festival; aka, “Woodstock South”). It’s a shame considering the festival’s all-star lineup — which also included the Chambers Brothers, The Byrds, and Steppenwolf (but notably not Jimi Hendrix) — and the outlandish reports of official local resistance to the influx of 50,000 “long hairs”. Check out this excerpt from a 2009 Palm Beach Post article.
Then-Palm Beach County Sheriff Bill Heidtman vowed to make life miserable for the free-loving, pot-smoking, anti-establishment youngsters who were coming to the Palm Beach Pop Festival. He threatened to herd alligators toward the crowd, gathered on a grassy field at the Palm Beach International Raceway. And he promised to dig out fire ant colonies and relocate them at the venue.
And it wasn’t a warm welcome in another sense: a cold rain swept through over the weekend and turned the grounds into a mud pit. The stouthearted slept atop their cars, but many packed it in and left, so that only about 3,000 people witnessed the Stones’ closing performance.
JFK flashing that famous Brahman smile on the streets of Miami.
Fifty years ago today, presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy went shopping for votes at the 163rd Street Mall, in North Miami Beach. Judging by the text of his stump speech, it was a pretty routine campaign stop, with JFK portraying the dread Nixon as out of touch with the pulse of the country.
On April 30, 1976, prominent Miami radio host Emilio Milian left the WQBA station in Little Havana, got into his station wagon, and turned on the ignition, detonating a bomb under the hood. Standing ten feet away, Rosa Delgado witnessed the explosion.
“There was dark smoke and flames,” she told the Miami Herald. “I tried to open the door but it was too hot. I told him to help me help him. His eyes were full of pain.”
Later, at Jackson Memorial Hospital, doctors amputated both of Milian’s legs below the knees. He would undergo many operations after the bombing and ultimately survive.
Seventy-five years ago today, a soul baby named Sam Moore was born in Miami, and the sawgrass swayed in the humid wind.
Soul Man Sam Moore came up singing gospel on the Miami music scene.
The son of a church deacon and choir singer, Moore grew up belting out gospel in the South and rocking Miami’s local R&B/soul circuit. One night in 1961, he helped a Georgia singer named David Prater through a rendition of Jackie Wilson’s “Doggin’ Around” at the King of Hearts club, “a local bastion of Miami black nightlife,” according to Rob Bowman’s Soulsville U.S.A. Following the performance, the two fiery and symmetric men regularly torched Miami’s music scene as a suit-clad, synchronized duo and eventually caught the attention of Atlantic Records co-owner Jerry Wexler.
It was 165 degrees in the middle of summer. It was hot and they were hot. It was wall-to-wall people. We were the only Caucasians in there [the King of Hearts]. Ahmet [Ertegun, Wexler’s partner at Atlantic] and I are out there boogalooing like fools, sweating and just having a ball. It was so exciting. When I heard them there that night, that’s all she wrote. I signed them up immediately. — from Soulsville U.S.A.
In 1965, Wexler sent “Sam & Dave” to its Memphis affiliate, Stax Records, which boasted songwriters Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter, house band Booker T and the MGs, and God’s gift to ears: Otis Redding. With Stax, Sam & Dave went on to record some of the 60s’ funkiest tracks, including “Hold On! I’m Comin” (1966) and “Soul Man” (1967).
Today John Lennon would have been 70 years old and, unlike Sir Paul, probably not a feather in Starbucks’ cap. Not to be naive, but I like to think he’d have made some good music during the Awful Aughts. With Dubya as his muse, he might have beat Jay-Z to the Black Album.
From what I gather, there are probably few places less like Miami than Liverpool. Perhaps that’s why John and The Beatles seemed to enjoy themselves so much here. Or maybe it had to do with their unprecedented fame, godly talent, and staggering wealth. Either way, to commemorate the sad death and rocking life of “The Smart One,” here are a few photos of Lennon, his wife Cynthia, and the boys, in Miami for the band’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. (More photos at absoluteelsewhere.net.)
Props to anyone who can figure out where in Miami these were taken.