Taylor, Don (ald) 1943-1999
TAYLOR, Don (ald) 1943-1999
Born 1943, in Jamaica; died 1999; mother's name Vernal Kidd.
Manager and writer.
Marley and Me: The Real Bob Marley Story, Barricade, 1995.
Don Taylor was reggae superstar Bob Marley's manager from 1975 until Marley's death from cancer in 1981. Taylor's memoir Marley and Me: The Real Bob Marley Story details this period, as well as Taylor's own life, which in many ways parallels Marley's. Taylor and Marley were both born in Jamaica, and both of their fathers were white. Taylor was the son of a thirteen-year-old mother, Vernal Kidd, but when he was born, his mother named him for her current lover, a Mr. Taylor. When baby Donald's skin remained light, Mr. Taylor questioned his fatherhood; Taylor's mother finally turned her son over to his natural father. Taylor lived as Donald Kidd in many homes where he was placed by his absentee father, and by the time he was thirteen, he lived alone in Kingston, surviving as a pimp and a hustler. When he was sixteen, singer Jackie Wilson, who had been performing in Jamaica, gave Taylor an opportunity to come to the United States.
In the book's acknowledgments Taylor expresses his appreciation for Wilson and others, including Ben E. King, Jerry Butler, Chuck Jackson, the Shirelles, the Drifters, Little Anthony, and Patti La Belle, and the Blue Belles. He managed other acts, such as Martha and the Vandellas, and more recently Soul II Soul. He was associated with nearly all the top black singers of the 1960s and 1970s, including Marvin Gaye and Sly Stone, as well as with top promoters and producers, such as Elvis's manager Colonel Tom Parker.
Herman Hall noted in Everybody's that many books about Marley have been written. "Unfortunately, most of them are by young, white writers who believe they know more about Jamaica than Jamaicans and more about reggae and Caribbean music than the people of the region." As Marley's manager, Taylor saw him as others could not. He waited fourteen years before writing the book, which Hall felt demonstrates that he was not doing it for money or publicity. "These factors make the book genuine and serious," wrote Hall, "though all the information may not necessarily be accurate, nor Taylor's view objective."
Hall said the book "is about the CIA, the Mafia, poverty and riches, hatred and kindness, sex, beautiful women, soccer, the Bible, Rastafarians, assassination attempts and execution, politics, fancy restaurants, the jet set, wit and tragedies, obeah, philanthropy, loyalty, and exploitation." Hall wrote that Taylor "creates two heroes in his book, Robert Nesta Marley and himself. Except for Marley's children, then pre-teenagers and early teens, in Taylor's eyes, all the rest of the cast …were mere cheaters, thieves, and exploiters."
The cast includes Marley's wife, Rita; his mother, Cedella Booker; the founder of Island Records, Chris Blackwell; Marley's best friend, Allan "Skill" Cole; Cindy Breakspeare, Miss World and the mother of a son with Marley; the Twelve Tribes of Israel; the Peoples' National Party; and the Jamaica Labour Party.
Taylor, Rita, and Marley were shot during a 1976 attempt on Marley's life, and Taylor offers proof that the failed assassination was plotted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Hall said there "is no reason to doubt his views given the political situation in Jamaica at that time, the growing influence of Bob Marley and his music on the youth in black nations, and his influence among young whites in America and elsewhere. It was a time when the CIA was most active in black countries as the Cold War was waged. Bob Marley was judged as a supporter, although he denied it, of Michael Manley, who was then prime minister of Jamaica and whom the CIA was actively trying to remove from power."
A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Taylor captures Marley's "navigation of Jamaica's incendiary political landscape in the 1970s," and said "the story of the attempt on Marley's life is well told." David Szatmary wrote in Library Journal that Taylor offers an inside view of the music business, "including cutthroat financial dealings, political machinations, and the Mafia connection." Booklist reviewer Mike Tribby called Marley and Me "a must read for anyone who cares about the legacy of one of the most charismatic pop musicians ever."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1995, pp. 27, 51.
Everybody's, March 31, 1995.
Library Journal, August, 1995, p. 77.
Publishers Weekly, August 7, 1995, p. 457.*