When the House of Blues location outside Disney's new California Adventure theme park in Anaheim opened on Jan. 12, 2001, Lit rocked out O.C.-style for a raucous hometown crowd. More than four years later, San Diego's own House of Blues goes a bit deeper into the cultural xylem and phloem of popular music with a performance by the ubiquitous Wailers and young Spanglish rockers deSol.
The first night at the former Woolworth building at 1055 Fifth Ave. kicks off a week of performances from iconic artists ranging from George Clinton to Audioslave, from Queens of the Stone Age to David Lee Roth and The Blues Brothers.
Let the fun begin.
Three little lawyers
Thanks to humankind's huge talent for propagating injustice, intolerance, oppression and tyranny, Bob Marley & The Wailers were able to make their legacy speaking out against such things. Since Marley's death from cancer in 1981, however, the circumstances surrounding his estate and the musical and financial legacy of The Wailers has been anything but serene. The band who fought for everyone's rights has been busy fighting for their own.
For marketing purposes (and because he was a pretty legendary sort of guy), Bob Marley's star was hoisted higher than any of his bandmates'. Yet there are many legacies to properly credit. It's a mess of interchangeable names-Bob Marley, The Wailers, Bob Marley & The Wailers, plus more than 20 musicians who contributed to the band's 20 years of music-making. In 1992, the Songs of Freedom box set was billed to Marley, not Bob Marley & The Wailers, as was the 1999 album Chant Down Babylon. On the contrary, many of the repackages tend to give credit to Bob Marley & The Wailers instead of The Wailers (which consisted of Bunny "Wailer" Livingston, Peter "Tosh" McIntosh and Marley).
Danny Sims, The Wailers' former manager and publisher, was the first to sue the Bob Marley estate for copyright infringement. McIntosh and Livingston followed suit and settled their songwriting and publishing dispute with a financial windfall in the millions. Neither attended Marley's funeral. McIntosh was murdered in 1987, but Livingston continues to make records. When the Grammys presented Marley with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, The Wailers weren't mentioned. No doubt a bit slighted, bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett went to court.
Barrett sued the Marley estate and Island Records for songwriting credit and royalties due to him and his brother, drummer Carlton Barrett, who was murdered in 1986. According to Aston, the Marley family refused to work with him toward a resolution. Rita Marley, Bob's widow, is continually characterized as a meddling Yoko Ono sort who seeks to erase the contributions of others from her deceased husband's legacy. (No one knows her true intent for sure, but Barrett uses the example of his father's kidnapping, when he sought help from Rita and was rebuked. His father was subsequently decapitated and murdered.)
With one of the biggest back catalogues in history-Bob Marley & The Wailers have sold more than 250 million albums-Barrett's success would mean a financial reward in the millions.
Who is the oppressed? Who is the oppressor? Hard to tell.
Yet despite the tumultuous history lurking behind The Wailers' messages of peace and Rastafarian love, few can debate the enduring power of Marley & The Wailers' legacy. With Barrett, Al Anderson and Earl "Wya" Lindo all currently touring as The Wailers, it's one that continues to evolve.
The other band
It wasn't that long ago that artists who used dozens of world-music references in their work were the norm. There was a reggae lilt wafting up from the islands and informing the blues brothers along the Mississippi; there was a Latin dance rhythm enlightening big-band bops; and African beats influenced almost all of them, especially modern jazz. The young band named deSol, which loosely means "of the sun," seems excessively capable of harnessing all of these influences while still channeling the muscle of classic American rock.
Guitarist Rich Soto can't hide his Jersey accent when he speaks of his band's combined Salvadoran, Mexican, Peruvian, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Portuguese descent.
"I never wanted to listen to Latin music as a kid," he remembers. "I basically learned Latin music in spite of myself just because it was playing in the house. Our cultures have a huge influence on what we play and the way deSol makes music."
DeSol's seven-man bilingual fusion is bridging gaps with rappers like Outkast's Big Boi, rockers like R.E.M. and with the jam crowd on a recent Dirty Dozen Brass Band tour. Now in The Wailers' wake, deSol doesn't have many more genres left to blend.
"We're a stew," says Soto, "a savory Afro-Latin-salsa-dance-funk-soul-and-everything-else deSol stew."
The Wailers and deSol perform the opening night of San Diego's House of Blues, 9 p.m. on May 11. $25. 619-299-BLUE.