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Recap of Peter Simon's Reggae Scrapbook Slideshow at Johnny D's


Forget Jay-Z; and to hell with Mariah Carey’s frontal massage therapist. If I could switch places with anyone on earth it would be esteemed reggae photographer and king Trustafarian Peter Simon.

But while I’m clearly jealous of the man, I have no resentment. Just because Simon (as in Simon & Schuster) was born into opulence doesn’t mean I hate him. In fact, I admire him immensely.

As he clicked through his sunsplashed photo spread at Johnny D’s last night, I sat mesmerized. And not just because of shots like his of Peter Tosh on a unicycle at Howard Johnson’s in Cambridge. Considering the number of my rich thirty-something friends who have never worked real jobs, Simon is remarkably accomplished.

Simon’s love affair with reggae intensified when he was a student at Boston University in the 1960s. As one does in Rome, he smoked weed, bumped Marley, and went to see The Harder They Come in Harvard Square more times than he can count.

Then one summer day in the early 1970s, while getting stoned with a friend on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard, he decided to become the first person to document reggae culture. And when Simon decides something, it happens.

In 1975, he had the notion to publish an article in the New York Times. And in November of that year, he used that platform to give reggae artists their first-ever mainstream coverage.

Much like the way that Rupert Murdoch’s son helped finance Rawkus Records, which birthed contemporary underground hip-hop by backing artists such as Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Cage and El-P – this son of Richard Simon helped put reggae on the atlas.

Simon’s latest work, The Reggae Scrapbook, which he previewed in Somerville, exemplifies his intense connection to roots and culture artists. This isn’t just a guy with contacts; Simon has access to his subjects’ joy and emotion.

I never realized it until last night, but, despite one group’s love for ganja and the other’s for scotch, Rastas and aristocrats are comparably easygoing. And while that’s a way of being that a stress-addled jerk like me could never understand, I see how a common blissful apathy can help folks from Kingston and Edgartown connect.

While Simon occasionally says things such as “I saw Bob live – a lot,” he’s hardly an obnoxious silver spooner. Those guys climb Everest – he got high with Jamaican legends and documented essential moments in alt and pop culture history.

The moral of Simon’s achievement, as far as I’m concerned, is this: If you have a giant safety net and can do as you please with little to no consequences, then at least leave the planet with something useful to remember you by.

And if you don’t have any of those things, then do it anyway.

Also: Click Here For The Phoenix Slide Show of Photos From Simon's New Book

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