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
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.
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.
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