In May 1973, just a teenager, Dennis Morris skipped school because Bob Marley and The Wailers were in London to play at famous record industry hangout The Speakeasy. He was determined to get a photograph of his new musical hero. Not only did he do that, Morris was to help turn his hero into a legend.
As a new biopic of Marley is released, we find out what it was like to witness his stratospheric rise. Morris tells us: “I waited and waited and at 3pm, Bob turned up with the rest of the band. I said, ‘Can I take your picture?’”
He was invited inside. And right from the start, the interest was mutual. “They were doing a soundcheck,” Morris recalls. “And between songs, Bob was asking what it was like to be a young Black kid living in London. He was fascinated by me; I was fascinated by him. Then he told me about the tour and asked if I wanted to come along.
“Meeting Bob Marley changed my life and opened so many doors. And what really changed my life was talking to Bob. He was something special. Everything seemed possible. I couldn’t believe the wisdom that was coming from his mouth.”
Over the next few years, as Marley became one of the most famous musicians on the planet, Morris was often with him, taking pictures that would become iconic.
Morris was there when Bob Marley and The Wailers played to 200 people in 2,000 capacity venues across Britain later that year on the Burnin’ Tour – their fame had yet to spread outside West Indian communities. “Bob stepped out every single night as if it was sold out. For him he was building a biblical movement.”