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Marc Writes His Own Song And Joins A Reggae Band!

submitted by on August 18, 2011

Marc in Yazoo Prison, May 2011Dearest Miss: I’ve been keeping busy, and am actually enjoying the extreme heat down here. Each day in the morning, or even from noon to 3pm, I go to an elevated wooden umpire booth behind the baseball diamond and take off my t-shirt, sit in the shade, and feel this gentle breeze while I read my magazines, books, and NY Times newspapers for two to three hours. I play my bass guitar every evening and most afternoons.

Lately I've been going down memory lane with the recent excerpt from my autobiography being put online. The teacher who escorted the students on that Middle East trip in March 1975, Don McQueen, my history and politics teacher from Sir Wilfrid Laurier High School from 1973-1975, is alive and well and was interviewed for the “Citizen Marc” documentary that director Roger Larry is finishing up the final interviews for. My friend Roy, whom I’ve known for 45 years, was also interviewed. Roy has just finished a delightful book called “2012 Rabbits and the Happy Apocalypse”, available on Amazon for download to Kindle and due out in print soon. I really have enjoyed the chapters I received from Roy in the mail, and am excited to get the printed copy of the book.

As you know, Miss, I was crestfallen when my instructor/teacher/band leader Grizz and my drummer Damian got sent to the SHU (Special Housing unit, solitary confinement) within 24 hours of each other two weeks ago, because our band “Stuck” was arbitrarily dissolved when that happened. I lost our studio rehearsal spot and our gig spot for the Labor Day weekend concert. But then, a few days ago, Terry and I were invited to be in a reggae band called “Star”, and I am now rehearsing "I Shot The sheriff", "Stir It Up" and "No Woman, No Cry". It's great fun and an education to become familiar with these three classic Bob Marley songs, which we'll play in the new concert in early September.

I am "getting it" – that is, the reggae beat – so it’s exciting. Fortunately, my lead guitarist Terry seems to know every song ever done, having played as a professional guitarist in bands for 15 years, including reggae bands, so I am getting expert instruction on how to do the bass lines for "I Shot The Sheriff" and "Stir It Up". I came up with the bass lines on "No Woman No Cry" from the chords indicated on the sheet music.

So I am in a band once again, and we are in the studio Saturday and Monday nights now – two practice slots, as other new bands did not make the cut, leaving more practice time available for us. When the Music Department C.O. (correctional officer) asked me what Terry and I were doing now, I said I was in the reggae band and he said, "well, that's good, because I know you two know how to play, from hearing your last concert, so your rehearsal times are assured." So that was cool to hear him say I "know how to play."

I always sign my letters to you as "Your Boo, Marc", now I will sign them "Your Rasta-Boo, Marc". In fact, you could send me a copy of what is probably my favorite piece I ever wrote for Cannabis Culture, "The Secret History of Rastafari", so I can show the rest of the band, who are all dread Jamaicans. We are the only interracial band with Terry and I in the mix now.

I had a medical check-up and my health is at its optimum, apparently. My blood pressure is 113 over 63, which is excellent I'm told. No infections or problems – as far as I know! I'm eating plenty of salmon/albacore tuna wraps that I make with my purchases from the commissary. In each meal I prepare myself, no matter what it is, I crush up 10-15 fresh garlic parts (usually a whole clove) and add it to my wraps or any food or even dips I make. To the salmon/tuna or even my cheese dips, I add chili-garlic sauce, chili powder, chopped jalapenos, mayonnaise, and the fresh garlic cloves. I have developed a palate for spicy, tangy foods now, as you can see, from when I was at D Ray James private prison in Folkston, Georgia, where virtually all my colleagues were Hispanic and ate spicy food.

My Mennonite Canadian friend Peter, whom I shared all my meals with at D Ray James, was supposed to be released on August 8th, a few days ago, and deported back to Canada, where his wife and nine children were eagerly awaiting his return from 21 months in prison for bringing a van of weed into the USA from Mexico. I hope Peter will contact you to say hello now that he is back in Canada. Give him my best wishes and let him know how I am doing. I was also satisfied to learn that my good friends Mike and Brad are doing as best as they can at DRJ, though that horrible place is as dysfunctional as ever by the sounds of it, with the nearby Okefenokee Swamp burning out of control for much of the summer, causing blackened smoke in the air. As you have found out, the air conditioning there has been dysfunctional for almost a month, and the temperatures there are the same as here, about 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) each day. Ugh!

I've got many good books to read. Right now I'm reading the daily diary travel book "Sahara" by Michael Palin. Palin is the former Monty Python member who, in the earlier part of the last decade, did travel shows for the BBC television, and "Sahara" was one of the episodes. Throughout the four-month trip, Palin wrote a daily diary and it is very well done. I am also reading a comic book reprint of a war comic series from 1965-1966 called “Blazing Combat”, a beautifully illustrated comic series done by the great artists of that period, Alex Toth, Reed Crandall and Wally Wood, and all stories written by Archie Goodwin. They’re modeled a great deal on the EC Comics (anti) war comics from 1951-1955 called “Frontline Combat” and “Two-Fisted Tales”. Those latter two titles were classic stories written by one of my favorite artist/writers of comics ever, Harvey Kurtzman.

I just finished the popular novel, “The Help”, which is being released as a movie this month. As you know, because you recommended this book to me, it takes place in 1962-1964 in Jackson, the capital of Mississippi near here. It’s extremely well written, but is probably a little too satisfying in that chick-lit way, in that there are only two villains, a mean old white lady and an abusive wife-beating drunk black man, while all others are saintly or redeemable characters meant to make all readers of both races and genders feel good about the world (today) by the end. This is the secret of its success, along with its deft ear for dialect and story telling.

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Oh Miss, today was special! In the afternoon I met with John, a drummer, vocalist and songwriter for the other rock band “Out of Bounds”, who composed and put together a terrific song called Prince of Pot. I'm having them write up the music for that one so the BC Marijuana Party “Jams in the Key of Green” jam night MC Adam Bowen can perform it with a band for YouTube.

I was telling John about learning some reggae songs today with Terry, and that I thought one song went notes A, D, E (as it turns out, neither “Stir It Up” nor “I Shot The Sheriff” go A, D, E.).

So John plays the notes A, D, E (John was playing rhythm guitar while I did the bass). Then I play the notes A, D, E, E, E, (the first E a quarter note, the second two E's are eighth notes, that's a full measure in 4/4 time). Then we play it four times, then a full measure of G, then a full measure of E, another measure of G, then go E, D, C (with a 1/4 note, and two eighths on C), and then back to the lick of A, D, E, E, E.

Well, that sounds pretty cool. I said, "That sounds neat." He says, "What do you feel when you hear that music?"

And I say, "It’s funny you should say that, because that music makes me feel like the sun is rising, the desert is ahead, the day is just beginning."

He says, "Well, lets write a song".

And over the next three hours we compose a song with an intro, two verses, a solo – John does the solo, I do 10 measures on the bass that are A, D, E, E, E (four measures), then G, C, D, D, D, (two measures) and then back to A, D, E, E, E (for four more measures), all while John does this excellent solo that plays off my bass riff – then two more verses, with lyrics about a guy waking up, being nagged at, ditching his girlfriend and all his material possessions and driving off into the desert, where he clears his head, looks to the future, picks up a girl on the highway, and finds that she sure is pretty and fun, but perhaps no different from the one he left behind.

The lyrics are fun, they rhyme, they aren't profound, though I may rewrite them to be so, but I have always worked from the presumption I can't compose music at all, that I have no talent musically (I just like to play stuff I'm able to memorize because I love making music), and that I really just am determined enough so I can play songs. So those three hours were really fun. I made suggestions to the song that improved it, and I had a hand in the lyrics, and my playing was very good. It was a terrific exercise and I felt really excited to start from scratch and actually co-produce a song from nothing, a song that was kind of cool sounding. It’s really the first time I have ever co-created a song in a band situation. Yay!

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When I got back from the visit we had on Sunday the 14th, I wasn't feeling so good, but I thought I'd let it settle. I had the uninspired food they served for dinner, and then I went to the yard and got my bass (I always use B-4, it’s reserved for me). I met up with the singer of “I Shot The Sheriff” and we got some things straightened out and worked on the song, and then I was given “No Woman, No Cry” to do as well, so I have three songs, which is great.

Then a fellow came in with ten songs from the 1950s and early '60s, and showed them to Terry, who strummed the chords as I did the bass on them (they were all straightforward and simple bass lines) and this guy sang them. It was great fun playing “Hound Dog”, “Oh Donna”, “Shake, Rattle & Roll”, “It’s Alright Mama”, and other oldies.

So I did 90 minutes of music on the bass tonight and I realize I am getting much better, noticeably, and other people are remarking on it. Plus, Terry did the guitar on “Redemption Song”, a wonderful Marley song, with the singer Smitty of Star (there are two singers in that band – Smitty sings “I Shot The Sheriff”, and Marshall sings “No Woman, No Cry” and “Stir It Up”), so he's singing “Redemption Song”, and I'm singing right along ("Please help me sing these songs of freedom, is all I ever had, redemption songs, these songs of freedom…") and it feels very, very good to sing that song. That song is just one guitar and voice; there is no bass or drums on that song. It’s also the last song Bob Marley recorded.

Then I walked around the track twice, in perfect temperature, nice sunset. I felt much better. So don't worry about me, Miss, I'm over my melancholia. I'm enjoying reading a biography of Phil Ochs called “There But For Fortune”, and learning to play his 1966 song “Cops of the World” – a song that Greg “Marijuana Man” Williams of Pot TV had made a video for years ago, which you introduced, but it was removed from YouTube for music copyright violation. It’s good that YouTube is now just adding links to purchase songs from iTunes instead of removing videos that use copyrighted music! The song “Cops of the World” is from the album Phil Ochs in Concert, performing the song at Carnegie Hall.

I'm changing the lyrics when I sing Cops of the World from “Dump the reds in a pile, boys, Dump the reds in a pile” to “Dump the Arabs in a pile, boys, Dump the Muslims in a pile” to reflect that all the contemporary US military campaigns and support target those people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Israel. (The original song lyrics are posted below.)

I hope you have a good time speaking at Seattle Hempfest this upcoming weekend (August 19th-21st). The Seattle activists have always been so supportive, and you’ve been given great opportunities to speak many times at the last two Hempfests, so I really appreciate that! Thanks for being strong and taking care of everything, Miss. I love you so much!

Your Rasta Boo,
Marc Emery

Send Marc mail! The address and guidelines are posted on the front page of www.FreeMarc.ca

Cops of the World

E A E A
Come, get out of the way, boys
E A E E7
Quick, get out of the way
G C G C
You'd better watch what you say, boys
G C B7
Better watch what you say
E A
We've rammed in your harbor and tied to your port
E A
And our pistols are hungry and our tempers are short
E B7 E A Abm A
So bring your daughters around to the port
B7 E
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
B7 E
We're the Cops of the World

We pick and choose as please, boys
Pick and choose as please
You'd best get down on your knees, boys
Best get down on your knees
We're hairy and horny and ready to shack
We don't care if you're yellow or black
Just take off your clothes and lie down on your back
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

Our boots are needing a shine, boys
Boots are needing a shine
But our Coca-cola is fine, boys
Coca-cola is fine
We've got to protect all our citizens fair
So we'll send a battalion for everyone there
And maybe we'll leave in a couple of years
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

Dump the reds in a pile, boys
Dump the reds in a pile
You'd better wipe of that smile, boys
Better wipe off that smile
We'll spit through the streets of the cities we wreck
We'll find you a leader that you can't elect
Those treaties we signed were a pain in the neck
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

Clean the johns with a rag, boys
Clean the johns with a rag
If you like you can use your flag, boys
If you like you can use your flag
We've got too much money we're looking for toys
And guns will be guns and boys will be boys
But we'll gladly pay for all we destroy
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

Please stay off of the grass, boys
Please stay off of the grass
Here's a kick in the ass, boys
Here's a kick in the ass
We'll smash down your doors, we don't bother to knock
We've done it before, so why all the shock?
We're the biggest and toughest kids on the block
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

When we butchered your son, boys
When we butchered your son
Have a stick of our gum, boys
Have a stick of our bubble-gum
We own half the world, oh say can you see
The name for our profits is democracy
So, like it or not, you will have to be free
'Cause we're the Cops of the World, boys
We're the Cops of the World

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