ReMastered season 1, episode 1 recap: Who Shot the Sheriff


Netflix series ReMastered explores the 1976 assassination attempt of reggae icon Bob Marley. Was the shooting planned by the CIA to destabilize Jamaica?

At first, it sounds like a far-out conspiracy theory, perpetuated by Bob Marley fans to expand his legend. However, ReMastered lends weight to the theory that the CIA may have orchestrated an assassination attempt on him.

To begin with, Marley always clashed with authority. He’s known for the quote, “Every government on the face of the earth is illegal.” When reflecting on his youth, Marley says he feared the police framing him as a young man. Mark Figueroa, Professor of Economics at the University of the West Indies, says that, as a youth, Marley lived in a government yard in Trenchtown. Rejected by his family, broke and homeless, he eventually moved in with Coxsone Dodd, a music producer. Though Bob Marley started out with simple pop songs, he eventually became Rastafarian, eventually becoming the movement’s leading icon.

It wasn’t an easy thing to be a part of, according to ReMastered. Nancy Burke, Marley’s neighbor, says police would forcibly trim their hair, arrest them for pot, and otherwise hound them.
Diane Jobson, a Rasta Lawyer, maintains that Rasta is for poor people, as it rejects a system where few control many. However, Bob Marley wasn’t just a Rastafarian. As Journalist Vivien Goldman notes, he was bi-racial and didn’t wish to be seen as just black or white. As his music grew, he became an icon for Jamaica, and politicians apparently wished to use him to promote themselves.

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Manley and Seaga

In 1976, Michael Manley of the ‎People’s National Party (PNP) was a Prime Minister of Jamaica who spoke for egalitarianism. Challenging him was conservative-leaning Edward Seaga of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). There was a tribal war between the parties, which divided into political gangs. At this time, Bob Marley wrote the song “Johnny Was,” about political violence. Former PNP youth leader Paul Burke says both the PNP and JLP tried to claim Marley as theirs. To address the madness, Bob Marley’s place, 56 Hope Road, was treated as a neutral spot for gangs.

Smile Jamaica benefit concert and the shootings

Wanting to promote peace, Bob Marley arranged the Smile Jamaica Concert for December 5, 1976. Perhaps for promotional reasons, new elections were declared for December 15th, shortly after the concert. Before the concert, Bob Marley got into an argument one night and feared for his life as a result. Two days before the concert occurred, some men shot up Marley’s place. Marley, his wife Rita and manager Don Tayler survived the shooting, but there were obvious reasons to be paranoid.

Interestingly, filmmaker Carl Colby arrived shortly after the shooting. Why was it interesting? Carl’s father was CIA Director William Colby (and, years later, Carl released a film about his father’s mysterious death).

Many theories have developed about the shooting. Marley’s friend, Skill Cole, was accused of fixing a horse race and had fled the country. Some blame him for the shooting. Also strange: According to witnesses, Bob was being guarded by the PNP, but the guards left on the night of the assassination attempt. This made some wonder if the party was complicit in the shooting. The theory is, they may have done it to blame the JLP for instigating violence.

Either way, Bob Marley feared performing due to the risk of assassination.
Journalist Jeff Walker says that, at the time, Bob said, “There’s no way I’m going onstage without a machine gun.” Then, when Michael Manley was re-elected, JLP violence escalated. Though the Smile Jamaica concert was considered an epic success, Marley understandably felt betrayed by Jamaica, preferring a self-imposed exile from his native land. He moved to London, where police don’t even carry guns. There he focused on music, including the song “Ambush in the Night,” which specifically addresses the assassination attempt.

PNP and JLP violence escalates

ReMastered provides some amazing insight into Jamaican violence increased, and why Bob Marley left. The whole country was in an ideological and tribal conflict. Manley was allied with Castro. Also, Seaga’s name was sometimes spelled as “CIAga,” with the theory that he was a puppet. Many believed the CIA was watching Marley, and that the CIA supported the street fighters in Jamaica. Another reggae legend, Jimmy Cliff, says the CIA questioned him at the time.

Philip Agee, a former CIA agent, has discussed the military tactics used in the fighting (however, ReMastered suggests the JLP didn’t deal with the CIA directly). In one of the worst incidents of violence, the Orange Lane fire, an old folks’ home was set on fire and the firefighters were shot at.
Things got so crazy that gang leaders Claude Massop and Buckie Marshall declared a truce.
Meanwhile, in his song Rat Race, Bob Marley wrote, “Rasta don’t work for no CIA.” In fact, he stressed that he wanted to be independent of Marxism and capitalism. Eventually, Marley accepted an invitation to return to Jamaica, especially because he trusted Claude Massop.

The One Love Peace Concert

On April 22, 1978, Bob Marley headlined the One Love Peace Concert. Aside from the music, it was noted for getting JLP and PNP members to mingle together. If that’s not enough, Marley invited Manley and Seaga onstage, which was a challenge they couldn’t refuse. Musician Tommy Cowan notes that at one point during the show, a bolt of lightning struck as Marley danced, making it seem like a magical occasion (and who would challenge that?).

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Unfortunately, the concert didn’t end all political tensions. The violence was too deeply entrenched even for a man like Marley to quell. Indeed, criminal accusations surround the whole scene. Author Laurie Gunst says a man named Jim Brown masterminded the Bob Marley shooting, and that Brown ran the so-called Shower Posse. She even alleges that he was smuggling drugs for Seaga, which could definitely be considered inflammatory. On top of all that, both Claude Massop and Buckie Marshall were killed violently. Guilty or otherwise, Seaga became Prime Minister on November of 1980 and served until February of 1989.

Bob Marley died of cancer in 1981 at the young age of 36.

That’s it for this ReMastered recap! What are your thoughts on this controversial episode? Let us know in the comments!