This was it. A concert to end all concerts. A "One Love" extravaganza. Jamaica's Top 10 reggae princes all vying for one love.
And her name was Jamaica. And she looked so good - from a distance.
Up close, though, you could see that she was weary from years of political strife. You could feel the hands of her hoards, of desperate children picking your pockets at every Coca-Cola concession stand.
But they love her anyway, and for seven hours beginning late Saturday afternoon at the National Stadium in Kingston they loved her good.
Especially Bob Marley, the king of reggae rock. He and his restless prince, Peter Tosh, work together as The Wailers, writing songs such as "I Shot the Sheriff," by (Eric Clapton) and "I Can See Clearly Now," (by Johnny Nash).
There were no signs of injury or remorse as Marley moved onto the stage, his head flung back and long, plaited and waxed hair beating wildly about his neck and back.
The thin green pajama shirt that he wore appeared to inflate itself as Marley dropped to his knees, hung his head, then bolted back upright into a howling version of "Stand Up For Your Rights." There were no signs of the violence or strife that have marred Jamaican politics during the past few years. He did not sing the hits that made him famous, such as "I Shot the Sheriff and "Burnin' and Lootin'." Besides "Stand Up," Manley's other numbers included "Jammin'" and "Steppin'."
"I said before that peace will take many years, but I'm willing to give it a chance today," Marley said before going onstage. "I'm glad to be back."
Marley had special reasons for his enthusiastic performance.
When Marley was machine-gunned in the arm and near the groin during an assassination attempt on December 3. 1976, he vowed never to return here to the scene of the crime, his home, where he was first hailed as the king of reggae.
Marley, one of Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley's favorite singers (Manley consulted Marley before cutting a reggae political campaign record), was scheduled to perform a series of concerts in Jamaica for Manley's benefit the attempt on his life.
After almost losing his road manager and some friends during the assassination attempt, Marley concluded that his country had become a "rotten egg that had broken, and couldn't be put back together again."
On January 9 of this year the leaders of Jamaica's two warring street gangs met in the ghettos of Kingston and somehow decided that two yearss of violent politics should end. They thought it would be nice to have Bob Marley return as a sign that Jamaica's two political parties, the Socialist People's National Party and the capitalist Jamaica's Labor Party, could coexist without violence.
So, on Saturday more than 85,000 of Jamaica's two million residents crowded before a 15-foot-high stage under a cloud of ganja (marijuana), against the backdrop of Jamaica's blue mountains.
Officials estimated that this crowd was the largest ever to gather for a concert in Jamaica, exceeding the one that gathered for the Smile concert held just after Bob Marley was shot.
As fish fred on open grills around the stadium, small girls in sundresses sold tangerines and ran the sugar cane concessions.
The performers for the event included other Jamaican stars such as The Inner Circle, Dennis Brown, Ras Michael, The Sons of Negus, and Big Youth.
Prime Minister Manley smiled at opposition leader Edward Seaga while rival street fighters held hands and danced on stage to Marley's chant "for peace and justice."
On Mick Jagger's shoulder slept a 13-year-old Jamaican girl wearing an oversized yellow evening gown and a golfer's hat.
"It's neat. It's cool," said Jagger. "This is a peace concert."
Near the outer wall of the stadium Ethiopians performed snake dances in elaborate white togas while Jamaican soldiers in drab, green army uniforms paraded in and out of the spectacle carrying 45-calibre sub-machine guns to insure peace at the concert.
A few days before the concert, crowd of several dozen young Jamaicans began burning and looting stores; three were killed during shootouts with police. According to some reports the youths were protesting inadequate job opportunities.
The concert was held to raise money to provide 10,000 jobs for Jamaican youths, according to concert organizer Tommy Cowan. Several thousand dollars were also donated by Jamaican businessmen and both political parties.
As concert promoters and agents arrived, some of those who had helped organize the peace rally became concerned that the meaning of the event would be lost.
"At first it was supposed to be a small thing, with one or two groups," said Eric Thompson, a rally organizer. "It turned into a massive thing, a battle of the bands or something bigger."
For weeks before the concert, band rehearsals were being held all over Kingston.
"I wanted this to be special, a special occasion for (my) home," said Peter Tosh. "I'm for a continuation of equal rights and justice."
The split between Marley and former Wailer Tosh was evident on stage, with Tosh still the rebel.
For about 15 minutes Tosh gave the audience a political lecture reggae-style. His story was of police brutality and oppression.
"I don't want peace, I want equality." Tosh told the audience. Then, looking at Prime Minister Manley, Tosh said, "I am not a politician. I just suffer the consequences."
Originally, Tosh and Marley were scheduled to perform back-to-back - the last and the next-to-last of the reggae princes. But at the last minute Marley's band, the I-Threes, played between them. "Like the United Nations," Mick Jagger observed.
Upon Marley's celebrated return to Jamaica last week, he immediately sought refuge on the island beaches, sipping fish tea and listening to tape recordings of his songs.
"He's our only living national hero," said Claude Massop, a member of the Jamaica Peace Council, who flew to London earlier this year to ask Marley to come back home.
"We told him we needed him to make peace," Massop said. "Bob welcomed it. he said if he could make money with his guitar, he could certainly try to make peace with it too."
The concert was then scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the first visit by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, who is regarded as God by the estimated 100,000 Rastafarians.
The Rastafarian sect began in the United States in the early 1930s. The Rastas, as they are sometimes called, are noted for their long rope-like hair that may reach to their waist, braided and waxed but never washed or combed. The hair is referred to as dread-locks.
Marcus Garvey, an advocate of the back-to-Africa movement in the United States, was deported back to his home in Jamaica in 1927 and continued to preach the return to Africa for blacks.
The Rastafarians regard themselves as living outside the mainstream of society and don't use store-bought medicines or items that contain metal.
Marley had left, cursing Jamaica two years ago, calling his country "a corrupt Babylonian society that was doomed by capitalist greed."
His political reggae music had been nourished in the cramped slum areas Kingston, where many of his friends lived, although Marley himself came from a solid middleclass family.
The attempt on Marley's life sparked suspicion from some that it was the work of anti-Castro Cubans and the CIA, which did not like Marley's close ties with Prime Minister Manley. Still others suspected it was the work of the more Marxist-oriented Socialists, who thought Marley had become a capitalist himself. No arrests were made after the shooting.
"People became very paranoid, and no one knew just what was going on around here," said Bruce Tarrant, who now works for the government information agency but who, two years ago, worked for Marley. "I think Bob had become disappointed with his country. I think the idea that someone wanted to kill him was more painful than the bullet injury that he suffered."