More Than Just His Manager, How Don Taylor Helped Bob Marley Rule the World

Donald Taylor was born(February 10th 1943) in Kingston,his mother, Cynthia Llewellyn, was just 13 years old at the time of his birth, worked as a maid and lived with a black Jamaican called Taylor. However, Don was actually the son of Vernal Kidd, a white British soldier. Disowned by both parents, the young Don grew up hustling cruise- liner passengers in the downtown area of Kingston. Already, he was cutting deals with bar owners, selling American cigarettes or washing cars.

More Than Just His Manager,  How Don Taylor Helped Bob Marley Rule the World
Donald Taylor

On Pure Jamaica Media, we delve into the lives of figures who have indelibly marked Jamaica's cultural landscape. Today, we turn our spotlight to Don Taylor, the enigmatic manager who propelled Bob Marley and the Wailers from local stars to global reggae icons. His story, one intricately woven with ambition, hustling spirit, and unwavering loyalty, offers a glimpse into the complex ecosystem that nurtured reggae's international rise.

Don's life mirrored the city's vibrant, yet rough energy. As a young man, he navigated the bustling streets, honing his street smarts and entrepreneurial spirit. This innate grit later served him well in navigating the often-unforgiving music industry.

Taylor's journey intertwined with music early on. He started by managing American R&B acts, gaining valuable experience and connections. Later, recognizing the immense potential in Bob Marley and The Wailers, he took them under his wing in 1974. His shrewd business acumen and deep understanding of the global music scene proved instrumental in propelling the band to international stardom.

More Than Just a Manager, a Confidante and Strategist:

Taylor's role transcended that of a mere manager. He became a trusted confidante to Marley, advising him on career decisions and navigating complex industry negotiations. His relentless pursuit of fair deals for the band ensured they weren't exploited, paving the way for future reggae artists to command respect on the global stage.

Taylor's impact extends beyond Bob Marley's career. He also managed other notable Jamaican artists like Marcia Griffiths and Soul II Soul, using his expertise to nurture budding talent and champion Jamaican music on the international stage.

While lauded for his contributions, Taylor's legacy remains subject to debate. Some credit him with Marley's global success, while others question his handling of the musician's finances and artistic direction. Ultimately, his story exemplifies the complexities within the music industry, where ambition and loyalty often intertwine in a delicate dance.

Remembering Don Taylor: A Jamaican Hustler with a Global Impact:

Don Taylor, who passed away in 1999, left behind a legacy that stretches across borders and genres. His story serves as a reminder that behind every musical icon lies a network of individuals, their ambition and dedication often fueling the journey to stardom. On Pure Jamaica Media, we celebrate his contribution to Jamaica's vibrant music scene and the lasting impact he had on reggae's international trajectory.

Meeting the American singer Lloyd Price gave Taylor the idea of setting up a valet service for other visiting performers such as Fats Domino, Ben E. King and Jackie Wilson. Impressed by Taylor, Wilson bought him a plane ticket to Miami in 1960. While there, he met Jerry Butler and ended up in New York, working for Little Anthony and the Imperials.
By 1965, Taylor had managed to convince the US military that his father was American; he was drafted for two years, giving him legal resident status. Following his discharge in 1967, he rose from road manager to looking after the affairs of Little Anthony and the Imperials. The vocal group were on the way down after hits such as "Tears on My Pillow" and "Goin' Out of My Head" but Taylor kept them working in Las Vegas and learned to operate in a "charged environment" which was under mafia influence. He also took the Motown artist Martha Reeves under his wing.

Asked by the Jamaican prime minister Michael Manley to organise a benefit concert for the Trench Town Sports Complex, Taylor suggested Marvin Gaye as the headline act, while a local promoter, Stephen Hill, added Bob Marley to the bill. During negotiations over the concert in 1973, Marley was puzzled by Taylor's appearance and business acumen. "You really is a Jamaican? How you learn the business so?" he asked.
The pair kept in touch. The following year, realising there was a buzz around Marley's group, the Wailers (Eric Clapton's version of "I Shot the Sheriff" had just become a hit) and hearing that the group had left their manager Danny Sims, Taylor travelled to Kingston, walked to Marley's house at 56 Hope Road, woke him up and offered the singer his services.