Bob Marley & the Wailers Original Poster

May Issue, 2004
by Colleen Cannon-Karlos

It was 1978, I was 23 years old and that was the year I was given the opportunity of a lifetime - to design the promotional poster for the Bob Marley Berkeley Concert at the Greek Theater on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. I had just graduated from Stanford with a degree in art/photography the year before and had moved to Berkeley where I felt much more comfortable. My dreadlocks/bohemian, vegetarian/artist lifestyle had turned off many of my conservative peers at Stanford. Fortunately, though, there were a few hip people on campus because that’s where I was first introduced to the music of Bob Marley in the mid seventies. It was my psychology professor and his artist wife who had befriended me and turned me on to Marley’s music. I, like many others, was an instant fan upon hearing Rastaman Vibrations. Little did I know I would get to do the poster and meet Bob Marley a few years later, nor, that he would die a few years after that.

How I got the opportunity to do the poster was an act of fate. I had been working at Oakland’s only Black newspaper, the California Voice, as the staff photographer. The highlight of my short career there had come earlier that year when I, on assignment, photographed Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 in the mayor’s office where it was being proclaimed “Jackson 5 Day” preceding their concert at the Oakland Stadium. That was back in the day when Michael was actually a “Black” man.

t was there at the newspaper that I met a woman who was a student at UC Berkeley. I can’t remember exactly, but, I was either about to leave my job or had just quit when she approached me to see if I wanted to be the graphic designer for the Berkeley Jazz Festival Program Magazine. The popular yearly festival that year included Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson and Eddie Jefferson, just to name a few. Of course, I wanted to do the poster, I loved jazz. One problem, I had little graphic art experience. I had taken two design courses, one at Stanford, the other at The New York School of Visual Arts. While at the California Voice I had learned how to do some minor graphic paste-ups (before computer technology all print and copy was typeset and had to be cut and pasted manually) because it was a marketable skill that interested me. I certainly didn’t consider myself a professional.

Anyway, I was hired to do the magazine for the Jazz Festival and I was really jazzed about that. I learned as I worked. It was a great experience. I received free tickets, front row seats and heard some really great jazz for two days straight. It was sublime...
Well, as if that hadn’t been exciting enough, I was called shortly after the Jazz Festival by the editor of the magazine.
“Guess what,” she said.
“What's happening?”
“I just got the job to help promote the Bob Marley concert and I want you to design the poster!” She was really excited. I was speechless.
“Bob Marley?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yes, it’s a rush job, we need it done right away?

Well, I had never done a concert poster before (but I hadn’t done a magazine before either). This poster would be my first, and yes, I was up for the challenge and opportunity. Although I had zero time and no idea of what to do, I gathered up my Bob Marley albums and studied them, looked at photographs, etc. I opted to do a full frontal portrait. It was done on three layers of acetate with a color on each layer so it could be photographed easily for the printing process.
I was show a proof which I approved, but when the poster were printed I thought Bob Marley’s portrait came out looking to sketchy and I was initially disappointed with the poster because it wasn’t exactly like the original artwork. Nevertheless, I was proud to have been a part of the concert promotional campaign even though I made very little money, as I recall. But, my friend and I got to go backstage and actually meet Bob, who said “ire” when I told him that I had designed the poster. My friend and I were both awestruck and blessed to be in the presence of such greatness.
What struck me right away was Bob’s short stature. After seeing him perform on stage I expected to meet a giant. But, here was this small man bursting with enormous talent and energy. Foolish me, had I brought my camera or even a poster for the reggae legend to sign? No, I didn’t. Something for which I have been roundly scolded for lately by my teenage son.

The concert was sold out, of course, and Bob had the crowd rockin’. And, there was plenty of “blue” smoke around to make everyone feel “ire.”

That was my once in a lifetime experience with Bob Marley. It was an artistic honor and personal pleasure.
I am not the only one in my family to meet Bob Marley . My father also had a chance to meet him. That was in 1980 when my dad went to Zimbabwe to celebrate the independence of the country ( President Robert Mugabe was sane at that time). Not only did my father see Bob perform in Zimbabwe, Bob happened to be staying in the same hotel on the same floor as my dad. My father later told me “the smoke was so thick in the hallway, you could barely see...”

Fast forward to today....I had saved several posters from the original 1978 press run, as well as the original artwork (portrait). At least that was a smart move. Over the many years the poster has become a rare collector’s item. Wondering what the poster might be valued at now I went online and I found Roger Steffens who, not only has one of my posters in his World Class Reggae Collection, but was much smarter than I in that his poster is covered with the signatures of Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as other reggae notables in signatures collected over the years. A picture of the poster with the signatures was published in a 1987 issue of the Beat Magazine. When I saw it back then I knew my poster was becoming valuable. Its been 26 years and now my posters have reached vintage status.
After great thought and consideration I have decided to offer a few of the originals for sale and I am making high quality reproductions available to all you Bob Marley fans. These reprints are made from the original artwork to my complete specifications and are therefore more like the original artwork They are beautiful. Contact me at for more info.

I have a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico. As an artist over the years I have done photography, graphic design, textile design, ceramics, sculpture, painting and drawing. Currently I make jewelry.
I live in Hawaii with my son where I work as a Program Coordinator at Wai Ola Public Charter School...and I am happy to say I participated in reggae history 26 years ago. I am very inspired these days and plan to do some future artwork featuring Bob Marley. Stay tuned...BOB MARLEY LIVES.