On July 13th, 1975, the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles was electrified by the sounds of Bob Marley & The Wailers as part of their “Natty Dread” tour. Amidst the crowd of fans was a familiar face, George Harrison, the Beatle known for his mastery of the slide guitar.
As word reached Marley that Harrison was in the audience, the excitement was undeniable. “Ras Beatle!” Marley exclaimed. The atmosphere backstage was charged, an iconic moment in the making. Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker was there to capture the encounter, but faced a challenge: “I had a flash on my camera and the batteries were dying — they were only together for two minutes and you had to wait 30 seconds to get a charge. It was agonizing. But I got the picture in the end and that’s all that matters,” she shared with the Hempstead Highgate Express.
The photograph captured a mutual respect that was as undeniable as it was fleeting. Harrison had recently returned from L.A., where he had seen Bob Marley & The Wailers perform at the Roxy three times. He was struck by Marley’s performance, sharing with Melody Maker, “Best thing I’ve seen in ten years. Marley reminds me so much of Dylan in the early days, playing guitar as if he’s new to it. And his rhythm, you know, it’s so simple, yet so beautiful. I could watch The Wailers all night.”
The admiration was reciprocated by Marley, who had covered The Beatles’ song “And I Love Her.” In an interview featured in the book Rock Lives, Marley spoke of his encounter with The Beatles: “The thing was we meet and shake hand and say great — them dude they nice. I really like meet them all and sit down and chat with them. They’re bredrens… just love roots. Them guys are roots. Them guys are all right, ya know. There is like a king and queen, ya know — those guys are roots.”
Two musical worlds collided on that unforgettable night, and a moment of shared respect was immortalized. From Marley’s perspective, The Beatles were like reggae royalty – kings and queens of roots music. As for Harrison, Marley’s rhythms resonated with him deeply, evoking memories of the early days of rock and roll. Their brief meeting at the Roxy Theatre was a testament to the unifying power of music and the mutual admiration between two legends.