THE WAY WE WERE: "For those of us who actually knew Bob, we are so blessed."
Ravishing red is the colour of success, of power, and of passion, so Cindy Breakspeare, who embodies all these things, and then some, could hardly have picked a more suitable hue to appear in to deliver this year's Bob Marley Lecture (the 17th instalment) at the UWI Mona Campus last Thursday.
The success that has come to define her (the 1976 Miss World title not least among her many honours), the power that goes hand in hand with her status as one of the island's most recognizable role models for young women, and the passion, that irresistible pull, that fuelled the essence of her relationship with Bob -- and continues to stoke the public's fascination to this day. People simply cannot get enough.
Candid, insightful, occasionally humorous and utterly revealing, Miss Breakspeare's presentation lived up to the great expectations, recounting the highs and lows of their torrid romance, the fame and the scandal that ensued, the songs she inspired, the glamour, and the crushing loss in the end.
"Bob was indeed a natural mystic, indisputably, right up there with the greatest: Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mandela, as is evidenced by the fact that his legacy continues to grow. It has never diminished," she said to a rapt audience. "And I feel certain he will be made a National Hero some day in the not-too-distant future. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the rest of the world is wondering what the hold-up is."
An ageless beauty (59 years, for the record), equal parts sugar and spice, Cindy Breakspeare's life has had its share of high points and, I think it's fair to say, moments she would rather leave in the past. But, as her lecture reaffirmed, she's always determined to show grace in the good times and grace under fire in the bad.
"Although I am aware that to this day there are those in society who have never understood, accepted or forgiven me for the choices that I made, Jamaican people have never ceased to express their appreciation for the relationship we shared and the child we brought into the world as a result of it," said Breakspeare, who admittedly has never exchanged a hostile word with Rita Marley.
Cindy Breakspeare is the first to admit that what she and Bob had was no beauty-and-the-beast fling (as some tried to categorize it), but the deeply passionate coming-together of two people who fell hard for each other in spite of the less-than-ideal circumstances. "Did Bob love me? I hope so. Did he love me above all others? I don't know. And it doesn't matter any more. I believe he loved us all in his own way, in his own time, and for many and varied reasons," she conceded. "What matters and what is truly important is that he has left us a legacy so rich, so important, that we have been able to love him enough to keep it living."
And even though she's long moved on, with a husband and kids who are now full-grown adults, cherished memories of the Bob she knew and loved remain embedded in her heart as much as in the rest of the world's. "The subject of Bob, his life, his music, his impact on the world, has remained a favourite topic for me," she offered with a tell-tale smile. "True greatness comes along so infrequently, but for those of us who actually knew him, we are so blessed."