Neville Garrick, the Jamaican artist who captured Bob Marley’s legacy in his designs, passes away at age 73

Clockwise from top left: Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Catch a Fire,” “Rastaman Vibration,” “Exodus,” and “Uprising,” the artwork for which was done by Neville Garrick. Fair use.

The family of Neville Garrick, the Jamaican graphic artist and designer of reggae music’s most iconic albums, announced on November 15 that he had passed away in Los Angeles, after a “brief but brave fight with cancer.” A close friend of and art director for Bob Marley, Garrick was especially famous for designing the vibrant covers for the reggae icon’s most acclaimed albums, but there were many other aspects to his life as a devout Rastafarian, political activist and creative.

Garrick’s daughter Naomi shared:

Words cannot adequately express the loss that we currently feel as a family to lose our beloved Neville. He was a master storyteller, history keeper, poignant artist, author, speaker, proud Kingston College and UCLA graduate and for us father, Grandpa, ‘Poppy’, provider, and friend. Our hearts are broken as we come to terms with this loss. Neville in his own words ‘coloured the music’ but for us, he coloured our lives. Our hope is that his work will continue to be enjoyed and celebrated around the world.

Marley's daughter Cedella, who is CEO of the Bob Marley Group of Companies, posted a simple message on Instagram with a photograph showing Garrick in reflective mode: “Fly away home, Uncle Neville.”

The Bob Marley Foundation posted a collage of photographs on Facebook with the message:

Bob’s art director and good friend Neville Garrick passed away and is on his journey home. Condolences to his children, family and friends. His life will be remembered through his voice and his art. The legacy lives on. RASTAFARI

The Wailers’ Junior Marvin shared:

Jimmy Cliff's daughter, music executive Odessa Chambers, paid tribute to her “Uncle” Neville:

Prime Minister Andrew Holness also paid tribute:

Garrick joined art classes at a prominent boys’ high school, Kingston College, at age 14. He attended the University College of Los Angeles (UCLA) for four years on a soccer scholarship, reaching the National Collegiate Athletic Association finals in both 1971 and 1972. During his student days, he co-edited UCLA’s Black student magazine Nommo and began designing political posters; one of his first was for Angela Davis.

As a freshman in 1970, he and six other artists embarked on a mural project depicting the struggles and achievements of African Americans in the United States at UCLA. The mural was restored and returned to public viewing in 2014. As a student, Garrick also began painting (and selling paintings) on African themes, noting in a 2001 interview, “I was involved in every kind of student demonstration on campus. I would do silk-screen posters for the protests, with the power fist and all that.”

Paying tribute to Garrick, one contributor on “X” (formerly Twitter) wrote:

On returning to Jamaica, Garrick worked for a year as an art director for a local publication, Daily News, before resigning to join Tuff Gong Records. It was through sports that Garrick met Bob Marley; national footballer Alan “Skill” Cole introduced him to Marley (a great lover of football) and their friendship began.

Garrick described Marley as a “big brother” who was more street-smart than he did, having come from a different background. He began to spend time at Marley's then home, 56 Hope Road in Kingston — now the Bob Marley Museum — where many a football game was played.

Garrick became art director for Bob Marley's Tuff Gong, designing album covers for some of the musician’s most famous albums, including “Exodus” and “Rastaman Vibration.” He went on to design compelling album covers for other Rastafarian musicians during the 1970s and '80s, including Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, and Steel Pulse.

His first cover was for Judy Mowatt, a member of Marley’s “I Threes” backing group, called “Mellow Mood” (1975). One of his earliest designs (including a photograph of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I as a child) was for Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus. Of his work with Marley and Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, however, Garrick said, “This was the first time a Jamaican act had any type of control of what their album covers looked like.”

Earlier this year, Garrick reported that “Rastaman Vibration” was recognised by Billboard Magazine at Number 22 of its Best 100 Album Covers of All Time.

Garrick did not only design album covers, however. He was responsible for the awe-inspiring backdrops — and lighting — with Rastafarian themes and colours, for the iconic Reggae Sunsplash music festival, first staged in 1978 in Montego Bay. The festival became hugely popular during the 1980s and was a major boost for tourism — exported abroad and recorded in albums and videos. In its heyday, the festival toured the United States, Europe, the Far East and South America.

Garrick once described the visionary work he did, both on Reggae Sunsplash and Marley’s overseas tours from 1981–1988, noting, “My most famous backdrop is of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie 1st of Ethiopia that adorned the stage behind Bob Marley from 1976–1980 traveling the world.”

In 1999, Garrick produced a book of his photographs, “A Rasta's Pilgrimage: Ethiopian Faces and Places.” He also wrote the introduction to Chris Morrow’s book, “Stir It Up: Reggae Album Cover Art.” Speaking about his photography, in a 2001 interview with Eye Magazine, Garrick said, “You can be technically great, but if you don’t have vision, then you just have a technically great photograph. That’s not going to inspire nobody.”

In 2016, Garrick shared his memories of Bob Marley's famous “One Love” concert in 1978, and in 2022, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA) presented him with the Gregory Isaacs Foundation Award for Album Design. The award celebrated his significant contributions, which have positively impacted the development and promotion of reggae.

On August 6, his daughter Naomi received on his behalf the Order of Distinction, Commander Class (CD), a national award for his contribution to Jamaica’s music, art and culture.

In later life, Garrick served as director of the Bob Marley Foundation, designing an extension to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. His last project with the Marley family was in the role of Historic Advisor for Paramount Films’ Bob Marley biopic “One Love,” slated for a February 2024 release.

One X user shared:

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Singer Nadine Sutherland posted:

At the time of his passing, Garrick was working on “Colour the Music,” a documentary with his son, Nesta, that chronicled his career. He had also been in the midst of completing a series of hand-painted works of art celebrating Black culture.

Never a believer in “art for art's sake,” he observed:

I won’t compromise my concept. If entertainment doesn’t contain information, then I don’t want anything to do with it.

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