David Letterman Would Have Loved to Interview Bob Marley

A surprising answered garnered for New York magazine

New York magazine

On May 8, 1981, David Letterman appeared on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. He was there to promote a 30-minute HBO special titled Looking for Fun.

Three days later, reggae superstar Bob Marley passed away at age 36. That twain pops up again in David Marchese’s conversation with Letterman for this week’s issue of New York magazine.

The retired talk show host, after mentioning that he does not watch any of his own clips or other current late night TV hosts, shifts gears a bit when presented with a what-if:

If you could snap your fingers and make it happen, who’d be a dream interview for you?

I think about that all the time. It would be great to talk to Bob Marley. because when Marley left us, he was politically active. He was the biggest musical star in the world, and he came from such desperate circumstances. It seems like we don’t have that person now whose life and music and behavior apply to soothing the waters of world strife.

Marley’s last two albums were called Survival and Uprising. I don’t know that he’d only be singing “One Love” in 2017.

But I think also the situation politically was probably ignored back then and he was bringing it to light, whereas now we’re more aware. It might have been easier to overlook things in those days; hence the music. But I’m just fascinated by the guy. I read the biography Catch a Fire. That’s where my interest was born. And how about the music? It’s still great.

The interview was conducted at the New York offices of Letterman’s publicist. Read the rest of the cover story here.

During that aforementioned Tonight Show appearance, along with a great joke by Letterman about a doctor, it’s also fun to hear Carson wonder about how to tune in to HBO and discuss another bit of new TV technology on the horizon. “Have you seen the advertisements for these satellites you can buy?” he asks Dave. “They’re rather expensive. But they are now making the satellite dish that you can buy and put on your roof, and receive signals from all the satellites that are revolving around the earth.”