A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

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The Singer, who is described in the Cast of Characters as “the Reggae superstar of the world,” is based on Bob Marley. However, he is only referred to as Bob Marley once in the novel (and one additional time as “Bob”); otherwise, he is simply called “the Singer.” A Rasta, the Singer spreads messages of revolutionary love, peace, and black power through his music. He is a sex symbol, and although the novel features his wife, Rita, it also emphasizes that he sleeps with a large number of women (including Nina and Kimmy). He also works on encouraging unity between warring groups in Jamaica, and helps organize the Smile Jamaica concert to counterbalance the conflict in the lead-up to the 1976 election. However, this project of peace is thwarted when Josey Wales and his crew descend on the Singer’s house and shoot everyone inside. Although the Singer survives and the concert goes ahead, he becomes increasingly cynical and paranoid, and decides to leave Jamaica. In 1981, the Singer is killed by cancer of the toe. Just before his death, he converts to Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, and his legacy continues to be a source of conflict, with many different characters and groups seeking to claim him as their own.

The Singer Quotes in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The A Brief History of Seven Killings quotes below are all either spoken by The Singer or refer to The Singer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of A Brief History of Seven Killings published in 2014.
Part 1, Sir Arthur George Jennings Quotes

That's what happens when you personify hopes and dreams in one person. He becomes nothing more than a literary device.

Related Characters: Sir Arthur George Jennings (speaker), The Singer
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

I remember when that was the only place any man, no matter what side you on, could escape a bullet. The only place in Kingston where the only thing that hit you was music. But the fucking people soil it up with bad vibes, better if they did just go into the studio one morning and shit all over the console, me no going say who.

Related Characters: Papa-Lo (speaker), The Singer
Related Symbols: The Singer’s House, Guns
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

Nobody who kill a police going to hell but is something else to kill the singer. I let Josey Wales tell me that the Singer is a hypocrite, and he playing both sides taking everybody for idiot. I let Josey Wales tell me that he have bigger plans and is high time we done be ghetto stooge for white man who live uptown and don’t care about we until election time. I let Josey Wales tell me that the Singer is a PNP stooge who bow for the Prime Minister. I let Josey Wales tell me to shoot up three more line and I won’t care who.

Related Characters: Demus (speaker), The Singer, Josey Wales, Michael Manley
Related Symbols: Guns, Cocaine
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

Today is the day we revoke the Singer's visa because he's suspected of trafficking drugs into the United States of America. Shouldn’t be hard to prove really, just check his back pocket. We're supposed to make a big, public
show of it, a sign that we, as a friend of Jamaica, will not sit by and allow lawlessness to take control of our gracious ally. I already wrote the press release, signed off by higher up. We also have proof that he has consorted with known drug traffickers in Miami and New York and has aligned himself with men of questionable character in Jamaica and abroad, including at least two local terrorists. This has already been documented. One of them, calling himself Shotta Sherrif twice tried for murder, is even closely linked to the present government.

Related Characters: Barry Diflorio (speaker), The Singer, Papa-Lo, Shotta Sherrif
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

I can’t figure out if I just got a sudden case of the chickenshits or if I am slowly realizing that even though the Singer is the center of the story that it really isn't his story. Like there's a version of this story that's not really about him, but about the people around him, the ones who come and go that might actually provide a bigger picture than me asking him why he smokes ganja. Damn if I’m not fooling myself I’m Gay Talese again.

Related Characters: Alex Pierce (speaker), The Singer
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire A Brief History of Seven Killings LitChart as a printable PDF.
A brief history of seven killings.pdf.medium

The Singer Character Timeline in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The timeline below shows where the character The Singer appears in A Brief History of Seven Killings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
In 1971, the Singer first appeared on TV. That same year, Bam-Bam shot a gun for the first time,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...a filmmaker who is making a film about the peace concert being organized by the Singer. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Papa-Lo says he warned the Singer that some of the Singer’s friends want to take him down, but the Singer just... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
The men who went into the Singer’s house ended up fixing the horse races, but they messed it up and had to... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...large groups of white people. Danny brought her to a party where she met the Singer. After she and Danny broke up, she slept with the Singer, and claims that his... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...bring luxury food items and guns to the ghetto in advance of the election. The Singer visits Copenhagen City, and after greeting a large group of residents he and Papa-Lo go... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Nina is still waiting across the road from the Singer’s house. She wishes Kimmy would visit their parents, and wants to make a plan with... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...Stone. Alex insists that he was told by a secretary to come and interview the Singer at this time, during rehearsal break, but the guard won’t let him in. Alex offers... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...be true, and then learns that he’s right, as Josey wants him to kill the Singer. Demus is a Rasta and loves the Singer’s music. When he hears Josey’s request, he... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
However, Josey gives Demus more cocaine and Demus allows himself to be persuaded that the Singer is actually a “hypocrite” and a “PNP stooge.” The next day, he rises early and,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9:
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...contexts. He comments that a white Jamaican won Miss World, and that she says the Singer is her boyfriend. Americans staying at the hotels are given a “Girl Friday,” a personal... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...covering the Rolling Stones, but he’s decided to chase a bigger story. He believes the Singer is “up to something and it’s not just the peace concert.” A taxi driver told... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...there were eleven CIA operatives working in Jamaica, but by June seven had left. The Singer’s house is being guarded by a posse called the Echo Squad. Alex is 27 and... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 10
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...tells Josey there’s a man outside watching them. Weeper begins telling a story about the Singer that Josey’s heard before, but he lets Weeper tell it anyway. Three years into his... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 11
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...newly cautious around him. There are rumors that Papa-Lo went to England to follow the Singer’s tour, and that Funnyboy was there too. The white man who brought guns into the... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...to the ghetto, they speak to Josey, not Papa-Lo. The Echo Squad, who guard the Singer’ house, are “bad man on PNP payroll.” The Singer thinks he understands the ghetto because... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...but denies that he wants any of “that nasty batty boy business.” Bam-Bam watches the Singer’s house. Every night at around 9 pm the Singer takes a break and goes into... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 13
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Papa-Lo admits that the Singer is friends with both him and Shotta Sherrif, though he interacts with them separately. For... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 14
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...Bill feels confident that Michael Manley is about to be reelected. He asks why the Singer is on Barry’s “radar,” but Barry refuses to answer this question. They hang up, and... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Papa-Lo recalls a rehearsal at the Singer’s house a few weeks ago, when a white boy appeared “out of nowhere like magic... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Josey sees Nina across the road from the Singer’s house and wonders if she is a prostitute, or just another woman in love with... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...lunch date with Mark Lansing, who has offered to help him get access to the Singer. Alex goes to get coffee, leaving Aisha asleep in his bed. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...in the present, Kimmy calls Nina a “dutty little hypocrite” for having sex with the Singer—a friend of Kimmy’s saw Nina waiting outside the Singer’s house the night before. The conversation... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...was in Jamaica. Barry is at the American embassy, in the process of revoking the Singer’s visa on the accusation of drug trafficking. All they will have to do to prove... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
A source tells Alex that the Singer was possibly involved in the horse-racing scam a few months ago. Alex is not sure... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...him “Mr. Brando.” He tells Alex that the other writer from Rolling Stone asked the Singer about gangs in Kingston. (full context)
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...offers to give Alex a role in his crew, thereby giving him access to the Singer. All he asks in return is that Alex takes a bag of “film stuff” back... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Kimmy knows that Nina won’t point out that Kimmy also slept with the Singer, as this would be too much for their mother to bear. The three women yell... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...the car with Mark Lansing, who is a terrible driver. They pull up outside the Singer’s house, but the guard will not let them inside. He says that they’re not letting... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 16
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...that Jamaica is becoming. She is furious with her father, with Kimmy, and with the Singer. Yet she is walking toward the Singer’s house, determined to get visas for herself and... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 18
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
This chapter is written in verse. As the men drive to the Singer’s house, Bam-Bam’s thoughts are fragmented. He wants to “fuck fuck fuck” and “start shooting.” They... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 19
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
...Demus runs away. As he sprints through downtown, he sees newspaper headlines saying that the Singer and Rita are alive, while the Singer’s manager is in critical condition. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 20
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...car and drive away, and Bam-Bam keeps running. On the radio he hears that the Singer was “treated and sent home,” and he realizes that Josey missed. Bam-Bam is desperate for... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...stays in the park until the Smile Jamaica concert takes place. He stares at the Singer, who is too far away for Bam-Bam to see him properly. Still, Bam-Bam feels that... (full context)
Part 3, Sir Arthur George Jennings
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
After Bam-Bam dies, he does not at first realize he’s dead, and walks to the Singer’s house. Jennings explains that people who are just about to die can see the dead.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...for two years but feels she has been found. She sees a picture of the Singer in the newspaper and remembers waiting outside his house. She started running on December 3,... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...themselves and stink of urine. Papa-Lo is punishing them for having tried to kill the Singer. They deny being involved in the plot, and Papa-Lo thinks it’s possible that this is... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...the coast, and Papa-Lo thinks about the second peace concert, which took place while the Singer was living in England. The Singer eventually came back to Jamaica, but behaved in a... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...Leggo Beast says, and adds that he was not involved with the attack on the Singer. Josey insists that if he had organized the attack, the Singer would not have come... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...tied up and Tony kicks each of them to the ground. At the moment, the Singer and his manager arrive. Papa-Lo says that since the police don’t bring about justice, he... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Papa-Lo asks for the Singer’s thoughts, but the manager replies that he speaks for the Singer. The manager says that... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...the men guilty, and sentences them all to death. Papa-Lo offers his gun to the Singer, but the Singer simply turns and walks away. Papa-Lo shoots Leggo Beast, but the Singer... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...thoughts become increasingly scattered and nonsensical. He has visions of people he knows, including the Singer, as well as figures such as “the angel of death.” The officers shoot Papa-Lo again,... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...to provide more for their supporters after they were reelected. Alex has spoken to the Singer about the shooting at his house; however, when Alex asked who exactly shot him, the... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex asked Josey how the Singer would “react to all this,” but Josey brushed him off, saying people should leave the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Josey believes the Singer shouldn’t have come back to Jamaica. He is distrustful of the peace treaty, which he... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
After the attack on the Singer’s house, Peter Nasser called Josey and furiously asked how he could be “the first man... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...Pink Go-Go Club with Peter Nasser. The two men discuss the peace treaty and the Singer’s imminent return for the second peace concert. Peter asks if the Singer is trying to... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...to his 12-year-old son. After, he thinks about the new Rasta party; even if the Singer isn’t the “face” of this party, he will fund it, which is more important. Josey... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Then one day Papa-Lo came bursting through Josey’s door telling him that the Singer took Heckle on tour with him. Apparently Heckle had gone to the Singer’s house and... (full context)
Part 4, Sir Arthur George Jennings
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Jennings addresses the Singer and his ill-fated toe. The Singer is in Jamaica, recording a new song in the... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Back in Jamaica, a PNP politician called Tony McFerson is killed in Copenhagen City. The Singer, now in New York, is awoken by intense pain in the middle of the night.... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
On November 4, 1980, Rita arranges for the Singer to be baptized under the name Berhane Selassie in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The Jamaican... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...be “chairman of the peace council.” Shotta and Papa-Lo went to England to persuade the Singer to put on a second peace concert. Tristan drifts off while talking about Shotta Sherrif,... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...events of 1979. Tristan doesn’t believe that Alex is really writing a book about the Singer, and asks if Alex thinks he’s a “fucking idiot.” However, after Alex apologizes Tristan continues... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 12
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...that he was a tourist and claiming that he knows “the real Jamaica.” After the Singer warned Tristan about Josey Wales, he began to worry. He insists that he was never... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 16
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...Alex was the only person who knew that Josey was the one who shot the Singer. Now Tristan knows too. Tristan remarks that they are “the only two man Josey Wales... (full context)
Part 5, Sir Arthur George Jennings
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Jennings describes the Singer’s funeral, at which there are four priests, an Ethiopian archbishop, and Rastas chanting. The new... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 2
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...week a young white man heard her accent and asked if she ever met the Singer, and Millicent is shocked by the realization that the answer is yes.   (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...Pierce, and he recently handed in part four a seven-part series about Jamaica and the Singer to The New Yorker. He also recently purchased a brownstone in Washington Heights. Heading home,... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 10
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...on the bed. He tells Doctor Love that he thinks about “him” sometimes, meaning the Singer. Doctor Love asks if Josey regrets trying to kill him, but Josey replies he doesn’t.... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 11
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Eventually, Alex reveals that it was Josey who shot the Singer. Alex explains he figured it out because he interviewed Josey and the Singer separately, but... (full context)