FORT COLLINS — If one didn’t know any better, it would be safe to assume that Paul Johnson has bad taste in furniture.
In a small room at the top of a short flight of stairs in his northwest Fort Collins home sits a two-cushion tan-colored couch with purple, brown and greenish shapes that, at best, might be impressionistic ferns. It’s the kind of couch that would be left unclaimed at the annual free sofa exchange.
Yet Johnson, a partner in Live Mountain Music, has the coolest couch in town. The former owner was reggae music legend Bob Marley.
Despite such name recognition, Johnson bought it for between $250-$275 in an eBay auction. This was in 1999, the early days of eBay, when a listing for “Bob Marley’s Couch” didn’t grab the attention it would in today’s mega-hyped celebrity-owned item grab. The opening bid was $50.
Yet purchasing the couch — originally stationed at Marley’s mother’s home in Miami (he has a letter of authenticity signed by her to prove it) — wasn’t just to a way for the then 17-year-old Johnson to be cool. He bought it because he is a true fan.
“It set off a huge collecting spree,” he said with a laugh.
One look around his house is proof enough. Marley paraphernalia, including several gold records, record store displays, photos and posters of Marley fill every room. He has also amassed what might be the best collection of Marley recordings and rare records anywhere. But the couch, well, you just can’t miss the couch in Johnson’s music room.
It was on this couch that Johnson, after some in-depth research, believes Marley composed songs for “Exodus” and “Survival,” his final album.
“I was always investigative about my passions,” he said. “There was some mystery there and I had to figure it out.”
The basic history of the couch, as best Johnson can ascertain, goes something like this: When Marley had taken ill with cancer he purchased and furnished a home in Miami for his mother, Cedella Marley Booker. He also used it for relaxation and composing. After he passed away in 1981, the couch — which has a second three-cushion section — was given to Ron Samuel, a Marley family friend, who eventually passed it on to Gerret Swearingen. Swearingen then sold the smaller section on eBay. It arrived at Johnson’s home on Christmas.
“It was a really strange occurrence that a guy comes up to your house on Christmas morning with Bob Marley’s couch,” Johnson said.
Now, almost eight years later, the fascination hasn’t worn off, though the collecting spree has subsided a bit. Johnson proudly shows off the couch — and the red, green and gold pack of Lion of Judah rolling papers he found under the cushions. He allows people to sit on it, and admits it’s always a good conversation piece.
“I’m not over it, but it’s just a couch,” he said. “Still, I love having it. I like letting people see it. You don’t have to go to a museum to see a little piece of Bob Marley.”
Nope, only to a certain house in northwest Fort Collins.—Glenn BurnSilver
(This article appeared in the Sept. 20, 2007 edition of NEXTnc.)