Roger Steffens

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Roger Steffens
Born(1942-06-17)June 17, 1942
New York, New York, United States
Known forAuthor, actor, archivist, radio personality

Roger Steffens (born June 17, 1942) is a Brooklyn, New York-born American actor, author, lecturer, editor, reggae archivist, photographer and, producer. He may be best known for his reggae archives, in particular his archives of Bob Marley.[1]

Six rooms of his home in Los Angeles house his archives, which include the world's largest collection of Bob Marley material. Based on these archives Roger lectures internationally with a multi-media presentation called The Life of Bob Marley. His radio career began in New York City in 1961, and was co-host of the award-winning Reggae Beat on KCRW in Los Angeles and was syndicated on 130 stations worldwide in the 1980s.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Raised in Westwood, New Jersey, Steffens graduated in 1960 from Bergen Catholic High School, where he had competed in public speaking competitions.[3][4]


Steffens served in Vietnam and spent a year in Morocco before visiting Jamaica for the first time in 1976. He has a large collection of photographs covering his Vietnam service and Jamaican musicians, including many slides which were digitized and released via Instagram in 2013.[1]

In early 2015 the BBC did a report on Steffens' first collection of photographs, "The Family Acid" [S_U_N_). The Sunday New York Times Style and The Observer both featured his photographs. His work has been exhibited at Paris Photo LA and Art Basel.[citation needed]

"The Family Acid presents his often transcendent vision and life as a psychedelic pioneer on the order of Timothy Leary and Hunter S. Thompson beginning with his work in Vietnam and moving through his ever revolving circle of friends and characters made up of Rastas, beatniks, musicians, artists, gonzo journalists, his family, and himself. The portraits, scenes, and freewheeling experimentation with the medium of photography coalesce into a body of work that both parallels and defines the countercultural ethos of Steffens’ generation."[5]

Acting and narrating[edit]

Steffens has been involved with a large amount of acting and narration work, both credited and uncredited. He provided narration in The Flight of the Gossamer Condor and the television documentary Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam,[6] and he portrayed Ben Veelchez in Dean Quixote, Daniel Golan in the 1999 film Deterrence, and a radio technician in Rollercoaster. In addition, Steffens has been involved with many other films and television shows in an uncredited role, including Forrest Gump, Ghosts of Mississippi, CHiPS, and Empty Nest.[7]


Steffens co-hosted Reggae Beat on KCRW from 1979-87, and Reggae Beat International from 1983-87, which was syndicated internationally to 130 stations.[1]

He served as a syndicated weekly contributor from 1993-97 for Planet Reggae on the radio station Groove Radio 103 in Los Angeles. Steffens also worked on several other radio shows, including Offbeat: The Roger Steffens Show (Host, 1987–89), Sound of the Sixties (Host, 1984–1986), Morning Goes Makossa (co-host, 1980–84), Future Forward (ethnic music commentator, 1985–86), and Poetry For People Who Hate Poetry (1983, 1987).

Steffens was named "Most Popular Reggae DJ in the World" by Martin's International Awards in Chicago, 1985, and "One of the Forty Who Matter in L.A." by the Los Angeles Reader.

Music anthologies[edit]

Steffens has contributed to countless music anthologies as a writer and photographer. But surely his most important contribution to the reggae legacy is the ten-CD series entitled The Complete Bob Marley & the Wailers 1967 to 1972. Released in 1998-2003, this 220-track series revealed over a hundred rare Bob Marley & the Wailers recordings to the world, including major songs like Selassie Is the Chapel, and many of them previously unreleased, such as Rock to the Rock.

Audio books[edit]

Steffens was a reader for the audiobooks Bill Gates' Business @ the Speed of Thought (Time Warner), The Man From St. Petersburg (Warner Audio), Big Two Hearted River: The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (North Star), and Mother Earth Father Sky (North Star). He also provided the corporate voice (all wrap-arounds) for Time Warner Audio Books from 1996 until 2003.


Steffens' stage experience includes work with the Pittsburgh Playhouse, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and his one-man show, Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry which was performed to over two million people from 1966 to 1976 and was used as the basis of TV series 1968-69 Armed Forces Vietnam Network.

Interviewee, advisor or content provider[edit]

Steffens has been interviewed and served as an advisor on many television programs, including American Masters three times (on the subjects Rebel Music, James Brown, and Waldo Salt), VH1's Behind the Music four times (for the subjects Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Alan Freed, and 1970), VH1 Confidential: Tosh & Marley, VH1 Ultimate Albums: Bob Marely's Legend, Stand And Be Counted, The Voice on Channel Four, and Soul Britainia on the BBC.

Author or Coauthor[edit]

  • Bob Marley: Spirit Dancer
  • Bob Marley and The Wailers: The Definitive Discography - (first place award for Best Research in Folk, Ethnic or World Music from the Association of Recorded Sound Collections, 2006)
  • The World of Reggae featuring Bob Marley: Treasures from Roger Steffens' Reggae Archives
  • One Love: Life with Bob Marley and the Wailers
  • Roger Steffens and Peter Simon's Reggae Scrapbook (winner, ForeWord Magazine Silver Medal for Best Music Book of 2007)
  • The Family Acid (2015)
  • So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley (2017)

Contributing writer[edit]

  • “Bob Marley: Rasta Warrior” in Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader Temple Univ. Press 1998
  • Dictionnaire des chansons de Bob Marley, Editions de Tournon, Paris, 2005
  • “Reggae in the Seventies” in Rolling Stone’s The Seventies
  • Introduction to Bob Marley Reader (DaCapo 2004);
  • A Magio do Reggae, Martin Claret Pub., São Paulo, 1997
  • “Nine Meditations on Jimi and Nam” in The Ultimate Hendrix, Macmillan, NYC
  • Bob Marley: The Complete Annotated Bibliography with Joe Jurgensen, Haras Publishing, Prospect 2009


  • The Family Acid, 2015

Contributing photographer[edit]

  • Couleur Reggae, Editions Tana, Paris, 2001
  • Jamaica, Lonely Planet Guide Book, 2000
  • Sur la Route avec Bob Marley, Mark Miller, Scali, France 2007


  • Miriam Makeba: The Sangoma Interview with Roger Steffens Warner Bros.
  • World Music Sampler writer/narrator, Warner/Reprise/Sire
  • David Byrne: Rei Momo: Words and Music, interviewer, Sire
  • Occupy Los Angeles: Narration & Continuity, Reel Intellect/Good Feel Films


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Campbell, Howard (2014) "Roger Steffens: Over 30 years documenting Reggae and Marley", Jamaica Observer; accessed November 4, 2016.
  2. ^ "Roger Steffens: Life of Bob Marley". Riot Artists. 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  3. ^ Staff. "Alumni News & Notes: Class of 1960", Bergen Catholic Crusader, Fall 2013, p. 22. basked up by the Internet Archive as of June 5, 2014. Accessed November 14, 2018.
  4. ^ "Troubador", The Record (Bergen County), June 11, 1972. Accessed November 14, 2018. "Whether on the stage or strolling in a park, Roger Steffens has a way of capturing his audience of one or 100.... When Roger hopped home the other day to visit his family's house in Westwood and see his mother, Mrs. Edith Steffens, it was then he performed the dirt pile scene out of fond remembrance.... Summoned to go forth and be heard for Bergen Catholic in New Jersey oratorical contests, Roger has extended the command."
  5. ^ "Roger Steffens' Countercultural Compendium". The Blogazine. 2012-09-27. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  6. ^ Roger Steffens at IMDb
  7. ^ "Interviews - Roger Steffens". Archived from the original on 2002-05-01. Retrieved 2008-08-20.

External links[edit]