Bob Marley


Robert Nesta Marley (February 6, 1945 - May 11, 1981), better known as Bob Marley, was a singer, guitarist and songwriter from the ghettos of Jamaica. He is most likely the best known reggae musician of all times, famous for popularising the genre outside of Jamaica. Much of his work deals with the struggles of the impoverished and/or powerless.

He was the husband to Rita Anderson Marley (who was one of the I Threes, who acted as the Wailers' back up singers after they became a global act). She had 4 of his 9 children, including David Ziggy Marley and Stephen Marley who continue their father's musical legacy in their band The Melody Makers.

An excellent source of information about Bob Marley the man, his religion, his music, his business and his movement is found in Timothy White's book Catch a Fire.


The voice of the downtown "sufferer" was just one of the examples of the lyrics Bob Marley used in his protesting of the differences between the rich and the poor. The emergence of Rastafarianism and social consciousness was easily expressed via reggae music. Bob Marley addressed the issues of hunger when he wrote lyrics such as "Dem bellies full, but we hungry". Reggae music was a expression of likes and dislikes within the issues facing the Jamaican society, among other things.

Born in Nine Miles, St. Ann to a white father, Norval Marley, (who never really knew his son because of white upper classes' disdain for Norval's affair with Marley's mother), and a black mother, Cedella Booker, on February 6, 1945, making him a mixed race person. Marley started in ska and gravitated towards reggae as the music evolved, playing, teaching and singing for a long period in the 1970s and 1980s; Marley is perhaps best-known for work with his reggae group "The Wailers", the backbone of which were two other celebrated reggae musicians, Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh. Bunny and Peter then left the group and became successful solo artists. Much of his early work was produced by Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. He split from Dodd because of financial pressure and in the early 70s he produced what is by many believed to be the finest of his work with Lee Perry, although the pair split in acrimony over the assignment of recording rights, they did work together again in London and remained friends until his death.

Marley's work was largely responsible for the mainstream cultural acceptance of reggae music outside of Jamaica. He signed to Chris Blackwell's Island Records label in 1971, at the time a highly influential and innovative label. Island Records boasted a stable of both successful and diverse artists including, amongst others, such nascent luminaries of the music scene as Genesis, John Martyn and Nick Drake.

Marley was very devoted to his faith in Rastafarianism. He served as a de facto (his action and lyrics may illustrate that it was purposeful) missionary for the faith and brought it accross the globe. He also preached brotherhood and peace for all of mankind. Toward the end of his life he was also baptised into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church with the name Berhane Selassie.

Bob Marley was shot in 1976 inside his home. It is generally believed he was shot for political motives, with Jamaican politics being somewhat violent at the time. He was scheduled to perform at a concert that was perceived to be in support of the progressive prime minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley, and had been receiving death threats after it was announced he was going to perform there. It is generally believed he was shot by a supporter of the conservative political party of Jamaica, the Jamaica Labour Party. However, there is little evidence for this, and Marley devotees emphasize that no one knows which side was responsible. Rita Marley was also shot in the head at the time, and recovered.

In July 1977 Marley was advised to get his toe amputated to treat an old soccer injury that had become cancerous. He refused because Rastas believe that doctors are samfai, confidence men who cheat the gullible by pretending to have the power of witchcraft. Marley based this refusal on his Rastafarian beliefs, saying, "Rasta no abide amputation. I and I don't allow a mon ta be dismantled." [Catch a Fire, Timothy White] He did have surgery to try to excise the cancer cells.

The cancer spread to his brain and his lungs. In the summer of 1980, he collapsed during a series of shows at Madison Square Garden. He sought help, mostly from the controversial cancer specialist Josef Issels, but it was too late. A month before his death, he was awarded Jamaica's Order of Merit. He wanted to spend his final days in Jamaica but he became too ill on the flight home and had to deplane in Miami. Sadly, he passed away at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, Florida on May 11, 1981. His near-royal funeral in Jamaica combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafarianism. He is buried in a crypt at Nine Miles, near his birthplace. His early death brought him a larger than life status similar to what is enjoyed by the estates of Elvis and Jim Morrison. His image and music produces a [massive] constant stream of revenue to his estate. He was recently rewarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys.

Rewards and Honors


External links

See also

Roots reggae, Rastafarianism, Ras Tafari, Jamaican English, Amharic, Ethiopia, List of reggae musicians.

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