Bob Marley is an iconic musician of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era. Marley, a Jamaican singer, musician, and songwriter, has been the face of reggae music. He has achieved a global status that no other musician from a so-called Third World has. He is one of the most famous branded faces of all times with his face imprinted on a background of striped green, yellow and red. Originally born as Nesta Robert Marley, in St. Ann Parish (Jamaica) on 6th February 1945, due to a passport error by an official his first and middle names were interchanged giving rise to Robert Nesta Marley as his preferred name. He was fathered by Norval Sinclair Marley, who was a non-colored Jamaican marine, having roots in England, and his mother was Cedella Booker was a colored teenager. He attended Stepney Primary & Junior High School where he met his childhood friend Neville “Bunny” Livingstone.
Marley and Livingstone spent much of their time making music. In 1963, Marley, Livingstone, and some friends formed the Wailing Wailers. Their single “Simmer Down” under the label of the producer Coxsone Dodd, took the first position in Jamaican Charts in the year 1964, after having sold over 70,000 copies. This break got their band to work with the then Jamaican Greats such as Ernest Ranglin, Jackie Mittoo, Roland Alphonso and other such greats. This break also helped establish them as one of the most promising Reggae band in Jamaica, but due to financial difficulties the band drifted apart and broke up. In 1966, Marley married Rita Anderson and worked as a DuPont lab assistant in America for a brief period. He later returned to Jamaica after a break of 8 months.
It was during this phase that Marley became interested in Rastafari beliefs and gave up Catholicism to practice Rastafari, during which his iconic dreadlocks were grown out. He also regrouped his former band to form ‘The Wailers.’ In the late 1960s, Marley closely associated himself with the pop singer Johnny Nash, with Nash achieving a worldwide hit thanks to the song “Stir You Up” written by Marley. On the other hand, The Wailers churned out many other songs that brought them fame as a band. A final break to stardom came for Marley in 1972 when his band landed a contract with Island Records. The product of the record signing with Chris Blackwell was the album “Catch A Fire,” their first complete album that they could finally record as a band. The album was a massive hit and earned a lot of critical acclaims.
The Wailers toured the UK and the US to promote their album further and were the opening acts for epics like
. The next album they rolled out was “Burning” which contained the famous “I Shot The Sheriff” that got covered by Eric Clapton and secured the first position in Worldwide Hits. Out of the three original founders of The Wailers, two namely, Livingstone and Peter McIntosh, quit the band in 1975 to pursue their solo careers, and The Wailers produced their next album “Natty Dreads,” reflecting the political unease in Jamaica prevalent during that time. "Rebel Music (3 O'clock Road Block)" was the outcome of Marley's personal experience of being stopped by army members one night in late hours before the 1972 national elections, and most people believe that his "Revolution" was a validation of his support for the People’s National Party.
The Wailers then teamed up with an all-female band called the I-Threes, which also contained Marley’s wife, Rita. They now formed what they called Bob Marley & The Wailers, and they toured relentlessly to promote and propagate Reggae form of music which was pretty nascent those days but had started gaining popularity thanks to Bob Marley’s efforts. Their song, “No Woman, No Cry,” once again managed to sweep the world off their feet and they managed to get another hit to their name. Bob Marley became a rising international icon but he broke the glass ceiling with his album “Rastaman Vibrations” in the year 1976. This very album “Rastaman Vibrations” featured the song ‘
’ which stood out for the usage of lyrics taken from a speech by an Ethiopian emperor who lead the Rastafarian movement.
The song spoke out against racial suppression and painted an image of a free and equal world. It also put him on the global map as a symbol for peace and political change using faith and spirituality. Marley fled to Jamaica in 1976, after a botched assassination attempt carried out while he and his band were performing. He was shot in the chest and in the arm, while his wife in the head. Fortunately, they both survived the attack only to later play their scheduled performance after which they left for the safety of London. Marley had his first health scare in 1977 when cancerous cells were detected in his toe. The doctors suggested a surgical amputation of the infected part, which Marley refused due to his religious beliefs that prohibited self-mutilation in any form. In London, Marley also worked on his next album “Exodus” and released it in 1977.
“Exodus” quickly climbed the British Charts and managed to hold a high position for over than a year! To this date, “Exodus” is considered to be the finest work by Bob Marley. Marley and The Wailers recorded their next album “Kaya,” which bore the theme of love. Released in 1978, “Kaya” gave hits like "Satisfy My Soul" and "Is This Love." In the same year, Marley performed in Jamaica in his One Love, One Peace concert and also managed to visit Kenya, Ethiopia, and other places in Africa that laid the foundation for his next album “Survival,” released in 1979. This album was once again spiritually oriented and demanded brotherhood and oneness of all humans. It also paved the way for the call to end racial prejudice. 1980 saw the release of “Uprising,” the album that featured other of his hit song like ‘Redemption Song.’
The album revolutionized the use of poetry in lyrics and highlighted Marley as an accomplished and mature songwriter. The band performed worldwide and went on extensive tours to promote their album. It was during this that Bob Marley’s cancer from the infected toe spread in his entire body, reaching fatality and causing his early demise. On May 11, 1981, he passed away in Miami, Florida. He was 36 years old. A while before his death, Marley received the Order of Merit, an honor from the Jamaican government, the United Nations awarded him the Medal of Peace in 1980. A large number of people attended the grand memorial that was held in his memory. He was also later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Bob Marley’s legacy continues even after all these years, as a voice for Reggae Music and Fighter of Racial Oppression.