“Bob walked on to the stage in what I would later recognize as his inimitable saunter. It was awesome to watch him immediately memorize the crowd with his presence. His guitar slung over his shoulder, his Rasta locks flowing in unrestricted freedom, he generated a raw power of personality that overwhelmed his worshipers. Sounding his opening refrain “Hail Jah Rastafari!” and without another word he immediately launched into his opening song, “Concrete Jungle,” which immediately brought the crowd to its feet.”
Robert Nesta Marley, was born on February 6, 1945. He was born in Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica. “Bob was the son of a white man, whom he never met. His mother Cedella also left him to be raised by his Granny Yaya and his grandfather, Omeriah.” With his grandparents he grew up in one of the poorest part of Jamaica named Trench town. I feel that this had a major impact on Bob’s life. In many of his songs he talks about Trench town. “Cold ground was my bed last night and rock was my pillow too.” As Bob grew older he spent less time at his home with his grandparents. Instead he was out with his friends Bunny Livingston and Peter Mackintosh. Together they did many things such as walk around town, go to the beach, play soccer and probably most importantly write music. Together the three were known as the Wailing Wailers. They soon had their first release, “Judge Not,” in 1963, but the single had no true success until 1964. After Writing their first single they began to experiment with their music, by slowing down the quick dance rhythms of Jamaican “ska” music and soon after scored hits with “Simmer Down” and “Love and Affection.” Despite its early success, the group broke up in 1966. Peter and Bunny both wanted to pursue solo careers. I think at the time this may have been a terrible thing for Bob, but in the long run this helped him tremendously. He now knew what kind of beats and rhythms the people wanted to hear and he was now free to write his own music. It also gave him the opportunity to go live with his mother in the United States. Marley only stayed for a short period of time though. He felt that he did not fit in and ended up heading right back to Jamaica. After being back in Jamaica for several months he met Rita Anderson, his soon to be wife. This would be one of the greatest things for Bob, but also one of the worst.
Bob and Rita were soon married. Together they had two sons Ziggy,
Stevie. They also had a daughter Cedella whom Bob named after his mother. I find it interesting that he named his daughter after his mother since she was really never there for him. I feel that was a very brave and respectable thing to do. Bob was a great father. “Everyday Bob had his children picked up and driven to Hope Road. Stevie, Ziggy and Cedella would arrive around two and stay until 6 or seven o’clock, spending time with their father and watching him play soccer.”
By the late 1960s, Bob had formed a new band. The Wailers. “The Wailers consisted of Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, Family Man Barrett on bass, “Touter” Harvey on keyboards, Carlton Barrett on drums, Al Anderson on lead guitar, Alvin “Seco” Patterson on percussion and Lee Jaffe, who played harmonica.” The Wailers also along with being a new band had a new producer by the name of Lee “Scratch” Perry. “Scratch was prominent reggae producer had and through other smaller bands he gained a great measure of prominence in Jamaica. He suggested to Bob that the group try a new type of music called “rude boy”, which is a slower type of reggae. The group soon had a number of hits, including “Soul Rebel,” “400 Years,” and “Small Axe.” After having these few hits Bob discovered Rastafarianism.
“From the mid-1960s, Marley and his fellow Wailers devoted themselves to a faith in Rastafarianism, a religion centered around the belief that Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I (now deceased) was a divine being who would lead oppressed blacks to an African homeland.” One of my favorite songs Bob Marley “Exodus” speaks of this. “Exodus, all right! Movement of Jah people! Oh yeah!” I find it interesting that a group of people would actually want to pick up everything they own and move some couple thousand miles away to a completely different country. Another crucial part of the Rastafarian faith was the use of marijuana, or “ganja,” as a kind of holy herb that brings enlightenment. I find this to be very interesting. Being brought up Catholic, The church has taught me in order to find enlightenment I must attend church regularly, pray, and help others. I can’t imagine becoming closer to my God by smoking marijuana. Bob Marley and The Wailers often promoted the use of “ganja” with songs such as “Get Up, Stand up”. “Most people think, great God will come from the skies, take away everything and make people feel high. But if you know what life is worth, you will look for yours on earth. And now you see Jah light, stand up for your rights.” The Wailers’ music was fueled by their faith. Many poor Jamaicans saw Rastafarianism and The Wailers’ as a spiritual alternative to the frequent violence and ghetto life. This is why many of the poorer people of Jamaica also looked at Bob Marley as being a prophet. His music sent a message to the people that everything was going to be okay such as in his song “Three Little Birds”. “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing, gonna be alright.” This song is the Wailers’ most inspirational song to me. So many times when I have felt down, I put on this song and my problems almost do seem to leave me.
In 1972, the Wailers signed a recording contract with a London-based record label, Island Records. Together Island records and The Wailers produced “Catch a Fire”, which was the Wailers’ first album to be marketed outside Jamaica. “Catch a Fire brought the band’s artless lyricism and infectious rhythms to a wider audience and included such future reggae classics as “Stir it Up” and “Stop That Train.”” Their new album sparked a new interest in many countries. These new interests soon lead The Wailers to embark on an overseas tour in 1974. Also in 1974 Eric Clapton covered The Wailers’ “I Shot the Sherriff” bringing success to both artisits.
Rastaman Vibration, the Wailers’ new album released in 1976, was an even larger international hit. This album was charged with Bob’s political viewpoints. His viewpoints were against the Jamaican government. While many agreeded with Bob’s viewpoints, of course many others disagreed. “On December 3, 1976, Marley was injured in an attack on his home by several gunmen, suspected to be linked with Jamaica’s right-wing Labor Party. The attack was allegedly carried out in order to prevent Marley from performing at a concert rally for then-Prime Minister Michael Manley, the leader of the socialist People’s National Party. Marley still performed in the scheduled concert (which was attended by 80,000 people) but subsequently left Jamaica for a long period of self-imposed exile.” This shows Marley’s devotion to the people and to his cause. I could never see myself leaving my home country in order to support my political beliefs.
Marley and the Wailers soon found success again after Bob returned from his exile. Their new success was in the album “Exodus” which was released in 1977. “The album remained on the British charts for 56 consecutive weeks.” Once again in 1978 the Wailers released another successful album “Kaya.” “The band’s packed touring schedule in 1978 included a sold-out show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, which was recorded and released as the highly acclaimed live album “Babylon By Buss”. Another album, entitled “Survivor”, was released in 1979.” I would have loved to have had the opportunity to see one of his shows. I have heard the live album “Babylon By Buss” and I find it amazing and very pleasant to listen to.
While being treated for a soccer injury in 1977, doctors discovered cancerous cells in his toe. Marley injured his foot. Due to Marley’s Rastafarian beliefs, he refused to have surgery on his foot and continued to tour over the years. In 1980, Marley collapsed while jogging in New York’s Central Park; by that time, the cancer had spread throughout his lungs and brain. Over the next eight months, Marley went through a series of radiation therapy and treatments, but his health continued to decline. In April 1981, Marley was awarded the prestigious Order of Merit by the Jamaican government. He later died in a Miami hospital, on May 11, 1981 near his mother’s home. Ten days later, he was given a state funeral in Jamaica, attended by more than 100,000 people.
In the years following Marley’s death, controversy raged over his estate, which was worth an estimated $30 million when he died. As Marley had not left a will, Jamaican law gave half of his estate to his widow and the remainder to his children.
As Marley recorded such a volume of work, unreleased material continued to appear on the market years after his death. In 1992, an album set containing 78 songs entitled “Songs of Freedom” was released, featuring a display of his work from his first single to his final concert performance in 1980. By a little more than a decade after his death, the annual royalty income for Marley’s music had increased to an estimated $2.5 million, ranking him among the largest-selling recording artists of all time. In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Although Bob died at the early age of 36, he influenced the lives of many, including the people of Jamaica, songwriters, and me personally. Bob Marley’s essence continues to flourish through his son Ziggy Marley who is currently making music based on his father’s ideals.