Dead People You Should Know: Bob Marley

When most people think of Bob Marley they think of the famous musician from the 1900’s. However, he was also a revolutionist who touched many people with his ways of thinking that were reflected in his music. Bob was born in Jamaica on February 6, 1945. He grew up in the small town of St. Ann Perish. His father was a white naval captain who was almost 60 when Bob was born. His mother was a girl of the age 19 from the village he was born in. Bob Marley’s love for music was established when he was young. His close friend Bunny was the one who inspired Bob to learn how to play guitar. Bob and his friends would play songs in the streets using homemade instruments. Their desire to create music was so strong they would make guitars from bamboo using old electric wires as the strings.

A local music producer heard Bob singing in the streets and asked him to come in and record a few songs. After going to the studio and recording songs, his first song was produced when he was only 16. From there he joined his friends and together they created Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers. Their first single “Simmer Down” soared to the top of the Jamaican charts in 1964. The group was struggling financially and took a break as Bob traveled to America to see his Mother. Before leaving, he married Rita Anderson. Rita Anderson Marley was a Cuban-born Jamaican singer, activist and revolutionist. She supported Bob throughout his life and his music. She even sings in many of Marley’s songs such as “Three little birds”, “Bend down low” and “Positive vibration”.

After visiting his mom in the U.S, he returned to Jamaica to find that a revolutionary movement was going on. The revolution started in the 1930’s but caught Bobs attention then because he was exploring political and spiritual aspects of himself. He became a Rastafarian. Rastafarians have a specific style that they should follow. This includes colorful clothing especially wearing the traditional colors red, green and yellow. They also have specific ways to live their life. They believe in wearing dreadlocks, smoking cannabis, the rejection of western medicine and a diet that excludes pork, milk and shellfish. Bobs signature look is long dreadlocks. In the documentary “Marley” he quotes that dread locks are a part of who he is and his identity. He also believed in the smoking of cannabis. When bob became more popular, there were suspicions that he smoked a pound of cannabis a day. In his documentary, Rita, his wife, tells a story about how the cops would follow them everywhere and search their bags and bus. They would even use dogs to try to find cannabis with their belongings. However, they never found anything and after a solid month of searching, they gave up never to brother Bob and his group again.

The Wailers got their big break in 1972 when they started a contract with Island Records. They recorded a full album for the first time that flew to the top of the charts. Bruce Springsteen contacted the group asking if Bob would open for his tour. The Wailers were outraged because it should have been Bruce opening for Bob. However, Bob was more than happy to open for the group. The group then traveled to America and Brittan on the tour in 1973. While on tour they released their second full album, including “I Shot the Sherriff” which was the number 1 hit in the United States. Again in 1975 they reached the top 40 hits with “No Woman, No cry”. Bob Marley was a star in Jamaica and was on his way to becoming an international famous musician.

He reminded other as the next Haile Selassie. Haile Selassie was a 20th Century Ethiopian emperor and a spiritual leader who inspired all of Jamaica. When he flew into Jamaica and the crowd jumped over the barriers surrounding the plane with signs chanting his name. The same things happened to Bob when he visited Jamaica. He was a Rastafarian leader and supporter of the People’s National Party. This was also seen as a threat to the PNP’s. This is now viewed as the reason behind the attempted assassination.

In 1976, a group of people with guns attacked Marley and his band while rehearsing for a concert 2 days away in Hero’s Park. One bullet ripped through Marley’s chest and lodged into his forearm. Another hit Rita in the head. The Wailers were unharmed but their manager was hit 5 times. The manager survived after a surgery but stopped managing the band. Although it was never proved who was behind the attack it is assumed the group was anti Rastafarian and against the movement. Regardless of the attack, Bob and the band performed at Hero’s park 2 days after being shot.

Because of the attack, the band moved to London and produced the album “Exodus” in 1977. The inspiration for the album came from Bob’s love for Africa. In his documentary he quotes, “Africa is the spiritual homeland of Rastafarians”. He viewed Africa as a place of awakening for Rastafarians and many times spoke of it being his favorite place. The song, “Jammin” and the entire album was on the U.K charts for over a year and is now considered one of the best albums ever made.

In an interview with Anita, she speaks about Bob’s love for soccer and how he had many injuries to his foot that caused him pain. In 1976, he went to the doctors and they told him he had cancer in his toe. The type of cancer was melanoma also known as skin cancer. Skin cancer is very rare in African Americans but effected Bob due to his half-Caucasian race from his father. The doctors suggested for him to remove his big toe, where the cancer was the more condensed. Bob refused because it was against his Rastafarian beliefs to accept western medicine. Just as important to him was that he would not be able to dance if he lost his big toe due to possible balance issues.

There next album was “Kaya” produced in 1978. This album was all about love with the featured song, “This is love”. In 1978, Bob returned to Jamaica to perform a Once Love Peace Concert. At this concert the prime minster of the PNP and the leader of the JLP attended. These two leaders were enemies. The supporters of the two groups were also enemies. However, all feelings were put aside and people from both groups were dancing together in the audience with smiles on their faces. While singing “Is this love” Bob took both of the leaders hands and held them together over his head as he sang, “ Is this love that I’m feeling..” This marks a monumental moment in Jamaican history and the beginning of peace between the two rival groups.

In the same year, Bob got to travel to Africa and inspired the people with his newest album, “Survival” produced in 1979. They played at an official independence ceremony for the new nation of Zimbabwe. The band also released “Uprising” with the famous songs “You could be loved” and “Redemption Song”. One of the most important lines form the song says, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds”. This lyric shows that Bob was much more than just a musician but used his music in positive way to get out a powerful message.

After finishing their tour in Europe, the group moved to the United States. Once they arrived in the U.S Bob noticed his foot was bothering him more and went to the doctors to get it checked up on. He then discover that the cancer had moved through his entire body. The doctors told him they would do everything they could but what they could do at this point was very little. Bob was reluctant to receive chemo but with the support of his band at his side, he went thought with it. The chemo caused Bob to lose his hair, the dreadlocks that meant so much to him and his beliefs. Throughout chemo, Bob and the band performed twice at Maddison Square Garden. Before their next performance at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh, Bob told the band this would be their last show due to his health.

The band requested he not go on because not feeling well. In an interview with one of the Wailers he said that Bob has asked him to stay close in case he were to have a seizure on stage. The entire show went on and Bob continued to dance and preform as always but with less energy according to the band. After the show, the crown shouted encore, encore, encore! At Bob’s word, the band went on to sing two more songs with the crowd going wild. Again, the crown went encore, encore, encore! They then played their last song as Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Bobs health then went downhill and he was informed he had 3 weeks to live. He planned to travel to Germany, United States and return to Jamaica. He died in Miami on May 11###sup/sup### in 1981 at 36 years old. He never did make it back to Jamaica. Before his death, he was awarded the Order of Merit from Jamaica, the Medal of Peace from the U.S and was adored by the people in the United States and all across the world. At his service in Jamaica, more than 30,000 people attended. The Wailers preformed at his service and the crowd was a flood of tears.

The Wailers continue to play to this day but are not the same without the legendary Bob Marley. Bob touched the life of millions of people across the globe. He inspired peace and positivity to the country of Jamaica. He toured the world spreading the Rastafarian movement. Most importantly, he left behind music that continues to touch people and make an impact.

“We need to love one another, live in peace and harmony. Instead we quarrel and fight” – Bob Marley 

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