Bob Marley

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Bob Marley
Bob Marley performing in Zurich, Switzerland on May 30, 1980
Bob Marley performing in Zurich, Switzerland on May 30, 1980
Background information
Birth name Robert Nesta Marley
Born February 6, 1945(1945-02-06)
Nine Mile, Saint Ann, Jamaica
Died May 11, 1981 (aged 36)
Miami, Florida, United States
Genre(s) Reggae, ska, rocksteady
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician
Instrument(s) Vocals, guitar, percussion
Years active 1962 – 1981
Label(s) Studio One, Beverley's, Upsetter/Trojan, Island/Tuff Gong
Associated acts Member of The Wailers,
band leader of the Wailers Band,
associated with the The Upsetters,
associated with the I Threes

Robert "Bob" Nesta Marley OM (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981) was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the ska, rocksteady and reggae bands: The Wailers (1964 – 1974) and Bob Marley & the Wailers (1974 – 1981). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited for helping spread Jamaican music to the worldwide audience.[1]

Marley's best known hits include "I Shot the Sheriff", "No Woman, No Cry", "Exodus", "Could You Be Loved", "Stir It Up", "Jamming", "Redemption Song", "One Love" and, together with The Wailers, "Three Little Birds",[2] as well as the posthumous releases "Buffalo Soldier" and "Iron Lion Zion". The compilation album, Legend, released in 1984, three years after his death, is the best-selling reggae album ever (10 times platinum in US),[3] with sales of more than 20 million copies.[4][5]


Early life and career

Bob Marley was born in the small village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica as Nesta Robert Marley.[6] A Jamaican passport official would later swap his first and middle names.[7] His father Norval Sinclair Marley was a white Scottish Jamaican. Norval was a Marine officer and captain, as well as a plantation overseer, when he married Cedella Booker, an Afro-Jamaican then eighteen years old.[8] Norval provided financial support for his wife and child, but seldom saw them, as he was often away on trips. In 1955, when Marley was 10 years old, his father died of a heart attack at age 60.[9] Marley suffered racial prejudice as a youth, because of his mixed racial origins and faced questions about his own racial identity throughout his life. He once reflected:

I don't have prejudice against meself. My father was a white and my mother was black. Them call me half-caste or whatever. Me don't dip on nobody's side. Me don't dip on the black man's side nor the white man's side. Me dip on God's side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.[10]

Although Marley recognized his mixed ancestry, throughout his life and because of his beliefs, he self-identified as a black African. In songs such as "Black Progress,", "African Herbsman," "Buffalo Soldier", "War" and others, Marley sings about the struggles of blacks and Africans against oppression from the West or "Babylon." [11]

Marley became friends with Neville "Bunny" Livingston (later known as Bunny Wailer), with whom he started to play music. He left school at the age of 14 to make music with Joe Higgs, a local singer and devout Rastafari. It was at a jam session with Higgs and Livingston that Marley met Peter McIntosh (later known as Peter Tosh), who had similar musical ambitions.[12]

In 1962, Marley recorded his first two singles, "Judge Not" and "One Cup of Coffee", with local music producer Leslie Kong. These songs, released on the Beverley's label under the pseudonym of Bobby Martell,[13] attracted little attention. The songs were later re-released on the box set, Songs of Freedom, a posthumous collection of Marley's work.

Musical career

The Wailers

In 1963, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith formed a ska and rocksteady group, calling themselves "The Teenagers". They later changed their name to "The Wailing Rudeboys", then to "The Wailing Wailers", at which point they were discovered by record producer Coxsone Dodd, and finally to "The Wailers". By 1966, Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith had left The Wailers, leaving the core trio of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh.

In 1966, Marley married Rita Anderson, and moved near his mother's residence in Wilmington, Delaware in the United States for a short time, during which he worked as a DuPont lab assistant and on the assembly line at a Chrysler plant, under the alias Donald Marley.[14]

Upon returning to Jamaica, Marley became a member of the Rastafari movement, and started to wear his trademark dreadlocks (see the religion section for more on Marley's religious views).

After a conflict with Dodd, Marley and his band teamed up with Lee "Scratch" Perry and his studio band, The Upsetters. Although the alliance lasted less than a year, they recorded what many consider The Wailers' finest work. Marley and Perry split after a dispute regarding the assignment of recording rights, but they would remain friends and work together again.

Between 1968 and 1972, Bob and Rita Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer re-cut some old tracks with JAD Records in Kingston and London in an attempt to commercialize The Wailers' sound. Bunny later asserted that these songs "should never be released on an album … they were just demos for record companies to listen to." Also in 1968, Bob and Rita visited the Bronx to see Johnny Nash's songwriter Jimmy Norman.[15] A three day jam session with Norman and others, including Norman's co-writer Al Pyfrom, resulted in a 24-minute tape of Marley performing several of his own and Norman-Pyfrom's compositions which is, according to Reggae archivist Roger Steffens, rare in that was influenced by pop rather than reggae, as part of the effort to break Marley into American charts.[15] According to an article in The New York Times, Marley experimented on the tape with different sounds, adopting a doo-wop style on "Stay With Me" and "the slow love song style of 1960's artists" on "Splish for My Splash."[15]

The Wailers' first album, Catch a Fire, was released worldwide in 1973, and sold well. It was followed a year later by Burnin', which included the songs "Get Up, Stand Up" and "I Shot The Sheriff". Eric Clapton made a hit cover of "I Shot the Sheriff" in 1974, raising Marley's international profile.

The Wailers broke up in 1974 with each of the three main members going on to pursue solo careers. The reason for the breakup is shrouded in conjecture; some believe that there were disagreements amongst Bunny, Peter, and Bob concerning performances, while others claim that Bunny and Peter simply preferred solo work.

Bob Marley & The Wailers

Despite the breakup, Marley continued recording as "Bob Marley & The Wailers". His new backing band included brothers Carlton and Aston "Family Man" Barrett on drums and bass respectively, Junior Marvin and Al Anderson on lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl "Wya" Lindo on keyboards, and Alvin "Seeco" Patterson on percussion. The "I Threes", consisting of Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Marley's wife, Rita, provided backing vocals.

In 1975, Marley had his international breakthrough with his first hit outside Jamaica, "No Woman, No Cry," from the Natty Dread album. This was followed by his breakthrough album in the US, Rastaman Vibration (1976), which spent four weeks on the Billboard charts Top Ten.

In December 1976, two days before "Smile Jamaica", a free concert organized by the Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley in an attempt to ease tension between two warring political groups, Marley, his wife, and manager Don Taylor were wounded in an assault by unknown gunmen inside Marley's home. Taylor and Marley's wife sustained serious injuries, but later made full recoveries. Bob Marley received minor wounds in the chest and arm. The shooting was thought to have been politically motivated, as many felt the concert was really a support rally for Manley. Nonetheless, the concert proceeded, and an injured Marley performed as scheduled, two days after the attempt. When asked why, Marley responded, "the people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?".[citation needed] The members of the group Zap Pow – which had no radical religious or political beliefs – played as Bob Marley's backup band before a festival crowd of 80,000 while members of the Wailers were still missing or in hiding.[16]

Marley left Jamaica at the end of 1976 for England, where he recorded his Exodus and Kaya albums. Exodus stayed on the British album charts for 56 consecutive weeks. It included four UK hit singles: "Exodus", "Waiting In Vain", "Jamming", "One Love", and a rendition of Curtis Mayfield's hit, "People Get Ready". It was here that he was arrested and received a conviction for possession of a small quantity of cannabis while traveling in London.

In 1978, Marley performed at another political concert in Jamaica, the One Love Peace Concert, again in an effort to calm warring parties. Near the end of the performance, by Marley's request, Manley and his political rival, Edward Seaga, joined each other on stage and shook hands.

Babylon by Bus, a double live album with 13 tracks, was released in 1978 to critical acclaim. This album, and specifically the final track "Jammin'" with the audience in a frenzy, captured the intensity of Marley's live performances.

Survival, a defiant and politically charged album, was released in 1979. Tracks such as "Zimbabwe", "Africa Unite", "Wake Up and Live", and "Survival" reflected Marley's support for the struggles of Africans. His appearance at the Amandla Festival in Boston in July 1979 showed his strong opposition to South African apartheid, which he already had shown in his song "War" in 1976. In early 1980, he was invited to perform at the April 17 celebration of Zimbabwe's Independence Day.

Uprising (1980) was Bob Marley's final studio album, and is one of his most religious productions, including "Redemption Song" and "Forever Loving Jah". It was in "Redemption Song" that Marley sang the famous lyric,

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds…[cite this quote]

Confrontation, released posthumously in 1983, contained unreleased material recorded during Marley's lifetime, including the hit "Buffalo Soldier" and new mixes of singles previously only available in Jamaica.

Later years


In July 1977, Marley was found to have acral lentiginous melanoma, a form of malignant melanoma, in a football wound - according to widely held urban legend, inflicted by broadcaster and pundit Danny Baker[17] - on his right big toe. Marley refused amputation, because of the Rastafari belief that the body must be "whole."

Marley may have seen medical doctors as samfai (tricksters, deceivers). True to this belief Marley went against all surgical possibilities and sought out other means that would not break his religious beliefs. He also refused to register a will, based on the Rastafari belief that writing a will is acknowledging death as inevitable, thus disregarding the everlasting (or everliving, as Rastas say) character of life.

The cancer then metastasized to Marley's brain, lungs, liver, and stomach. After playing two shows at Madison Square Garden as part of his fall 1980 Uprising Tour, he collapsed while jogging in NYC's Central Park. The remainder of the tour was subsequently cancelled.

Marley played his final concert at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 23, 1980. The live version of "Redemption Song" on Songs of Freedom was recorded at this show.[18] Marley afterwards sought medical help from Munich specialist Josef Issels, who promoted a controversial type of cancer treatment, partly based on avoidance of certain foods, drinks and other substances (Marley was also already a vegetarian, mainly for religious reasons).[19]. However, by this time his illness had already progressed to the terminal stage.

Death and posthumous reputation

While flying home from Germany to Jamaica for his final days, Marley became ill, and landed in Miami for immediate medical attention. He died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, Florida on the morning of May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. The spread of melanoma to his lungs and brain caused his death. His final words to his son Ziggy were "Money can't buy life."[20] Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica on May 21, 1981, which combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafari tradition. He was buried in a chapel near his birthplace with his Gibson Les Paul and a Bible. A month before his death, he had also been awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit.

Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Time magazine chose Bob Marley & The Wailers' Exodus as the greatest album of the 20th century.

In 2001, Marley was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a feature-length documentary about his life, Rebel Music, won various awards at the Grammys. With contributions from Rita, the Wailers, and Marley's lovers and children, it also tells much of the story in his own words.

In 2006, the State of New York renamed a portion of Church Avenue from Remsen Avenue to East 98th Street in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn "Bob Marley Boulevard".[21]



Main doctrines
Jah · Afrocentrism · Ital · Zion · Spiritual use of cannabis
Central figures

Jesus Christ · Haile Selassie
Marcus Garvey · Leonard Howell · God

Key scriptures
Bible · Kebra Nagast
The Promise Key · Holy Piby

My Life and Ethiopia's Progress
Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy

Branches and festivals
Mansions · United States
Shashamane · Grounation Day
Notable individuals
Bob Marley · Walter Rodney
See also:
Vocabulary · Persecution · Dreadlocks
· Reggae
Ethiopian Christianity
Index of Rastafari articles

Bob Marley was a member of the Rastafari movement, whose culture was a key element in the development of reggae. Bob Marley became a leading proponent of the Rastafari, taking their music out of the socially deprived areas of Jamaica and onto the international music scene. Marley was baptized by the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 4, 1980.[22][23]

Judy Mowatt, a member of the I Threes, has claimed that Marley converted to Christianity on his deathbed.[24]

Wife and children

Bob Marley had 12 children: three with his wife Rita, two adopted from Rita's previous relationships, and the remaining seven with separate women.[25] His children are, in order of birth:

  1. Sharon, born November 23, 1964, to Rita in previous relationship;
  2. Cedella born August 23, 1967, to Rita;
  3. David "Ziggy", born October 17, 1968, to Rita;
  4. Stephen, born April 20, 1972, to Rita;
  5. Robert "Robbie", born May 16, 1972, to Pat Williams;
  6. Rohan, born May 19, 1972, to Janet Hunt;
  7. Karen, born 1973 to Janet Bowen;
  8. Stephanie, born August 17, 1974; according to Cedella Booker she was the daughter of Rita and a man called Ital with whom Rita had an affair; nonetheless she was acknowledged as Bob's daughter;
  9. Julian, born June 4, 1975, to Lucy Pounder;
  10. Ky-Mani, born February 26, 1976, to Anita Belnavis;
  11. Damian, born July 21, 1978, to Cindy Breakspeare;
  12. Makeda, born May 30, 1981, to Yvette Crichton.



  • Apr–Jul 1973: Catch a Fire Tour (England, USA)
  • Oct–Nov 1973: Burnin' Tour (USA, England)
  • Jun–Jul 1975: Natty Dread Tour (USA, Canada, England)
  • Apr–Jul 1976: Rastaman Vibration Tour (USA, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, France, England, Wales)
  • May–Jun 1977: Exodus Tour (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, England)
  • May–Aug 1978: Kaya Tour (USA, Canada, England, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium)
  • Apr–May 1979: Babylon by Bus Tour (Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii)
  • Oct 1979–Jan 1980: Survival Tour (USA, Canada, Trinidad/Tobago, Bahamas, Gabon)
  • May–Sep 1980: Uprising Tour (Switzerland, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, USA)

Awards and honours

Marley's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Film adaptation(s)

In February 2008, director Martin Scorsese announced his intention to produce a documentary movie on Marley. The film is set to be released on February 6, 2010, on what would have been Marley's 65th birthday.[29] Recently, however, Scorsese dropped out due to scheduling problems. He is being replaced by Jonathan Demme.[30]

In March 2008, The Weinstein Company announced its plans to produce a biopic of Bob Marley, based on the book No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley by Rita Marley. Rudy Langlais will produce the script by Lizzie Borden and Rita Marley will exec produce.[31]

Sound samples

See also


  1. ^ EMP|SFM: 2007 Pop Conference Bios/Abstracts
  2. ^ "Bob Marley," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2006
  3. ^ Doug Miller, "Concert Series: 'No Woman, No Cry'",, February 26, 2007
  4. ^ "Top Earners for 2004". Forbes. Retrieved on 2008-11-30. 
  5. ^ "Rolling in the money". iAfrica. Retrieved on 2008-11-30. 
  6. ^ Moskowitz 2007, p. 1
  7. ^ Moskowitz 2007, p. 9
  8. ^ Moskowitz 2007, p. 2
  9. ^ Moskowitz 2007, p. 4
  10. ^ Webley, Bishop Derek (2008-05-10). "One world, one love, one Bob Marley". The Birmingham Post. Retrieved on 2008-06-15. 
  11. ^ BBC: Religion and Ethics: Rastafari
  12. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Bob Marley - Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-06-15. 
  13. ^ The Beverley Label and Leslie Kong: Music Business at
  14. ^ Timothy White, Bob Marley: 1945-1981, Rolling Stone, June 25, 1981
  15. ^ a b c McKinley, Jesse (2002-12-19). "Pre-reggae tape of Bob Marley is found and put on auction". New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-01-04. 
  16. ^ Walker, Jeff (1980) on the cover of Zap Pow's LP Reggae Rules. Los Angeles: Rhino Records.
  17. ^ When Bob Marley joined the Bloomsbury set - This Britain, UK - The Independent
  18. ^
  19. ^ Bob Marley (I) - Biography
  20. ^ Steffens, Roger. "Bob Marley Chronology 1945-1981". Retrieved on 2006-10-26. 
  21. ^ Brooklyn Street Renamed Bob Marley Boulevard
  22. ^ "The Ethiopian Orthodox Church & Bob Marley's Baptism And The Church". 
  23. ^ "Bob Marley's Baptism in Ethiopian Orthodox Church".;read=47421. 
  24. ^ From Rasta To Disciple: Reggae gospel singer Judy Mowatt spoke to Mike Rimmer
  25. ^ Dixon, Meredith."Lovers and Children of the Natural Mystic: The Story of Bob Marley, Women and their Children" The Dread Library (Accessed June 21, 2007)
  26. ^ "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone. 
  27. ^ "Who is the greatest lyricist of all time", BBC, May 23, 2001
  28. ^ "London honours legendary reggae artist Bob Marley with heritage plaque". 
  29. ^ Winter Miller (2008-02-17). "Scorsese to make Marley documentary". Ireland On-Line. Retrieved on 2008-03-06. 
  30. ^ "Martin Scorsese Drops Out of Bob Marley Documentary". 2008-05-22. Retrieved on 2008-05-26. 
  31. ^ Winter Miller (2008-03-03). "Weinstein Co. options Marley". Variety. Retrieved on 2008-03-03. 

Further reading

External links

NAME Marley, Bob
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Marley, Robert Nesta
SHORT DESCRIPTION Singer, songwriter, guitarist
DATE OF BIRTH February 6, 1945
PLACE OF BIRTH Nine Miles, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica
DATE OF DEATH May 11, 1981
PLACE OF DEATH Miami, Florida, U.S.

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