Bob Marley


Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, born 6 February 1945 in St Ann, Jamaica, died 11 May 1981 in Miami, Florida as Berhane Selassie, was and still is the greatest reggae protagonist of all time, one of the world”s foremost music artists with millions of fans around the world. Marley was the son of British officer Norval Sinclair Marley (who was never a part of his life) and Cedella Booker. Marley was married on 10 February 1966 to Rita Marley, born Alpharita Constantia Anderson.

In the 1960s, when ska music was the order of the day in his native Jamaica, Bob Marley was the lead singer in a very popular and talented Jamaican vocal group called The Wailers (originally called The Teenagers). The three men, Marley, Neville Livingston (Bunny Wailer) and Peter Tosh, would later all go on to solo careers and become world stars. A fourth member was singer Beverly Kelso, and the three were joined by some of Jamaica”s most prominent musicians, The Skatalites. In 1963, the group broke through with Marley”s song “Simmer Down”. Between December 1963 and August 1966, the Wailers recorded more than 100 songs for music producer Coxsone Dodd, who owned the Studio One recording studio and record label. But ska music was too foreign for foreign ears, and only a few youngsters, like Millie Small (“My Boy Lollipop”), managed to score a hit or two overseas. The Wailers members were paid a small weekly wage by Dodd, and they constantly balanced on the breadline.

Over time, the three learned to play instruments in addition to composing songs. They left Dodd”s stable and tried to make it on their own. After several difficult years, and a brief association with producer and reggae genius Lee “Scratch” Perry, the three emerged in the early 1970s as international stars in the then-new style of reggae music, which they helped to develop to a large extent. A contributing factor to Marley”s international breakthrough was the fact that already famous artists interpreted his songs, such as Johnny Nash with “Stir It Up” in 1972, and Eric Clapton with “I Shot The Sheriff” in 1974, both of which became hits.

Around 1974-75, Marley became the dominant reggae star, attracting a worldwide following, although his group Bob Marley & The Wailers was not always the most popular in his native Jamaica… Despite his untimely death from cancer in 1981, Marley continued to gain new fans. He paved the way for new reggae bands – both Jamaican and otherwise – and is recognised as one of the most famous post-war popular musicians in the world. He is the father of reggae artists David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley, Stephen Marley, Julian Marley, Ky-Mani Marley and Damian Marley, among others.

Some of his best-known songs are “No Woman No Cry”, “Three Little Birds”, “Buffalo Soldier”, “One Love”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Exodus”, “Jamming”, “Get Up Stand Up”, “Stir It Up” and “Trenchtown Rock”. Bob Marley”s music has also influenced other styles of music. Marley has recorded considerably more money after his death than while he was alive. Bob Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Childhood and growing up

Robert (Bob) Nesta Marley was born on 6 February 1945 in rural Saint Ann Parish in northern Jamaica. His mother was an 18-year-old black woman named Cedella Booker. His father was a white Jamaican with British and Jewish roots: Captain Norval Sinclair Marley, a 50-year-old quartermaster in the British West India Regiment. His father, Norval Marley, was born in the late 19th century and was the son of Albert Thomas Marley, born in Sussex, England, and Ellen Broomfield, a light-skinned woman born in Jamaica but originating in the Syrian province of the Ottoman Empire. The Broomfield family is said to have been ethnic Syrian Jews who came to Jamaica in the mid-19th century from what is now southern Lebanon or Syria via England. The mix of African, English and Middle Eastern gave Robert an appearance that made him look nothing like any black, white or brown child growing up, an alienation that is said to have influenced the future superstar to become, among other things, a spokesperson for international unity.

Cedella and Norval were married during pregnancy, something that in the 1940s was not looked upon kindly by either black or white Jamaicans. Norval soon left his wife and son, and although he paid alimony, resources were barely sufficient for Cedella and Robert, who moved around the countryside between jobs in the province of St. Ann. His father died of a heart attack when Bob was ten years old, and some writers of biographies of Bob Marley have of course tried to link Marley”s later worship of Haile Selassie with his childhood”s unfulfilled longing for a father figure. Bob Marley received a moderate Catholic upbringing from his mother.

Robert was often teased by other children for his lighter skin, different hair and narrow, straight nose. He once commented on this during an interview, “Yes, it was hard sometimes, but I can”t be prejudiced against myself. My father was white and my mother was black. The kids called me half-breed and I don”t know everything. I”m not on anybody”s side, not the black side or the white side. I”m on the side of God, the one who created me and decided that I would come from a black and a white.”

In 1958, Robert Marley and his mother, like thousands of other rural poor, left to seek their fortune in the capital, Kingston. The reality, however, was that Kingston had very little to offer. The newcomers soon learned that Kingston as a city of opportunity was only an illusion, but the vast majority never returned to the countryside. Instead, shantytowns like Jonestown and Trenchtown sprang up. Robert Marley and his mother also ended up in the slums of Trenchtown, and their mother supported them both through casual work. Other children continued to tease Robert, but he made a very good friend after a year or so in Neville Livingston, better known as Bunny Wailer. For over two years, the mother was cohabiting with Neville O”Riley Livingstone (Bunny”s father), and the couple had a daughter together – a younger sister to Bob and Bunny. Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley were thus step-siblings and had a great common interest in song and music. Through transistor radio, they could listen to radio stations in Florida and New Orleans and American artists such as Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield and Brook Benton.

The Wailing Wailers

Despite poverty and evening work as a shoeshine boy and evening newspaper salesman, Bob Marley finished primary school. In 1962, Marley was taped by music entrepreneur Leslie Kong, resulting in Marley recording his first single – Judge Not. Unable to make a living from music, he worked in a welding shop during the day and, along with Bunny, took music lessons from singer Joe Higgs in the evenings. At one of these lessons, Bob and Bunny met Peter McIntosh (he later changed his name to Peter Tosh) – a teenager, a year older than Marley, with just as much musical ambition as they had. The dream was to become Jamaica”s ska answer to the black vocalist group The Drifters.

The group Bunny Wailer is believed to have formed went by several names in the early years, but The Wailing Wailers was what they most often called themselves. The Wailing Wailers were a group of singing youngsters in 1963 (none could play any instrument well enough) – Bunny Livingstone, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverly Kelso and Cherry Smith – who were composed by studio musicians “owned” by Kingston”s local record company. The Wailing Wailers scored a huge hit with the ska song Simmer Down, released in January 1963 on Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd”s label. Throughout the ska era, The Wailers (as the group was renamed) competed with Toots and the Maytals to be Jamaica”s most popular artists.


Bob married Rita Anderson (Rita Marley) on 10 February 1966. The next day Bob went to his mother, now living in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, to try to raise money, primarily for a record shop to sell his own singles, and in the longer term to start his own record label. For eight months, he had several jobs: factory worker by day and forklift driver by night. Bob was replaced during his absence by Rita Marley”s cousin and Soulette member Constantine “Dream” “Vision” Walker. Rita often took part in the recordings as well. The group released singles including “Who Feels It Knows It,” “Let Him Go,” “Don”t Look Back,” “Dancing Shoes” and “I Stand Predominate.”

In his absence, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie visited Jamaica beginning on April 21, 1966, and when Bob returned home in August, his wife Rita told him that she had seen the marks of the nails from Jesus” crucifixion on Selassie”s hands, and that she had turned to the Rastafari movement after that. She was thus the first major musical artist in Jamaica to turn to the Rastafarian faith. By the time Bob met Bunny and Peter, they too had begun to grow their hair into dreadlocks. Mortimer Planno became Rita”s, Bob”s, Peter”s and Bunny”s religious teacher from November 1966, which meant that they sought the depths of this religion. The combination of reggae and Rastafarianism was to be what made them world-famous artists, and many were to follow in their footsteps. In the beginning, however, the music was one thing and the religion another, although songs like “Selassie Is The Chapel” (1969, with lyrics by Mortimer Planno) would be released.

In 1967, Bob and Rita had their first child together, Cedella, who in adulthood has made a name for herself primarily as a designer of Rastafarian-inspired clothing, and the following year David “Ziggy” Marley was born.

In early 1967, Marley, Tosh and Livingston

It was Rastafarian elder Mortimer Planno who introduced Bob Marley to American soul star Johnny Nash. Nash was in Jamaica in early 1967 to investigate the new Jamaican music called rocksteady. “This is Bob Marley,” Planno said, “he”s the best songwriter I know.” Nash asked the lean and shy 22-year-old Marley if he could play something for him. When Marley started singing, accompanied by a friend with an acoustic guitar, the shyness dropped. After a while, Nash realized he”d met a musical genius. When Nash met his partner Danny Sims, he told him that he had just met the most incredible songwriters he had ever encountered. “He sang a couple dozen of his own compositions for me, and every single one of them was a hit!”

With Otis Redding as a role model

Within a few days, formal business contacts had been established between Bob, his wife Rita, Peter Tosh, and Johnny Nash, producer Arthur Jenkins and Danny Sims. The record company was named JAD Records after the first letter of the three Americans” first names. The arrangement was that JAD would release The Wailers” songs in the US while the Wailers retained the rights to their music in the Caribbean. Roger Steffens, one of the world”s foremost Marley experts, stresses that music was the most important thing for Marley at this stage of his life, not religion, repatriation or anything else. Marley really wanted to break into the American market, and was prepared to give up his Jamaican music for the sake of it. According to Steffens and producer Joe Venneri, the 22-year-old Marley said, “I want to be a soul singer like Otis Redding”… He wanted to break into the American r”n”b charts (rhythm & blues charts) with his music.

Failed venture into American soul

Marley never succeeded as a soul singer, but the people at JAD records really believed that soul and rocksteady could be combined, or that cross-pollination would lead to exciting new sounds. Johnny Nash himself had achieved what no Jamaican had managed: to have an international hit with a rocksteady song. He flew down to Jamaica and recorded the song “Hold Me Tight” at Byron Lee”s Federal Studios, and the song climbed to number five in both the US and the UK.

However, the people from JAD Records thought that the local musicians in Kingston were too undisciplined and that they did not keep the agreed times. Moreover, the most modern recording studios in Kingston were far behind the American ones in terms of technological development. To resolve the situation, Danny Sims asked a number of seasoned, knowledgeable and astute musicians like Harry Belafonte and “The Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin, gathered around him in New York to come down to Jamaica to learn about rocksteady and the first, primitive reggae music that was beginning to emerge. The musicians would learn to play Jamaican music and get to know Marley and the rest of the Wailers, Sims says in an interview conducted by Roger Steffens. Recording engineers from Harry Belafonte”s studio, curious musicians associated with the Atlanta record label, including the great South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, visited Jamaica for study purposes. One person Nash and Sims reportedly called on immediately was Jimmy Norman, songwriter and singer with the American vocalist group The Coasters (“Poison Ivy,” “Yakety-Yak,” “Young Blood”). The aim was to teach the young Marley all about recording techniques, starting with standing still in front of the microphone during recordings instead of dancing around like at a concert. So in the late 1960s, Bob and Rita Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, working with the JAD people on the ground in Kingston, tried to give a number of their old songs a “commercial sound” that would sell in the US. Bunny Wailer later claimed that what was recorded during the sessions was never intended to be released on album. The recordings were just demo versions to be given to record companies to listen to. This was also the case when Bob and his wife visited Nash songwriters Jimmy Norman (“Poison Ivy,” “Yakety-Yak,” “Young Blood”) and Al Pyfrom in the Bronx, New York, in 1968. They tried their hand at a three-day “jam session” that resulted in 24 minutes of recorded music. According to Marley aficionado and record collector Roger Steffens, it was pop rather than rocksteady or reggae that was recorded with the ambition that Marley would break into the American charts. This included experimenting with different sounds, such as adding a “doo-wop” style to the song “Stay With Me” and adopting the then-slow American format template for love songs for songs like “Splish for My Splash”.

Eventually, a routine was started where Bob Marley and the rest of the Wailers were recorded in Kingston with local musicians. Often a studio in Danny Sim”s guest house in Jamaica was used for rehearsals and even recording. The master tapes were then taken to New York. There, the music was removed and replaced with new music, played by the New York musicians who had “learned” the Jamaican sound. The result was recordings with the vocals recorded in Jamaica and the music recorded in New York, polished to hit the American black music charts. But just in case, Peter Tosh – the most professional and accomplished musician in the Wailers, according to Sims – was often in New York, and it is his guitar that is heard on many of the songs.

Only the songs “Mellow Mood” and “Bend Down Low” on The Wailers” own Wail”n Soul”m label were successful in the late 1960s. The pop-reggae by The Wailers that the JAD people tried to reach American listeners with – “Chances Are”, “Gonna Get You”, “Lonesome Feelings”, “Milk Shake And Potato Chips”, “Nice Time”, “Stay With Me”, “There She Goes”, “Touch Me”, “What Goes Around Comes Around”, “You Think I Have No Feelings”, “Hammer”, “Put It On”, “Rock Steady”, “Soul Almighty”, “Soul Rebel” and an unknown number more, locked away in some master tape safe – didn”t work. According to Danny Sims, they couldn”t get the American radio stations to play the songs. “The singles didn”t sound like anything else that was out there and they (the radio stations” disc jockeys) didn”t know what to do with them.” However, some of the songs, such as “Soul Rebel” and “Put It On,” reappeared as top-notch reggae songs when The Wailers were produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry in 1970-71 and on albums for Island Records in the 1970s.

Marley in Sweden

Marley went on to write songs for Johnny Nash, including “Stir It Up,” which also became a hit with Nash in 1972. One collaboration involved a 1971 film project – a total flop directed by Gunnar Höglund – in which Johnny Nash and Christina Schollin were to star. Nash hired Marley to write some of the music for the film, along with John Bundrick, and Marley spent much of 1971 in Sweden, in a house in the Stockholm suburb of Nockeby. During the summer of 1971, however, he was in Jamaica. His son Stephen was born nine months later, on 20 April 1972. In 1972, Nash released his album I Can See Clearly Now, featuring the world hit of the same name. Marley had written several of the songs on this LP: “Comma Comma”, “You Poured Sugar On Me”, “Guava Jelly” and the well-known “Stir It Up”. When Marley, Tosh and Wailer signed with Island Records owner Chris Blackwell in 1972, Blackwell ransomed all song material written by Marley and the others from JAD Records.

In 1970, the group”s collaboration with another music producer – Leslie Kong – resulted in the release of what is said to be the first LP of songs by a single reggae band. The LP album was called The Best of the Wailers, released in 1971, and was recorded at Dynamic Sound Studios and, despite the name, is not a compilation album of the group”s best songs recorded by Perry, Nash or Dodd. Instead, it”s all – at least the songs Marley himself performs – newly written material: ”Soul Shake Down Party”, ”Soul Captives”, ”Caution”, ”Cheer Up”, ”Back Out”, ”Do It Twice”. Most of the songs are believed to have been written by The Wailers together. The first CD version of the album was released in 1994 under the name Soul Captives by Lagoon

The Best Of The Wailers

The Best Of The Wailers (CD editions e.g. 1996 and 2002) is with one exception (“Back Out”) a pure rocksteady LP and not a reggae LP. Most of the songs have the typical extra beat before the ska rhythm. There is nothing of producer Lee Perry in the music, and there are the occasional fans who think this is, or would be, The Wailers” best album if only the sound had been better. The LP was released in Sweden a few years later under the name In The Beginning by Blue Mountain Music

From 1967 onwards, rocksteady began to evolve more and more towards reggae. Over a five-year period, The Wailers produced a mix of love songs and songs with a religious Rastafarian message. “Thank You Lord”, “Hammer”, “Soul Rebel”, “Duppy Conqueror”, “Small Axe”, “African Herbsman”, “Jah Is Mighty”, “Dreamland”, “Rainbow Country”, “Selassie Is The Chapel” are just a few examples of the latter. Coxsone Dodd couldn”t accept the Rastafarians, their views and appearance, so Bob, Peter and Bunny tried their own record label, Wail ”N Soul ”M Records, which only existed for a short while into 1967, but soon went bust due to the naivety of the three young artists when it came to business.

From August 1970 to April 1971, The Wailers had a very fruitful collaboration with one of the producers who helped invent and develop reggae and dub reggae – Lee “Scratch” Perry. At Scratch they met the brothers Aston “Family Man” Barrett (bass) and Carlton Barrett (drums), who subsequently became part of The Wailers and, from 1974, Bob Marley and the Wailers. When Marley, Tosh and Wailer arrived in Perry, they were completely penniless because the release of the LP The Best Of The Wailers had been delayed due to the sudden death of Lesley Kong.

The Wailers recorded a large number of songs with Perry as producer during the nine months they were able to keep up. Perry did not have his own studio at this time, but the songs were recorded at Dynamic Sounds Studio and Randy”s Studio. Many of Marley”s songs came about because he and Perry locked themselves in a room to talk. Marley had the words and the melody, Scratch knew how to organize and compass the song. “Try Me”, “My Cup”, “Soul Almighty”, “Rebel”s Hop”, “No Water”, “Reaction”, “Soul Rebel” (with a completely different piece than JAD”s).

The schism that ended the collaboration was because Perry had sold the rights to most of the songs from their collaboration cheaply to England. The original agreement was that Perry and The Wailers would share 50

In 1971 they started their own record label again – Tuff Gong, one of Bob Marley”s old nicknames. They also set up a record shop with the same name. A few years later, when Marley became world famous, Tuff Gong would become a record label with the latest technology in its recording studio. As mentioned above, composing music for Johnny Nash”s feature film took up most of Marley”s time in 1971. Some of Tuff Gong”s songs that year were “Redder Than Red”, “Lively Up Yourself”, “Trenchtown Rock” and “Guava Jelly”.

In December 1971, Bob Marley walked into Island Records” London office to convince label owner Chris Blackwell that the band could have an international breakthrough if they were given the chance to record an album in peace and quiet. The discussion ended with The Wailers borrowing $6,000 to go home to Jamaica and record an LP. The album, called Catch a Fire, really brought the band to international attention. The Wailers appeared on TV in the UK, but Catch A Fire didn”t sell well at first. Later that year (1973), The Wailers released the album Burnin” with songs like “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Duppy Conqueror”, “Small Axe” and “Get Up Stand Up”. Eric Clapton was the first artist outside the reggae world to discover Marley”s greatness, and Clapton”s cover version of “I Shot The Sheriff” – which Clapton recorded after listening through The Wailers” album Burnin” nearly 100 times to understand the rhythm and lyrics – reached number one on the US singles chart in 1974.

Without Peter and Bunny

With the album Burnin”, the touring life of the three leading Wailers members came to an end in 1974. Bunny Wailer developed a kind of stage fright and would not appear on a foreign stage for many years. Peter Tosh had his own talent to develop, and the music he presented a few years later on the albums Legalize It and Equal Rights was a heavier and more personal roots reggae than the track Marley would go on to enter. Bob Marley spent much of 1974 in the recording studio honing a new album, Natty Dread, which would develop reggae through, among other things, a faster tempo, now with the musicians of the Wailers as his backing band and with his wife Rita, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths chorusing under the name The I Threes. Judy Mowatt was also the band”s choreographer. The band consisted of guitarist Al Anderson, keyboardist Bernard Touter Harvey and percussionist Alvin Patterson along with the already established brothers Aston and Carlton Barrett on electric bass and drums. Natty Dread was released in 1975 under the band name Bob Marley and the Wailers, and was an important contribution to the band”s continued international launch. It entered the top 100 charts in both the UK and the US.

The album Natty Dread came, but only much later, to be regarded by many as the finest Marley had made, not least for the reggae ballad “No Woman, No Cry”, and the new, fast, spirited reggae that songs like “Lively up Yourself”, “Them Belly Full” and “Rebel Music” represented. Bob Marley wrote four of the nine songs on the LP, according to the album cover, and the Barrett brothers – who had the basic reggae instruments of drums and bass – were given plenty of room to experiment with the new, faster Wailers sound. The Vincent Ford (d. Dec. 28, 2008) credited with writing the song “No Woman No Cry” was a good friend of Marley”s. Marley insisted that the song was written in Ford”s apartment one night, and that Ford also co-wrote some songs on later albums, including “Crazy Baldhead”. Vincent Ford was a diabetic and wheelchair-bound man, five years older than Bob, and may well have written the song or hatched the supporting lyrics, or in any case inspired it, even if he could not arrange it. It is also known that Marley would rather give a contract to a less fortunate friend than worry about a record company he disliked making money from the song. By 1972, Bob Marley had signed with Chris Blackwell”s Island Records, and was anxious that his new songs should not fall to former Cayman Music producer Danny Sims. And if Marley claimed that someone was “a part of his life”, this meant that he was referring to someone he genuinely saw as an extremely good friend or close relative.

“No Woman No Cry” became such a golden egg in time (after Bob”s death) that a battle for the rights broke out a few years after Bob Marley”s death. The dispute ended with the estate, i.e. Rita Marley, gaining full control of the legal rights to this song. Many people have tried to give their view of how many of Marley”s songs came to be, including Vivien Goldman who wrote a study of Bob Marley. She has pointed out that Marley was a person who captured the dreams, hopes, emotions and real-life events carried by the people around him, and Vincent Ford was a real brainchild. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Ford ran a kind of soup kitchen and low-cost café for young people called Casbah in the Kingston slums. The Wailers trio of Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley stayed there almost intermittently in the evenings and nights, and Bob has testified that Ford practically saved him from starvation many times during Bob”s first years in Kingston, and it was to Ford”s soup kitchen that Bob invited fiancée Rita Anderson (Marley) when they had their first romantic dates in the fall of 1965. Bob Marley himself spent hundreds of hours alone in conversation about music, message and religion with Vincent Ford, and the song “No Woman No Cry” is often seen as the most personal lyric Marley recorded; he usually had some kind of barrier between himself and his audience – show business, religion, the rebellious, us versus them, etc., whereas “No Woman No Cry” has strong autobiographical ingredients.

The following year, Bob Marley & The Wailers released the live album Live!, recorded on the night of 18 July 1975 at the Lyceum Theatre in London, during the Natty Dread tour. Songs were also included from the studio album Burnin” and the best recorded version of “Trenchtown Rock” to date. Also included was a version of “No Woman No Cry”, this time reaching the top 40 in the UK charts.

Rastaman Vibration (1976), was the next album released by Marley via Island Records. This album has been regarded in retrospect as a reggae LP that did not contain a single mediocre song – “Positive Vibration”, “Roots, Rock Reggae”, “Johnny Was”, “Cry To Me”, “Want More”, “Crazy Baldhead”, “Who The Cap Fit”, “Night Shift”, “War”, “Rat Race”. However, none of the songs became a clear hit song. Although fans couldn”t find a single from the album to latch onto, Rastaman Vibration managed to make it into the top ten best-selling albums in the US. The song “Cry To Me”, according to reggae connoisseurs, could have been a hit song if it had only been released as a single… A new and more militant Bob Marley was presented, both in terms of song choice and album design. It was also the first Bob Marley LP to go on sale anywhere in Sweden, even in the limited selection of department stores in small towns. 1976 was actually the breakthrough year of reggae fellow Burning Spears, and reggae in general had its international breakthrough in 1976, when the Jamaican charts were closed due to political violence and crime tearing apart both the Jamaican record industry and Jamaican society that year, as the growing reggae audience became familiar with songs like Max Romeo”s “War Ina Babylon, Junior Murvin”s Police and Thieves and Peter Tosh”s Legalize It. Marley and his band worked in Jamaica for most of 1976 to perfect the LP, and the songs were mixed in Kingston”s legendary studios owned by Harry Johnson and Joe Gibbs. At the mixing tables were Sylvan Morris, Errol Thompson and other world-class music engineers.

In the midst of all this, Marley himself became a victim of the growing political violence, with regular street fights in which two politicians with diametrically opposed views on Jamaican policy (should Jamaica go for Cuba or the US in terms of future development) were backed by fully armed gangs (Tivoli and Jungle respectively) of older teenagers and young men. The band had been asked to play at a reggae festival in Kingston called Smile Jamaica, an arrangement that was probably intended to dampen tempers. The concert was scheduled for 5 December 1976, in the middle of the final stretch of the heated election campaign. Many were probably afraid that Marley – now the world”s best-known spokesman for reggae and Rastafari – would side with one camp or the other, and on the evening of 3 December a number of armed men forced their way into Marley”s home. The attack left Marley and his wife Rita with minor gunshot wounds, but manager Don Taylor and friend Lewis Griffith were seriously injured.Despite two gunshot wounds, Marley chose to perform with his band anyway on 5 December, but left the country to settle in the UK. It was an exile that lasted 18 months. During this time, mainly in London, Bob Marley & The Wailers recorded the albums Exodus (1977) and Kaya (1978), two records that were received very enthusiastically in the UK and the rest of Europe.

Marley did not set foot in Jamaica again until April 1978, when he returned to perform at the famous One Love Peace Concert (also known as Heartland Reggae), where he had Prime Minister Michael Manley and opposition leader Edward Seaga shake hands on stage – a gesture that did not, however, end the political violence between the politicians” supporters (heavily armed gangsters who controlled various parts of Kingston).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Bob Marley and The Wailers made several world tours, visiting Sweden and Gröna Lund (three times), as well as Scandinavium. From the 1978 tour, there is a double LP called Babylon by Bus. In total, they performed about 360 concerts.

In February 1977, Bob Marley suffered a toe injury during a football match with his friends. The injury, which was partly under his toenail, healed poorly for a relatively simple wound, and it soon became clear that it was getting worse rather than better. This was because cancer had previously developed in the toe. If Marley had not been injured during the match, the cancer would probably have developed unnoticed. Marley would die an untimely death from brain cancer at 11:30 a.m. local time on May 11, 1981, in a Miami hospital.

Malignant melanoma

Marley decided to see a doctor, and the diagnosis he received after a skin biopsy was malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer that almost exclusively affects fair-skinned people, and especially red-haired, freckled people with red hair, which is hardly true of Bob Marley. However, there is an increased risk of malignant melanoma for those who have been severely sunburnt as children, for those with more than 50 obvious birthmarks and for those who have a family history of the cancer. Marley”s father, who was of Anglo-Irish descent, may therefore have carried the skin cancer gene.

In both Kingston and Miami, dermatologists recommended amputation of the big toe, which Marley refused on religious grounds. One of the most important Bible verses for Rastafari believers is Leviticus 21:5, read by a Rastafarian who: “A Rastafarian shall not shave any part of his head, nor cut off his beard, nor cut the flesh of his body.” In addition, Marley claimed that he might have difficulty performing on stage with an amputated big toe. Another reason is said to be his great love of football. In the end, however, he agreed to cut off a small part of his toe, after which the cancer was considered healed.

Another tenet of Rastafarianism also influenced Marley”s decision, namely the belief that truly holy persons live on in their physical bodies. To accept death is to invite it; to deny death leads to eternal life. This belief may be why reggae stars like Marley and Peter Tosh never attended funerals and never wrote wills, which of course led to difficulties when it came to distributing inheritances. According to Bunny Wailer, Bob was also a person who liked to leave things open. Bunny believed that when Bob died, it would come out who really loved him and who wanted the money the most.

Kaya and an accelerating touring life

In April 1978, Marley returned to Jamaica to perform at the One Love Peace Concert, and later that year was awarded a Peace Medal by the United Nations. Later that year, he performed in his and every other Rastafarian”s home – Africa – for the first time. Bob Marley & The Wailers played in Kenya, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

Cancer and collapse

In 1979 the LP album Survival was released and in 1980 Uprising. By 1980, Marley”s general condition had deteriorated significantly. Medical examinations showed that the cancer in his toe had spread throughout his body, causing malignant daughter tumours in his liver and intestines. A month later, cancer was also found in his brain. In September 1980, he almost fainted during a concert in New York and the next day collapsed during his daily jog. At the hospital, doctors found that Marley”s brain tumour had grown, giving him less than a month to live. However, he would live for nearly eight more months.

Marley wanted to continue his US tour, and he and the band played a remarkable final show in Pittsburgh on September 22, 1980. Bob wanted to go on, but his wife Rita and several band members refused. The deepest believers in the band, however, had difficulty accepting that Marley, whom they saw as a saintly Rastaman, could fall ill and die. Judy Mowatt, who was on stage with Marley during his last concerts, says he sang Lord, I”ve Got to Keep On Moving over and over again even though the song wasn”t even in the repertoire. Bob had accepted that he was going to die, but Judy and the band couldn”t understand that he – one of the world”s leading rastas – was talking about death, the death of the physical body.

After his last show in Pittsburgh on September 22, 1980, Marley visited Ethiopia on one more occasion. After this, on 4 November 1980, Robert Nesta Marley is said to have been baptised in Miami by Yesehaq, Archbishop of the North American enclave of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and Marley came to belong to the same Christian church to which Ethiopia”s late Emperor Haile Selassie had belonged and been a patron of. If this had not happened, Marley would never have received an Ethiopian Christian burial. Archbishop Yesehaq, who was once sent to Jamaica to establish the Ethiopian Church there and persuade the Rastafarians to stop worshipping Selassie, has testified to how Marley tried to baptise himself several times in his home town of Kingston. However, Marley backed out each time, and this, according to Yesehaq, was because Marley was threatened. When it was revealed that he was dying, the pressure was released. Bob was baptised in the United States only in the presence of his closest relatives: his wife Rita and his four eldest children, and did not want the baptism to become public knowledge., a name meaning “light of the trinity”. The name Haile Selassie means the power of the Trinity. Bob”s new name, which thus means “the light of Selassie”, refers to Bob”s desire to spread the message of the light of Haile Selassie or ”Igzee”abihier , Amharic for Lord and Father of the Nation, throughout the world. (“The Nation” should be understood in the sense of “The World

According to Archbishop Yesehaq, there had been such pressure on Marley from other Rastafarians that even after touring Ethiopia and the rest of Africa, where he had seen greater misery and poverty than in Jamaica, he had been unwilling to return to Christianity and thereby crush the dreams of so many. He had understood, however, that Selassie had been a Christian emperor and not God or Christ. He had realised that the comments of older Jamaican Rastafarians that the Selassie who firmly rejected his alleged divinity was a sham or a Babylonian trick were just idle talk. Even Judy Mowatt and Marley”s friend, music producer Tommy Cowan, confirm Bob”s conversion. Bob”s wife Rita has not commented on the matter, but she herself has remained a Rastafarian.

Selassie Church in Jamaica

Although Marley was virtually on his deathbed, the idea that Selassie was a path to Christ had not been alien to him. The Ethiopian emperor had been so outraged that a Jamaican religious sect worshipped him as the Messiah that he authorized an Ethiopian Christian church to be established in Jamaica. The church was to lead the Rastafarians away from their worship of Selassie to recognise Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all people. Selassie and the church also wanted to end sacred herbalism. Most Rastafarians accused the Ethiopian Christian Church of abandoning the poor and needy whom the Bible wants to protect. Many also saw the Ethiopian Church as a base that sent Christian infiltrators into the Rastafarian communities.

Marley and Jesus

Tommy Cowan has pointed out that Marley has really only recorded one song that directly opposes Jesus, or at least the Jesus of white oppression, and that is the song “Get Up, Stand Up” which he co-wrote with Peter Tosh. The lyrics, which are printed on the cover of the LP album Burnin”, read, “We sick an” tired of-a your ism-schism game, Dyin” ”n” goin” to heaven in-a Jesus” name, lord, We know when we understand Almighty god is a living man”. Bob Marley”s album then slowly takes on a more general religious tone. The last two albums contain songs with a dualistic perspective: us and them, the innocent and Babylon, rich and poor, etc., as well as songs that emphasize the need for a united, peaceful Africa – not just for Africans in Africa but for all Africans in the world.

Since Bob Marley”s death, another “House” or interpretation of Rastafari has been added. The believers call themselves fullfilled Rastafarians and see Ethiopia”s late emperor Haile Selassie as a champion of Yeshua or Christ, but not divine per se. Selassie is considered to have lived a perfect Christian life, and therefore studying Selassie”s deeds, speech and life can bring one closer to God. The followers try to practice the teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The term Fulfilled Rastas is thought to have been coined by Jamaican singer Judy Mowatt after she converted from Rastafarianism to Christianity in the mid-1990s. She has also claimed that Marley should have joined the Ethiopian Christian Church earlier, but was unable to do so because of the pressure he faced as a megaphone for an entire religion. This has aroused much anger among Rastafarians in Jamaica.

Marley”s death

Five days after his baptism, Marley flew to West Germany and checked himself into controversial doctor Josef Issel”s clinic in Bavaria in a last-ditch attempt to save his life. Marley felt very bad and lost her dreadlocks due to the chemotherapy, according to eldest daughter Cedella, but still gathered the strength to play with the children, put on a Frankenstein mask and chase her sons and daughters around the house until everyone was giggling with laughter. Cedella has also said that her father never ever hit a child; he believed that it was always possible to reason with a child if you learned the child”s language. However, the cancer was too far gone and Marley decided to fly home to die in Jamaica. However, his condition became immediately life-threatening during the flight, and instead of changing planes in Miami, he was taken to hospital where he died at 11.30am local time on 11 May 1981. His last words were to his son David (Ziggy Marley): “Money can”t buy life”.

Bob Marley was given an Ethiopian Orthodox burial and is buried in the community of Nine Miles where he was born, and many people flock to his grave. Rita Marley, his widow, arranged for the release of an unfinished Bob Marley album, 1983”s Confrontation. His music lives on and he has many fans around the world.

Ziggy, Stephen, Sharon and Cedella formed the group The Melody Makers as children, practising and recording in their father”s home recording studio. Ziggy and Stephen have been reasonably successful with a number of solo albums, but the youngest half-brother Damian “Junior Gong” has been the most successful. All are Grammy award winners. In 2008, all five sons who play reggae – David(Ziggy), Stephen, Julian, Ky-Mani and Damian – performed together on stage for the first time. These days, almost the entire clan lives in Florida, mainly because it has become so dangerous for successful artists to live in Jamaica.


  1. Bob Marley
  2. Bob Marley
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