It’s been 38 years since Bob Marley died, but his legacy is larger than ever.
History has it that “Money can’t buy life” were the last words late music legend, Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley uttered to his son, Ziggy as the 36 year-old Jamaican passed away on May 11, 1981 at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, USA surrounded by members of his family including his weeping mother, Cedelar Booker after his long battle with cancer and brain tumor.
At the time of his death, the world shook with the news but comforted by the illustrious legacy the iconic figure left where he used his music as a tool to fight societal ills as well making it an avenue to unite the human race.
With 42 official releases, plus countless photos and videos of him captured both on and off the stage, the story of Bob Marley is one of the most chronicled in all of music history.
Robert Nesta Marley, OM (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981) was a Jamaican singer and songwriter. Considered one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by blending elements of reggae, ska, and rocksteady, as well as forging a smooth and distinctive vocal and songwriting style. Marley’s contributions to music increased the visibility of Jamaican music worldwide, and made him a global figure in popular culture for over a decade.
EARLY LIFE AND MUSICAL CAREER.
Born in Nine Mile, British Jamaica, Marley began his professional musical career in 1963, after forming Bob Marley & The Wailers. The group released its debut studio album The Wailing Wailers in 1965, which contained the single “One Love/People Get Ready”; the song was immensely popular, peaking in the top five on worldwide music charts, and established the group as a rising figure in reggae. The Wailers subsequently released eleven further studio albums; while initially employing louder instrumentation and singing, the group began engaging in rhythmic-based song construction in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which coincided with the singer’s conversion to Rastafarianism. During this period Marley relocated to London, and the group typified their musical shift with the release of the album The Best of The Wailers (1971).
The group attained international success after the release of the albums Catch a Fire and Burnin’ (both 1973), and forged a reputation as touring artists. A year later the Wailers disbanded, and Marley went on to release his solo material under the band’s name. His debut studio album Natty Dread (1974) received positive reception, as did its follow-up Rastaman Vibration (1976). A few months after the album’s release Marley survived an assassination attempt at his home in Jamaica, which prompted him to permanently relocate to London soon afterward. There he recorded the album Exodus (1977); it incorporated elements of blues, soul, and British rock, enjoyed widespread commercial success, and is widely considered one of the best albums of all time.
Over the course of his career Marley became known as a Rastafari icon, and the singer sought to infuse his music with a sense of spirituality. He is also considered a global symbol of Jamaican culture and identity, and was controversial in his outspoken support for the legalization of marijuana, while he also advocated for Pan-Africanism.
Bob Marley married Alpharita Constantia “Rita” Anderson in Kingston, Jamaica, on 10 February 1966. Marley had many children: four with his wife Rita, two adopted from Rita’s previous relationships, and several others with different women. The Bob Marley official website acknowledges 11 children.
Those listed on the official site are:
1. Sharon, born 23 November 1964, daughter of Rita from a previous relationship but then adopted by Marley after his marriage with Rita
2. Cedella born 23 August 1967, to Rita
3. David “Ziggy”, born 17 October 1968, to Rita
4. Stephen, born 20 April 1972, to Rita
5. Robert “Robbie”, born 16 May 1972, to Pat Williams
6. Rohan, born 19 May 1972, to Janet Hunt
7. Karen, born 1973 to Janet Bowen
8. Stephanie, born 17 August 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 4 June 1975, to Lucy Pounder
10. Ky-Mani, born 26 February 1976, to Anita Belnavis
11. Damian, born 21 July 1978, to Cindy Breakspeare
ILLNESS AND DEATH
In 1977, Marley was diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma; he died as a result of the illness in 1981. His fans around the world expressed their grief, and he received a state funeral in Jamaica. The greatest hits album Legend was released in 1984, and subsequently became the best-selling reggae album of all-time. Marley also ranks as one of the best-selling music artists of all-time, with estimated sales of more than 75 million records worldwide, while his sound and style have influenced artists of various genres. He was posthumously honored by Jamaica soon after his death, as he was designated the nation’s Order of Merit award.
Bob Marley was a member for some years of the Rastafari movement, whose culture was a key element in the development of reggae. He became an ardent proponent of Rastafari, taking its music out of the socially deprived areas of Jamaica and onto the international music scene. He once gave the following response, which was typical, to a question put to him during a recorded interview:
Interviewer: “Can you tell the people what it means being a Rastafarian?”
Marley: “I would say to the people, Be still, and know that His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is the Almighty. Now, the Bible seh so, Babylon newspaper seh so, and I and I the children seh so. Yunno? So I don’t see how much more reveal our people want. Wha’ dem want? a white god, well God come black. True true.”
Marley was a Pan-Africanist and believed in the unity of African people worldwide. His beliefs were rooted in his Rastafari religious beliefs. He was substantially inspired by Marcus Garvey, and had anti-imperialist and pan-Africanist themes in many of his songs, such as “Zimbabwe”, “Exodus”, “Survival”, “Blackman Redemption”, and “Redemption Song”. “Redemption Song” draws influence from a speech given by Marcus Garvey in Nova Scotia, 1937. Marley held that independence of African countries from European domination was a victory for all those in the African diaspora. In the song “Africa Unite”, he sings of a desire for all peoples of the African diaspora to come together and fight against “Babylon”; similarly, in the song “Zimbabwe”, he marks the liberation of the whole continent of Africa, and evokes calls for unity between all Africans, both within and outside Africa.
May his soul continue to rest in Peace.