Bob Marley the True Rastafari
Bob Marley (Robert Nesta Marley) was born on 6 February 1945 in
Nine Miles in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica. His father (Norval
Sinclair Marley) was a English marine-officer and his mother (Cedella
'Ciddy'Malcom)was a native Jamaican who lived in Rhoden Hall. After
Bob was born, his father left his mother.
When Bob was five, his father took him to Kingston. Oneyear later
Bob saw his mother again. A couple of years later Bob and his mother
moved to Trench Town (West-Kingston) because his mother was looking
for a job. Bob Marley loved the fast life in the big city, as well as
the music of Fats Domino, Ray Charles he heard. Not much later Bob got
his nickname Tuff Gong. Meanwhile Jamaican musicians were working on
their own style of music. They invented ska and this music became very
popular in Jamaica.
At age 16 Bob wanted to record an album. Like other Jamaican kids
he saw the music as an escape of the though reality. Jimmy Cliff, a
local musician (only 14 years old), had already made a few (hit)
singles and introduced Bob to producer Leslie Kong. Bob made his first
single Judge Not in 1961, but this record and the next one One More
Cup Of Coffee (1962) didn't do well. Bob left Kong after he hadn't
received a paycheck of Lesly Kong.
In 1964 Peter (McIn)Tosh, Bunny Livingstone (alias Bunny Wailer),
Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, Cherry, Constantine 'Dream Vision'
Walker and Bob Marley formed the band The Wailers. Cherry and Junior
left the band after a few recording sessions. By the recording of
their songs they used ska musicians of Coxsone Dodd's Studio One. Bob
Marley acted as the leader of the band and he wrote most of the
material. The Wailers became very popular in 1965: they played full
houses. On the Coxsone-label they recorded several hits: Simmer Down,
It Hurts To Be Alone, Rule Them Rudie.
It was 10 February 1966 when Bob Marley married Rita Anderson.
The day after, Bob went to the United States to visit his mother and
her new husband. During Bob's stay in the States, Beverly Kelso left
The Wailers and Rita and her cousin Dream joined the band. The Wailers
changed their music from ska to rocksteady. The next year (the same
year Bob's first child, Cedella, was born) the band left Coxsone and
set up their own record label Wail 'N Soul 'M Record, also known as
Wailing Souls, Wail 'M Soul 'M. Their first single from this label was
Bend Down Low/Mellow Mood. At the end of that year, that same label
was put an end to.
In 1968 Bob's first son, David (better known as Ziggy) was born.
That same year Bob met Jonny Nash. The Wailers recorded songs for the
record company JAD Records. In 1970 The Upsetters joined The Wailers:
Aston 'Family Man' Barret played bass and his brother Carlton played
the drums. The band set up a new label Tuff Gong and the first single
on that label was Run For Cover. It went uphill with the band and
their own label. They made hit after hit.
In December 1971 Bob went to Chris Blackwell of Island Records
and he asked Chris if the band could get a record deal. Chris gave
them 8,000 pounds (in advance) to make an album. It was a
revolutionary move: for the first time a reggae band had access to the
best recording facilities and they were treated in much the same way
as, say, a rock group. Before The Wailers signed to Island it was
considered that reggae sold only singles and cheap compilation albums.
This way The Wailers made the first reggae-album Catch A Fire. The
band makes successful tours through the U.K. and the States. The
follow-up album was "Island was Burnin'" and it included some of the
band's older songs together with tracks like "Get Up Stand Up" and "I
Shot The Sheriff".
The Wailers and Bob Marley became more popular after Eric Clapton
recorded "I Shot The Sheriff". His version hit number one in the U.S.
Singles Chart. With the release of Natty Dread the band lined up as
Bob Marley & The Wailers. In the summer of 1975 the band were touring
through Europe. Among the concerts were two shows at the Lyceum
Ballroom in London. These two concerts are remembered as highlights of
the decade. The shows were recorded on Live and it made the charts.
The, on this album appearing, live-version of "No Woman No Cry" became
a very big hit in the whole world. By that time Peter Tosh and Bunny
Livingstone had officially left the band to pursue their own solo
careers. Lead-guitar player Al Anderson and keyboard player Bernard
'Touter' Harvey joined the band; these two guys were succeeded by
Junior Marvin (1977) and Tyrone Downie.
In the year 1976 the reggae-mania boomed in the States. Rolling
Stone Magazine named Bob Marley & The Wailers 'Band of the year' in
their February issue. Rastaman Vibration, cracked the American charts,
but didn't do too well in The Netherlands. The album included a track
called "War" of which the lyrics were taken from a speech by Emperor
Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. On 3 December 1976 a tragedy happened. Six
armed men shot at Bob Marley, his wife, the Wailers manager Don Taylor
and Don Kinsey. Two days later Bob performed at the Smile Jamaica
concert in Kingston, after which he flew to the U.K. The Wailers
followed Bob and they recorded Exodus in 1977. With this album Bob
Marley's international statusm of superstar was established. In the
U.K. Bob Marley had an audience of prince royal Asfa Wossan
(grandchild of Emperor Haile Selassie) at which Bob received a very
important ring: Jah Rasafari (owned by the Ethiopian emperor). In May
of the same year Bob found out that he had cancer. A toe had to be
amputated, but Bob refused because that would have been against his
beliefs of the Rastafari. On 20 July 1977 the remaining concerts of
the Exodus Tour were canceled.
The following year the band capitalized on their chart success
with the release of Kaya, an album which hit number four in the UK
Chart the week of release. The album showed Bob in a different mood:
love songs and homage's to the power of ganja (marijuana). The
rastafari smoke ganja to come closer to Jah (God). In April 1978 Bob
Marley returned to Jamaica to perform on the One Love Peace Concert in
front of the Prime Minister Michael Manley and Leader of the Opposite
Edward Seaga. Bob arranged a meeting on stage between the two rivals.
Later that year Bob got the Piece Medal of the Third World from the
United Nations. He also visited Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe)
for the first time in his life.
Bob Marley & The Wailers continued their popular status with
Babylon By Bus (registration of a concert in Paris) and Survival. At
the end of the seventies Bob Marley & The Wailers were the most
important band on the road and they broke the festival records on the
European continent. Their new Uprising album entered every chart in
Europe. The band was even planning a new American tour, with Stevie
Wonder, for the winter of 1980. Bob's health went downhill but he had
the doctor's approval to start the American tour, which started in
Boston in September. During a concert in New York Bob Marley almost
fainted. The next morning, on 21 September 1980, he went jogging with
Skilly Cole in Central Park. Bob collapsed and was taken back to the
hotel. Several days later it became clear that Bob had a brain tumor
and he had, according to the doctors, not even a month to live. Rita
Marley wanted the tour to be canceled, but Bob wanted to continue the
tour. So he played a marvelous show in Pittsburgh. But Rita couldn't
agree with Bob's decision to continue and on 23 September the tour was
Bob was transported from Miami to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center in New York. There, the doctor's diagnosed cancer in the
brain, lung and stomach. Bob was transported back to Miami, were he
was baptized Berhane Selassie in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (a
Christian church) on 4 November 1980. Five days later, in a last
attempt to save Bob's life, he flew to a controversial treatment
center in Germany. In February 1981 Bob had his 36th anniversary in
the German clinic. Three months later, on 11 May 1981, Bob died in a
hospital in Miami.
Bob Marley's funeral in Jamaica on 21 May 1981 could be compared
with one of a king. Hundreds of thousands of people (including the
Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition) visited the funeral
to celebrate the fact that Bob Marley was a real 'Jah Rastafari' after
all. After the funeral Bob Marley's body was taken to his birthplace
were it rests in a mausoleum. The mausoleum became a real place of
pilgrimage in the years after.
A month before Bob's death, he was awarded Jamaica's Order Of
Merit, the nation's third highest honor, in recognition of his
outstanding contribution to the country's culture. The prophet Gad
insisted (before Marley's death) to become the owner of the ring Jah
Rasafari. The ring, however, disappeard miraculously and nobody has
seen the ring again. Bob Marley's mother says that the ring went back
to the place of origin.
In Montego Bay, Jamaica, a Bob Marley (Performance) Center had
been set up. For a couple of years the Sunsplash Festival has been
In the spring of 1983 the Confrontation album had been released.
It contained unreleased songs, reshaped songs and songs that had only
been released in Jamaica. The song Buffalo Soldier became a posthumous
hit. In 1984 Legend was released. Thanks to the hit One Love/People
Get Ready this beautiful album became a worldwide bestseller. Bob
Marley & The Wailers were 'back to live'. After Bob Marley's death a
special concert took place in Kingston to commemorate Bob Marley.
Several artist, among which Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers and the
Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra performed and raised money to establish
a Bob Marley Entertainment Complex in Kingston.