Bob Marley Biography
Robert Nesta Marley, OM (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981), better known as Bob Marley, was a Jamaican singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He is the most widely known performer of reggae music, and is famous for having popularized the genre outside Jamaica. A faithful Rastafari, Marley is regarded by many as a prophet of the religion, as well as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
His best known songs are a mixture of reggae, rock, and rhythm and blues, and include "I Shot the Sheriff", made famous in 1974 by Eric Clapton, which raised Marley's international profile, "No Woman No Cry", "Exodus", "Could You Be Loved", "Jamming","Redemption Song" and one of his most famous songs, "One Love". His posthumous album Legend (1984) became the best-selling reggae album ever, with sales of more than 12 million copies.
Bob Marley was born on Tuesday, February 6th, 1945 in the small village of Nine Miles in Saint Ann, Jamaica. His father, Norval Sinclair Marley, was a white Jamaican born in 1895 to British parents from Sussex. Norval was a Marine officer and captain, as well as a plantation overseer, when he married Cedella Booker, an eighteen-year-old black Jamaican. Norval provided financial support for his wife and child, but seldom saw them, as he was often away on trips. Bob was ten years old when Norval died of a heart attack in 1955 at age 60.
A mulatto, Bob Marley faced questions about his own racial identity throughout his life. He reflected:
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, performed backup 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 in the Billboard charts Top Ten.
In December 1976, two days before "Smile Jamaica", a free concert organized by 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 only minor injuries 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 Marley. Nonetheless, the concert proceeded, and an injured Marley performed as scheduled.
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", and also "One Love", 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 travelling 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.
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. 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,
Bob Marley was a member of the Rastafari movement, whose culture was a key element in the development of reggae. Bob Marley became the leading proponent of the Rastafari, taking their music out of the socially deprived areas of Jamaica and onto the international music scene.
Now considered a "rasta" legend, Marley's adoption of the characteristic Rastafarian dreadlocks and famous use of marijuana as a sacred sacrament in the late sixties were an integral part of his persona. He is said to have entered every performance proclaiming the divinity of Jah Rastafari.
Many of Marley's songs contained Biblical references, sometimes using wordplay to fuse activism and religion, as in "Revolution" and "Revelation":
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. His final words to his son Ziggy were "Money can't buy life". Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica, which combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafari. He was buried in a crypt near his birthplace with his Gibson Les Paul, a soccer ball, a marijuana bud, and a Bible. A month before his death, he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit.
Bob Marley had 13 children: three with his wife Rita, two adopted from Rita's previous relationships, and the remaining eight with separate women. His children are, in order of birth:
Bob Marley's music has continuously grown in popularity in the years since his death, providing a stream of revenue for his estate and affording him a mythical status in 20th century music history. He remains enormously popular and well-known all over the world, particularly so in Africa. 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, the same year that Marley won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a feature-length documentary about his life by Jeremy Marre, Rebel Music, was nominated for the Best Long Form Music Video documentary at the Grammies. It won various other awards. With contributions from Rita, the Wailers, and Marley's lovers and children, it tells much of the story too in his own words.
In February 2006, a Brooklyn community board voted to rename a portion of Church Avenue, which runs through several heavily populated Caribbean-American neighbourhoods, after Bob Marley, pending approval of the New York City Council.
In January 2005, it was reported that Rita Marley was planning to have her late husband's remains exhumed and reburied in Shashamane, Ethiopia. This announcement was met with great resistance in Jamaica, with critics arguing that his life was a testament to the unique Jamaican culture. Marley's 60th birthday celebration on February 6, 2005 was celebrated in Shashamane, having previously always been held in Jamaica. Later that year, Rita Marley denied having made such plans.
For a detailed listing of albums by Bob Marley & the Wailers, see Bob Marley & The Wailers discography.