Remembering 20 years without Bob Marley
Robert Nesta Marley was born on the 6th February 1945 in the village St Ann
on Jamaica as the son of a white British seaman and a poor Jamaican girl. At
the age of ten, Bob and his mother moved to Kingston, or more
specifically the ghetto Trenchtown. Bob grew up to become a "ruder
boy", a small time street ganster, roaming the dark alleys of the city.
This is where he met Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston with whom he started
the ska band The Wailers. This was in the early sixties. Soon the famous
producer Clement Dodd "Sir Coxsone" heard about the band, and
together with him they recorded the song Simmer Down in 1963. In February
1964 it topped the singles chart.
The term "reggae" didn't exist at this time; it would take until
1968 and the Toots & The Maytals single Do the reggay. During 1965
The Wailers had no less than 5 singles on the top ten chart. This was the first
time that the ghetto made its voice heard from the sheds of Trenchtown.
It took until 1971 before the band started to see any money from their
music; they had been thoroughly ripped off until then. They started their own
label, Tuff Gong , which was the name Bob had in the ghetto. They started
working with reggae legend Lee Perry and released the album Catch a Fire.
This was a first attempt in exporting the music outside of Jamaica. Catch a Fire
also was the first reggae album not consisting of previously released singles,
but was written and produced as an album.
In 1974 the album Natty Dread came and became an instant breakthrough for
the Bob Marley. Both Tosh and Livingston had left the band after their roles diminished
behind Bob. The album contains several classics ("No Woman, No Cry")
and had very explicit lyrics. The picture on the album where Bob Marley has a
joint in his mouth made the tourist board of Jamaica nervous. While still
writing about revolution Bob Marley bought a fancy villa in the most exclusive neighborhood
of Kingston. Here he brought his sometimes criminal friends, and this caused a
great debate on Jamaica at the time.
By 1976 Bob Marley had become an important political factor, and someone
tried to have him assassinated. Seven armed men broke into his home and shot his
wife and manager. They both survived, however, and so did Marely with only a
minor shotwound. It is still not known who was behind this and as always the CIA
has been blamed. The reggae was now world famous and Jamaica was one of the
world's largest music exporters, which it still is.
In 1977 he was diagnosed with cancer in his big toe, but he choose not to
follow the doctor's advice to amputate it. He believed that his religion would
help him. In 1979 he got drastically worse and he was diagnosed with a far gone
brain tumor. Finally he caved in and underwent treatment for his cancer. His dreadlocks fell off and he spent his days tired and weak in a hospital.
Today 20 years ago, the 11th of May, 1981, he died.
Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom
Cause all I ever had, Redemption songs
All I ever had, Redemption songs
These songs of freedom, songs of freedom?
Those were the last lines in the last song on his last album
Uprising. His songs do live on and he takes his place in music next to Bob
Dylan, John Lennon and James Brown. The first superstar from the
third world still has millions of fans and he lives on in them.
Catch A Fire (1973)
Natty Dread (1975)
Rastaman Vibration (1976)
Babylon By Bus (1978)
Rebel Music (1986)
Talkin' Blues (1991)
Songs Of Freedom (1992)
Natural Mystic (1995)
Dreams Of Freedom (1997)
Songs Of Freedom (1999 reissue)
Chant Down Babylon (1999)
Sun Is Shining (1999)