Bob Marley Biography
A biographical account of the Life, Music and Legacy of the Reggae superstar Bob Marley.
On February 6, 1945, a Jamaican legend was born. His name was Robert Nesta Marley, affectionately called 'Bob'. The son of Captain Norval Marley and a young Jamaican girl Cedalla Booker, Bob grew up in the hills of Nine Miles, St. Ann, north of Jamaica. A man of humble beginnings, with a guitar in his hands, he made the world stop to listen to the heartbeat of a nation. And he not only made them listen, but made them move to the enchanting Reggae beat.
His move to Trench Town (western Kingston) in his early teens, started the journey on the road to his phenomenal musical success. There he was exposed to the music of Ray Charles and Fats Domino. The seed was planted for the growth of a career in music. With his friend Neville Livingston ('Bunny'), they enrolled in a music class tutored by a famous Jamaican singer, Joe Higgs. There they met Peter MacIntosh and the three became close friends. At sixteen, he was introduced to a local record producer Leslie Kong and he recorded his first single "Judge Not" which was not successful. After this failure Bob and Bunny came together with other friends to form the group - Wailing Wailers. Then in partnership with producer Clemet Dodd of the record company Coxcone, their first song, "Simmer Down" was recorded. This became a hit in Jamaica largely due to the popularity of Ska music at that time.
On February 10, 1966, Bob married his longtime sweetheart, Rita Anderson and later went to the United States to earn some money to finance his music. When he returned, the Wailing Wailers made a transition from Ska music to Rock Steady. This created conflicts with the Coxsone label and so the Wailing Wailers formed their own label, Wail 'N' Soul and changed their name to simply, the Wailers.
By 1970, the Wailers became very popular throughout the Caribbean and a second and even more successful Tuff Gong label was formed. Their international career was launched when they met Johnny Nash and accompanied him to London and Sweden. While in London, they were strapped for cash and so Bob contacted Mr. Chris Blackwell of Island Records for a possible record deal. But, his fame had preceded him and the group was signed on the spot. They recorded their first album "Catch a Fire" for Island Records, which was one of the first Reggae albums. This was the first of many successful albums to be recorded by Bob and the Wailers.
In 1973 the Wailers went on a tour to the US and again their fame preceded them. They were fired from their opening spot after four shows when it was realized that they were more popular with the audience than the band they opened for. However, they were able to do a live concert broadcast for the radio station KSAN-FM. Later that year they released there second album "Burnin" which featured songs such as "I Shot the Sheriff" which was later recorded by Eric Clapton and "Get up, Stand up".
In 1975, they released their third album "Natty Dread", which features the timeless classic "No Woman No Cry". Later, the group's name was changed to Bob Marley and the Wailers when original members Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh decided to go solo. Eventually new backing vocals were added in the persons of Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffith, who called themselves, the I-threes.
In 1976, Rolling Stone named Bob and the Wailers "Band of the Year" after the release of their fourth album "Rasta Man Vibrations". The album "Exodus" was released the following year and it went to the number one spot on the music charts in many countries in Europe. In 1999, this album would be named the "Album of the Century" by Time Magazine.
While on his European tour, Bob injured his toe while playing his favorite sport, football (soccer). It was later diagnosed as cancerous but because of his Rastafarian faith, he refused to amputate it. Despite his illness, he continued to do what he loved, music, and in 1978, he released "Kaya" which had a different flavor featuring mostly love songs. Later that year he returned to Jamaica and on June 15, was awarded the Peace Medal of the Third World from the United Nations due to his attempts to put an end to partisan war between the two major political parties of Jamaica. This he did through his songs and a Peace concert where he got the leaders of both political parties to shake hands on stage. The group then released their second live album " Babylon by Bus" and later " Survival".
Bob received special honor when he was asked by the Zimbabwean government to perform at the country's independence celebration. The song "Zimbabwe" was written in tribute. By 1980, Bob's health was deteriorating and during a tour of the US, he collapsed. Against the advice of his doctors, he performed in Pittsburgh but that was to be his last performance. He went to Germany for treatment where celebrated his last birthday. The treatment proved unsuccessful and at his request he began his journey back to his homeland, Jamaica. But he did not make it. On May 11, 1981, Bob died in a Miami Hospital.
Jamaican mourned the loss of a "son of the soil" who captivated the world with his music. But his legacy lives on the songs he has left behind, songs which tell of the struggle of a people and that with love there can be unity.
" One Love, One heart, lets get together and feel alright…"