Bob Marley

Bob Marley born Robert Nesta Marley on 06 February was a Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter, musician and guitarist. His musical aspirations started at primary school. Marley and childhood friend Neville Livingston (later known as Bunny Wailer) started playing music together while at Stepney Primary and Junior High School.

However, Marley’s mother, Cedella Booker was uncertain about the prospects of Marley’s career and she encouraged him to take up a position as a welder’s apprentice at the age of 14. He quit several months later and took up pursuing his musical aspirations again. This led him to record several singles at the age of 16. However, these singles failed to find popular appeal and Marley was paid $20 for his work.

It was in 1963, that the band, The Wailers, consisting of Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and others, was born. 

By the mid 60s, the jaunty ska beat had metamorphosed into the slower paced rock steady sound, which soon gave way to Jamaica’s signature reggae rhythm around 1968. Reggae lyrics became characteristically imbued with Rastafarian beliefs that were essential to reggae’s development.

The same year Booker relocated to the US, Marley married Rita Anderson and joined Booker in the US. There, Marley worked as a DuPont lab assistant and on an assembly line at a Chrysler plant under the alias Donald Marley.

In his absence from Jamaica, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I visited Jamaica. His Majesty is revered as Lord and Savior, according to Rastafarian beliefs and his visit to Jamaica had a profound impact upon Anderson and Marley. Marley soon adopted the Rastafarian way of life and began wearing his hair in dreadlocks.

Upon Marley’s return to Jamaica, The Wailers established the Wail’N Soul’M label/record shop in front of his aunt’s Trench Town home but due to lack of resources, the Wailers dissolved Wail’N Soul’M in 1968.

It was a chance visit to the London offices of Island Records that resulted in The Wailers receiving financial aid to record an album. And in 1973, The Wailers released their album “Catch a Fire.”
Following the successful Catch a Fire tour the Wailers promptly recorded their second album, “Burnin”, which was released in October 1973. Featuring some of Bob’s most celebrated songs “Burnin” introduced their timeless anthem of insurgency “Get Up Stand Up” and “I Shot The Sheriff.”

Marley released a third album, Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration in 1974 and 1978 respectively. Rastaman Vibration included the song “War”, adapted from a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 1963, delivered by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I. Songs like "War” are examples of how reggae music that praised the liberation war effort in Africa.
Then Marley lived in London for quite some times; there he recorded the albums Exodus released in 1977 and Kaya released in 1978. In Exodus, Marley advocates for the literal return to Africa. It speaks of the need to fulfil the aspirations of all peoples of African descent by moving, metaphorically or literally, to Africa, which is to all intents and purposes the bona fide possession of the Black man. Marley sings of this pan-African return to the fatherland in their songs.  He equally emphasises the need to leave "Babylon", the place of captivity where Black people face segregation rather than integration.

At the end of 1978 Bob made his first trip to Africa, visiting Kenya and Ethiopia. And in 1979, Marley released Survival, his ninth album. Survival is a politically progressive work championing pan-African solidarity. The album also included “Africa Unite” and “Zimbabwe”, the latter an anthem for the soon-to-be liberated colony of Rhodesia. He makes specific mention of the need to rid Africa of colonial domination in the song “Zimbabwe.” In April 1980, Marley and the Wailers performed at Zimbabwe’s official Independence Ceremony at the invitation of the country’s newly elected president Robert Mugabe. This profound honour reconfirmed the importance of Marley and the Wailers throughout the African Diaspora and reggae’s significance as a unifying and liberating force.

Additionally, in his posthumously released album, Confrontation, the pan-African scope of another of Marley's song, "Buffalo Soldier", resides in “the vividness of this historical account of an African immigrant whose forced labour built the American nation. It is basically the account of the plight of the Negro in the New World. "Yes, he was stolen from Africa/Brought to America/Fighting in arrival/Fighting for survival/Driven from the mainland/To the heart of the Caribbean." Thus, the "Dreadlocked Rasta" is a metaphorical buffalo and soldier captured and exploited to build the American State. The mention of "Africa", "America", "Jamaica" and the "Caribbean" reveals the story as an allegorical account of Black people in their Diaspora in the New World.”

In 1977, Marley learned that he had cancer that had taken root in his big toe. He fought the disease for eight months, but he succumbed to his cancer in a Miami hospital on May 11, 1981.
In April 1981, Marley was awarded Jamaica’s third highest honour, the Order of Merit, for his outstanding contribution to his country’s culture. Ten days his death, he was given a state funeral as the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley O.M. by the Jamaican government. Thousands of spectators lined the streets to observe the procession of cars that wound its way from Kingston to Marley’s final resting place, a mausoleum in his birthplace of Nine Miles. The Bob Marley and the Wailers legend lives on, however, and thirty-five years after Marley’s death, his music remains as vital as ever in its celebration of life and embodiment of struggle.


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