It has been 40 years since the artist behind “One Love” passed on. His legacy, however, remains vibrant.
Bob Marley introduced the world at large to reggae music. He was one of the few artists from a third world country to ever reach international super-stardom. His songs of love, faith, and unity touched the lives of millions. Bob Marley had a positive message to relay; a message unrelated to the greed and commercialism that infests most music.
Throughout his short-lived career he overcame many obstacles to become one of the most influential artists in music history. Robert Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945 in St. Ann, Jamaica. Bob grew up in the rural mountainous terrain of Nine Miles, Jamaica. When Bob was five his father, Norvol Marley left his mother, Cidella Malcom and took him to Kingston with a promise of him attending school. Eighteen months later, to Cidella’s horror, Bob was not in school but living with an elderly couple. Bob and his single mother moved back to Nine Miles and his upbringing amongst the parish of St. Anne influenced his talent in storytelling.
At the young age of 14 Bob reluctantly took a position as a welders apprentice in trench town, a ghetto of Kingston literally built upon a sewage trench.
Integrating into his new violent street life took skill. His self defense methods were tested and earned himself the proud nickname, Tuff Gong.
Bob Marley lived the fast paced life in Kingston. He was heavily influenced by the music of Fats Domino and Ray Charles which were very popular in Jamaica at the time. With an emerging Jamaican music scene and a string of collaborations, Bob started his music career at the impressionable age of sixteen. Like many Jamaican kids, he saw music as an escape from the harsh reality of the ghetto he lived in. He recorded his first single “Judge Not” in 1961.
As the years went by Bob married Rita Marley in 1966 and moved to Delaware, U.S. to pursue the “blue collar American dream.”
Focused on raising his family and working an assembly line under the alias Donald Marley. His music put aside, Bob was experiencing discrimination on a daily basis. While in the United Sates, Bob’s life shifting devotion to Rastafarianism caused him to reflect and his priorities shifted yet again. He grew out his dreadlocks, moved back to Jamaica, and started up “The Wailing Wailers.”
At that time, reggae was not known and not always as popular like it has been in recent decades. Global society in the 1960’s and 70’s was widely racist towards blacks and the concept of equality far from equal for Bob. He used his music to rebel while he fought against oppression and injustice. As his platform of love and unity strengthened so did his influence. Many people fighting the oppression of the time would turn to his music as an escape, a way to visualize a different way.
This has made many of his songs “timeless” and retains many people’s belief in his message today.
You can still see Marley’s wide spread influence almost everywhere you go, an icon that for some, represents reggae as a whole. The reggae genera and the music most reggae musicians are putting out there today is in one way or another tied to his ledged. Marley’s influence is also echoed beyond the reggae genera and throughout the whole music industry, his style imitated and covered by folk, jazz, rock and country artists.
One of the most important messages Bob Marley sends through his music is the commonalities of the human race, we are one, and that the judgment of others for petty differences causes most of the suffering in the world. Some of Marley’s many songs about prejudice and discrimination are “One Love,” “War,” “Buffalo Soldier,” “Slave Driver,” and “Redemption Song.”
He adamantly stood for the medical, spiritual, and intellectual benefits of marijuana and is now a worldwide symbol for “the herb.”
“Now, when you smoke, it make you cool, you know? It make you stimulate your mind, and make you sit down and meditate. Instead of get foolish, you sit down and you can meditate and be someone. Rum teach to you be a drunkard, and herb teach you to be someone.”
Bob Marley was a freedom fighter and music was his genius weapon.
He fought against oppression with intent to gain freedom for himself and his community. His stardom, took that message into the infinite form of timeless music and spread across the globe. He is now a symbol of freedom, especially in the third world and underdeveloped countries of Africa. Marley was a strong believer in peace, unity, and equality, as he called it “one love”.
Although Bob wanted to keep politics at a distance, his message and stardom brought it to the forefront of his life. While preparing for “Smile Jamaica,” a concert with intent to unite the polarities of Jamaican politics, a brutal assassination attempt was made on his, Rita’s, and his managers Don Taylor’s lives. While they were all shot at least once by the gun men, Bob and Rita went on to defiantly perform at Smile Jamaica and Don Taylor was airlifted to Miami’s Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for the removal of a bullet lodged against his spinal cord.
Bob exiled himself from Jamaica and took his family to London.
His influence grew ever more profound and when he finally returned to Jamaica he went with purpose. The “One Love” concert was set to unify the two political parties and at the end Bob famously invited the leaders of both to the stage.
“I just want to shake hands and show the people that we’re gonna make it right, we’re gonna unite, we’re gonna make it right, we’ve got to unite. The moon is right over my head, and I give my love instead. The moon was right above my head, and I give my love instead”
Bob’s message resounded all over the world and festered in the hearts of Zimbabwe freedom fighters while it was the British colony of Rhodesia. During a concert there that, unknown to The Wailers, was for special invite only, police used tear gas to control the crowds that broke down and stampeded through the gates to see Marley on stage. Most members of the band ran for cover, but he returned to the stage to perform “Zimbabwe”, his words piercing through the chaos: “to divide and rule could only tear us apart, in every man chest, there beats a heart. So soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionaries and I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries.”
Bob Marley’s life was taken by a cancer that was a result of a football (soccer) injury in his big toe.
Once he fully accepted his cancer it took him within 6 months. One month before his passing he was given one of Jamaica’s highest honors, the Order of Merit, for his widespread contribution to his country’s way of life. The world mourned his death and his funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of his supporters. His final resting place was the same as his first, Nine Miles, Jamaica.
Bob’s musical legacy was left to his family and many of them followed in his infamous footsteps and are now successful artists themselves. Almost all are involved with the family business and continue to spread his message of love, peace, and Rastafarian principals to this present day.