Bob Marley

Bob Marley

This is Biography Robert Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945, in the village of Rodhen Hall, St. Ann district, on Jamaica’s north coast. He is the fruit of the relationship between Norman Marley, a captain in the British army, and Cedella Booker, a Jamaican.

My father was white, my mother black, I’m in the middle, I’m nothing” – was his favourite answer when asked if he felt like a prophet or a liberator – “all I have is Jah. So I don’t speak for the liberation of whites or blacks, but for the creator’.

Some critics, including Stephen Davis, author of a biography, have argued that for many years Marley lived as an orphan and that this very condition is the key to understanding an uncommon poetic sensibility (in interviews, the singer has always been explicit about the negativity of his childhood).

I never had a father never met him, my mother made sacrifices to make me study. But I have no culture. Only inspiration. If I had been educated, I would also be a fool”; “My father was… like those stories you read, slave stories: the white man who takes the black woman and gets her pregnant”; “I never had a father and mother.

I grew up with the ghetto boys. From these words emerge two fundamental concepts of the Rasta creed: hatred towards Babylon – hell on earth, the white western world, the oppressive society as opposed to Ethiopia, the motherland that one day will welcome the people of Jah, the Rasta God – and towards the culture imposed by the regime.

It is in the Trenchtown ghetto, among the Israelites – as the inhabitants of the slums called themselves, identifying themselves with the twelve tribes of the Old Testament – that the young Marley cultivates his rebellion, even if music is not yet the instrument chosen to convey it.

When Marley discovered the provocative rock of Elvis Presley, the soul of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and the country of Jim Reeves, he decided to make his own guitar. The improvised instrument remained a faithful friend until he met Peter Tosh, who owned an old, beat-up acoustic guitar. Marley, Tosh and Neville O’Riley Livingston formed the first nucleus of the ‘Wailers’ (meaning ‘those who complain’).

“I took the name from the Bible. Almost on every page there are stories of people complaining. And then, the children are always crying, as if they are demanding justice.” It is from this moment that Marley’s music enters into symbiosis with the history of the Jamaican people.

Bob Marley’s exodus at the head of Jah’s people started thanks to the flair of Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, the main reggae exporter in the world. To do this, the idea was to ‘westernise’ the sound with the use of guitars and rock flavours, just enough so as not to distort the message. Especially for Jamaicans, reggae is a style that aims to liberate the body and spirit.

The roots of reggae lie in the slavery of the people of Jamaica. When Christopher Columbus landed on the north coast of St. Ann on his second voyage to the New World, he was welcomed by the Arawak Indians, a peaceful people with a rich heritage of song and dance.

Bob Marley & The Wailers continued to expand their success, first with ‘Babylon By Bus’ (a recording of a concert in Paris), then with ‘Survival’. By the end of the seventies, Bob Marley And The Wailers were the most popular band on the world music scene, breaking records for record sales in Europe. Their new album, ‘Uprising’, entered every European chart.

However, Bob’s health was deteriorating and during a concert in New York, he almost fainted. The next morning, 21 September 1980, Bob went jogging with Skilly Cole in Central Park. Bob collapsed and was taken back to his hotel. A few days later it was discovered that Bob had a brain tumour and that, according to the doctors, he had no more than a month to live.

Rita Marley, his wife, wanted the tour to be cancelled, but Bob himself insisted very much to continue. So he gave a wonderful concert in Pittsburgh. But Rita couldn’t agree with Bob’s decision and on the 23rd of September the tour was definitely cancelled.

Bob was transported from Miami to the Memorial Sloan-Kettring Cancer Center in New York. There doctors diagnosed brain, lung and stomach cancer. Bob was transported back to Miami, where he was baptised Berhane Selassie in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (a Christian church) on 4 November 1980.

Five days later, in a last desperate attempt to save his life, Bob was transported to a treatment centre in Germany. In the same German hospital Bob spent his 36th birthday. Three months later, on 11 May 1981, Bob died in a Miami hospital.

Bob Marley’s funeral in Jamaica on 21 May 1981 could be compared to the funeral of a king. Hundreds of thousands of people (including the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition) attended the funeral. After the funeral, the body was taken to its birthplace, where it remains today in a mausoleum that has become a place of pilgrimage for people all over the world.


1976: Band of The Year according to Rolling Stone.
1981: Awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit.
1994: Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
2001: Inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.
2003: Legend inducted into Rolling Stone magazine’s 47th “500 Best Albums” list.
Rolling Stone” list.
2003: Catch a Fire placed 123rd in Rolling Stone magazine’s “Rolling Stone 500 Best Albums” list.
2003: Exodus placed 169th by Rolling Stone magazine in the “Rolling Stone 500 Best Albums” list
2003: Natty Dread placed 182nd in Rolling Stone magazine’s “Rolling Stone 500 Best Albums” list
2003: Burnin’ placed 319th in Rolling Stone magazine’s “Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Albums” list
2004: No Woman, No Cry placed 37th by Rolling Stone magazine in the “Rolling Stone 500 Best Songs” list
2004: Redemption Song placed 66th in Rolling Stone magazine’s “Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Songs” list
2004: Get Up, Stand Up ranked 296th in Rolling Stone magazine’s “Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Songs” list

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