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The Legend of Bob Marley

March 4, 2013

Nesta Robert Marley was born on 6th February 1945 in a little village in Saint-Ann Parish, Jamaica. He was a mixed race. His father , a White English-Jamaican was called Norval Sinclair Marley. His mother is  Cedella Booker, an Afro-American who was only 18 years old when she married Norval. He has always been rejected because of his skin : he was neither white nor black. Marley met Neville Livingston who later changed to Bunny Wailer. Marley and Livingston started to play music while he was still at school. Then Marley left Nine Miles when he was 12 with his mother to Trench Town, a shantytown, Kingston. With Livingston and Joe Higgs, they began to play music together. In 1962 they recorded their first two singles: “Judge Not” and “One Cup of Coffee”.

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In 1963, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith created a group of ska (the precursor of raggae music, which mixes Carribean music, American jazz and rythm & blues).  After different transformations, they decided to call their band “The Wailers“. In 1966 the group was only composed of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Despite his shyness, he married Rita Anderson in 1966 (he was 21) and they moved together to the United States for a little while.

In the 1960s, Bob began to believe in Rastafiarian convictions (a religion based on meditation to achieve a peaceful and fulfilling life). He became absolutely converted when he came back to Jamaica and started to wear the traditional dreadlocks.

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He, his wife and his band moved to the United States and to England (especially London) for some years, waiting for someone to record their music. Bob Marley found Chris Blackwell, a producer in London and asked him to lend the cost of a new single. Blackwell told him he wanted the Wailers to record a complete album : Catch a Fire. Then, they came back to Kingston.

Even if this album didn’t make them stars, they received a positive critical reception. The following year, they recorded Burnin’  which included lots of his most famous songs like “Get Up, Stand Up” or “I Shot the Sheriff”. Then they became international stars, especially in the US.

They were hired to open 17 shows of a band “Sly and the Family Stone” which was the number one group of Blacks.  But only after 4 shows they were fired : they were more popular than the group they were opening for. The Wailers broke up in 1974 and each of the members followed solo careers.

That’s why Bob continued as “Bob Marley & the Wailers”. He left Jamaica for some years, after someone had tried to shoot him.

In fact there was a political civil war in Jamaica between opposing parties : Jamaican Labour Party and the People’s National Party (who asked gangsters to help them increase their hold on power). While he was abroad, people created a myth around Bob and thought he was the only one who could stop the war.

Bob Marley came back to Jamaica in 1976 and in 1978, he performed a political concert called “One Love Peace Concert”.  The concert attracted more than 32,000 spectators. During his performance of Jammin’  he called both Manley and Seaga on stage, and in a symbolic gesture, the three held up their hands together to signify their unity. And when Bob died in 1981, the two political figures met each other in person and once again shook hands.

Bob Marley was someone good. But in the movie of Kevin Macdonald (2012), we also see the little bad things he did. For example, even if he was married with Rita, he had 11 children from 7 different women.

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Shortly after his final concert (23 September 1980) in Pennsylvania,  Marley’s health deteriorated and he became very ill: a cancer had spread throughout his body. After fighting the cancer without success for eight months, Marley boarded a plane for his home in Jamaica.

Unfortunately he died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami on the morning of 11 May 1981, at the age of 36. The spread of melanoma to his lungs and brain caused his death.

On 21 May 1981,  Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga delivered the final funeral speech to Marley, declaring:

“Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation.”

I think lots of us don’t know Bob Marley as the man he really was. When we think about him, we only see a rasta who smoked weed and played the guitar. But he was more than that. He was a symbol. The symbol of freedom, of hope. He went from rags to riches and no one cares about it.

The movie opened my eyes. I suggest to everyone to watch it. Then and only then, we will be able to say “I know who was Bob Marley.”


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