Marley, Bob
Bob Marley. (Image by Ueli Frey, GFDL)

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Contemporary Black Biography Encyclopedia of World BiographyWorld EncyclopediaThe Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Further reading

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Marley, Bob 1945–1981

Bob Marley 19451981

Reggae singer, songwriter, guitarist

At a Glance

Wailers Gained Worldwide Popularity

Assassination Attempt Followed by Exile

Legal Battles over Estate

Enduring Cultural and Musical Legacy

Selected discography

Sources

In his brief life, Bob Marley rose from poverty and obscurity to the status of an international superstarthe first Third World artist to be acclaimed to such a degree. Were it not for his charisma and ambition, reggae music might still be confined to Jamaicas ghettoes where it originated. Loved by millions for his musical genius, Marley was also a heroic figure to poor and oppressed people everywhere because of his passionate articulation of their plight and his relentless calls for political change. As Jay Cocks wrote in Time, His music could challenge the conscience, soothe the spirit and stir the soul all at once.

Robert Nesta Marley was born to Cedella Malcolm when she was barely nineteen years old. The child was the result of her clandestine affair with Norval Marley, the local overseer of crown lands in the rural parish where she lived. Captain Marley, a white man more than twice Cedellas age, married the girl to make the birth legitimate, but he left the countryside the day after his impromptu wedding in order to accept a post in the city of Kingston. He had virtually no contact with his wife and son for several years, and Bob grew up as the pet of his grandfather Malcolms large clan. He was known as a serious child and had a reputation for clairvoyance.

When Bob was about five years old, Cedella received a letter from her estranged husband, who asked that his child be sent to Kingston in order to attend school. Bobs mother reluctantly agreed and put her young son on the bus to Jamaicas largest city. Captain Marley met the child, but, for reasons unknown, he took him to the home of an elderly, invalid woman and abandoned him there. Bob was left to fend almost entirely for himself in Kingstons ghettos, generally considered some of the worlds most dangerous. Months passed before Cedella managed to track down her child and bring him back to his country home. Before long, however, mother and child had returned to Kingston, where Cedella believed she had a greater chance of improving her life. She and Bob were joined by Bobs closest friend, Bunny Livingston, and Bunnys father, Thaddeus.

Jamaican society held very few opportunities for blacks at that time. Bob and Bunny grew up in an environment where violent crime was glorified by many young people as one of the few ways of getting ahead. Music was seen as another means of escape. Like most of their contemporaries, the two boys dreamed of becoming recording stars, and they spent their days coming up with songs and practicing them to the accompaniment of makeshift guitars, fashioned from bamboo,

At a Glance

Born Robert Nesta Marley, February 6, 1945, in Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica; died of cancer, May 11, 1981, in Miami, FL; buried in Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica; son of Norval Sinclair Marley (a British Army captain) and Cedella Marley Booker (a shopkeeper, and later, a singer; maiden name, Malcolm); married Alpharita Constantia Anderson (known as Rita; a singer), February 10, 1966; children: (with wife) David (Ziggy), Cedella, Stephen, and Stephanie; (other legally recognized children with seven different women) daughters Karen and Makeda Jahnesta, and sons Rowan, Robbie, Kimani, Julian, and Damian, Religion: Rastafarian.

Worked as a welder, Kingston, Jamaica, briefly in 1961; lab assistant at Du Pont, forklift driver in a warehouse, and assembly-line worker at Chrysler, all in Delaware, 1966; owner of a record store, Wailin Soul, Kingston, Jamaica, beginning 1966; formed Tuff Gong recording label, 1970; recording artist, 1962-81; founding member, with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, of musical group the Wailers (originally known as the Teenagers, then as the Wailing Rudeboys, then the Wailing Wailers), early 1960s.

Awards: Special citation on behalf of Third World nations from United Nations, 1979; Jamaicas Order of Merit, 1981; May 11 proclaimed Bob Marley Day in Toronto, Canada.

sardine cans, and electrical wire. By 1963, Marleys dream had come truehed released his first single, Judge Not. Soon he and Bunny had teamed with another singer, Peter Macintosh (later known as Peter Tosh), to form a group known as the Wailers. Through talent shows, gigs at small clubs, and recordings, the Wailers became one of the most popular groups in Jamaica.

Their early success was based on popular dance hits in the ska music style. As time passed, they added social commentary to their lyrics and were instrumental in transforming the light, quick ska beat into the slower, bass-heavy reggae sound. The three men also came under the influence of Rastafarianism. This complex set of mystical beliefs holds that the now deceased Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (whose given name was Ras Tafari) was the living God who would lead blacks out of oppression and into an African homeland. It was once considered the religion of outcasts and lunatics in Jamaica, but in the 1960s it came to represent an alternative to violence for many ghetto dwellers. Rastafarianism lent dignity to their suffering and offered them the hope of eventual relief. Rejecting the standards of the white world that led many blacks to straighten their hair, Rastas let theirs mat up into long, ropy dreadlocks. They follow strict dietary rules, abhor alcohol and drugs, but revere ganja (marijuana) as a holy herb that brings enlightenment to users. The Wailers soothed ghetto tensions with lyrical messages of peace and love, but at the same time, they warned the ruling class of imminent dread judgement on the downpressors.

Wailers Gained Worldwide Popularity

For all their acclaim in Jamaica, the Wailers saw few profits from their early recording career, as unscrupulous producers repeatedly cheated them out of royalties and even the rights to their own songs. That situation changed in the early 1970s, after Marley sought an alliance with Chris Blackwell, a wealthy white Jamaican whose record company, Island, was the label of many major rock stars. At the time, reggae was still considered unsophisticated slum music that could never be appreciated by non-Jamaican audiences. Blackwell had a deep interest in the music, however, and because he felt that the Wailers were the one group capable of popularizing reggae internationally, he offered them a contract. He handled the marketing of their first Island album, Catch a Fire, just as he would have handled any rock bands product, complete with slick promotional efforts and tours of Britain and the United States. Slowly, the Wailers sound began to catch on beyond the borders of Jamaica. An important catalyst to their popularity at this time was Eric Claptons cover of Marleys composition, I Shot the Sheriff, from the Wailers 1973 album Burnin. Claptons version became a worldwide hit, leading many of his fans to discover the Wailers music.

As their popularity increased, the original Wailers drew closer to a parting of the ways. Bunny Livingston (who had taken the name Bunny Wailer) disliked leaving Jamaica for extended tours, and Peter Tosh resented Chris Blackwells efforts to make Bob the focus of the group. Each launched solo careers in the mid-1970s, while Marley released Natty Dread in 1974, which was hailed by Rolling Stone reviewer Stephen Davis as the culmination of Marleys political art to this point. The reviewer continued: With every album hes been rocking a little harder and reaching further out to produce the stunning effect of a successful spell. Natty Dread deals with rebellion and personal liberation. The artist lays his soul so bare that the careful listener is satiated and exhausted in the end. Rastaman Vibration was released in 1976 to even more enthusiastic reviews. It was full of acid commentary on the worsening political situation in Jamaica, including a denouncement of the CIAs alleged involvement in island politicsa bold statement that brought Marley under the surveillance of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence organizations. His prominence in Jamaica reached messianic proportions, causing one Time reporter to exclaim, He rivals the government as a political force.

Assassination Attempt Followed by Exile

Marley regarded all politicians with skepticism, considering them to be part of what Rastafarians call Babylon, or the corrupt Western world. In the election for Prime Minister of Jamaica, however, he was known to favor Michael Manley of the Peoples National Partya socialist groupover Edward Seaga, candidate of the right-wing Jamaican Labour Party. When Manley asked Bob Marley to give a Smile Jamaica concert to reduce tensions between the warring gangs associated with the two parties, the singer readily agreed.

Shortly before the concert was to take place on December 3, 1976, Marleys home was stormed by seven gunmen, suspected henchmen of the Jamaican Labour Party. Marley, his wife, Rita, and their manager Don Taylor were all injured in the ensuing gunfire. Yet despite the assassination attempt, the concert went on as scheduled. An audience of 80,000 people was electrified when Marley, bandaged and unable to strum his guitar, climbed to the stage to begin a blistering ninety-minute set. At the close of his performance, Bob began a ritualistic dance, acting out aspects of the ambush that had almost taken his life, reported Timothy White in Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley. The last [the audience] saw before the reigning King of Reggae disappeared back into the hills was the image of the man mimicking the two-pistoled fast draw of a frontier gunslinger, his locks thrown back in triumphant laughter.

Immediately after the Smile Jamaica concert, Marley left the country, beginning a long term of self-imposed exile. After a period of recuperation, he toured the United States, Europe, and Africa. Reviewing his 1977 release, Exodus, Ray Coleman wrote in Melody Maker: This is a mesmerizing album more accessible, melodically richer, delivered with more directness than ever. After an attempt on his life, Marley has a right to celebrate his existence, and thats how the album sounds: a celebration. But Village Voice reviewer Roger Trilling found that Exodus was underscored by deep personal melancholy, a musical echo of the rootless wanderings that followed [Marleys] self-exile from Jamaica.

In 1978, Marley injured his foot during an informal soccer game. The painful wound was slow to heal and finally forced the singer to seek medical help. Doctors informed him that he was in the early stages of cancer and advised amputation of his damaged toe. He refused, because such treatment was not in keeping with Rasta beliefs. Despite worsening health, Marley continued to write and perform until September, 1980, when he collapsed while jogging in New Yorks Central Park during the U.S. leg of a world tour. Doctors determined that tumors were spreading throughout his lungs and brain. He underwent radiation therapy and a controversial holistic treatment in the Bavarian Alps, but to no avail. After his death on May 11, 1981, he was given a state funeral in Jamaica, which was attended by more than 100,000 people. Prime Minister Edward Seaga remembered Marley as a native son a beloved and departed friend. He was a man with deep religious and political sentiments who rose from destitution to become one of the most influential music figures in the last twenty years, eulogized White in Rolling Stone. He was an inspiration for black freedom fighters the world over. When his death was announced, the degree of devastation felt was incalculable.

Legal Battles over Estate

Throughout his life, Marley had always remained a man of the street. Even after earning millions of dollars, he would frequently return to the neighborhood where he grew up, leaving his BMW automobile unlocked at the curb while he visited old friends. His casual disregard for money and material possessions endeared him to the masses but gave rise to a monumental legal tangle after his death. Though his estate was worth an estimated $30 million at the time he passed away, he had scoffed at the idea of a will, believing that such a document showed an inappropriate concern with earthly matters.

Under Jamaican law, half of the estate of a man who dies intestate goes to his widow, while the remainder is divided equally among his children. When the court advertised for heirs, hundreds stepped forth claiming to be Marleys offspring. Marleys widow, Rita, became locked in a ten-year battle with the court-appointed administrator of the estate, a conservative lawyer who had not liked Marley when he was alive and who, after the singers death, sometimes seemed bent on taking as much as possible from those who had been closest to the deceased. The administrator attempted to evict Marleys mother from a house her son had given heron the grounds that the title had never been legally transferred; in a similar fashion, he tried to have property seized from Rita and accused her of illegally diverting royalty money that should have become part of the contested estate.

That royalty money represented a considerable sum. At the time of his death, Marley had sold about $190 million worth of albums and had an average annual royalty income of $200,000. Posthumous releases of his work were ranked high on Billboards music charts ten years and more after his death, pushing the annual royalty income to $2.5 million and leading many industry experts to rank Marley as one of the largest-selling recording artists of all time. Control of the rights to his music was as hotly disputed as the division of his estate, with rival record companies trying to wrest control from Rita Marley and Island Records.

Eventually, Rita Marley admitted in court that she had forged her husbands signature on backdated documents that transferred ownership of some of his companies to her. Showing a disregard for legalities similar to her husbands, she calmly told a Newsweek reporter that she had been acting on her lawyers advice. Firm in her belief that Marley would have wanted her to protect herself and his rightful heirswhich were eventually determined to include his and Ritas four children, as well as seven other offspring with various womenshe asked, How can I steal from myself? She was dismissed as an executor of the estate for this transgression but charged with no crime. The battle over Marleys fortune was finally settled late in 1991. The Jamaican Supreme Court ruled in favor of Rita Marley and Chris Blackwells Island Logic Ltd., a company that had controlled the estate since 1989. Under the terms of the court ruling, the estate would be managed by Island Logic for ten more years before passing into the hands of Marleys widow and his 11 legally recognized children.

Enduring Cultural and Musical Legacy

Bob Marleys artistic output was so great that previously unreleased work of his has continued to appear on the market years after his death. In 1992, a 78-song package entitled Songs of Freedom was released, tracing his career from his first single, Judge Not, to a version of his haunting Redemption Song recorded at his final concert in 1980. The tenth anniversary of his death was marked by several days of commemorative celebrations in Kingston, and New York Times writer Howard W. French noted that whereas Marleys long-haired, ganja-smoking Rastafarian sect was long seen by the staid Establishment [in Jamaica] as an embarrassing threat to tourism, the Jamaica Tourist Board sponsored the memorial [events]. Once shunned, Marley is now acknowledged as the person who, more than any other, has generated lasting interest in his native country.

Marleys musical legacy can be seen in the continuing popularity of reggae and its pervasive influence on mainstream music. The Melody Makers, arguably the most popular modern reggae group, was formed by Marley himself years ago; its members are his children, led by his oldest son, Ziggy. Yet no one, not even his son, has been able to touch Bob Marleys position as the undisputed king of reggae. French commented on the musicians lasting popularity: Marleys appeal succeeded remarkably in transcending an often-militant lyrical message explicitly centered on the ideal of cultural and spiritual redemption for black people. However racially based his core message, Marleys dreadlocked look of alienation, and his Old Testament-style prophecies promising the poor that their oppressors would soon eat the bread of sorrow, carried strong germs of universality.

David Fricke summarized in Rolling Stone: Since Jamaicas favorite musical son succumbed to the ravages of cancer, the search for a worthy successora new Marley with comparable vision, personality and musical nerve, not to mention the magic crossover touchhas yielded only flawed contenders. . . But looking for a new Marley is as pointless as looking for a new [Bob] Dylan or [Jimi] Hendrix. Bob Marley, like those other two originals, revolutionized pop music in his own singular image, transforming a regional mutant product of Caribbean rhythm, American R & B and African mysticism into a personalized vehicle for spiritual communion, social argument and musical daring.

Selected discography

Soul Rebel, Trojan, 1971.

Catch a Fire, Island, 1973.

Burnin, Island, 1973.

African Herbsman, Trojan, 1973.

Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Studio One, 1974.

Natty Dread, Island, 1974.

Rasta Revolution, Trojan, 1974.

Live! Bob Marley and the Wailers, Island, 1975.

Rastaman Vibration, Island, 1976.

Birth of a Legend, Calla, 1976.

Reflection, Fontana, 1977.

Exodus, Island, 1977.

Kaya, Island, 1978.

Babylon by Bus, Island, 1978.

In the Beginning, Psycho, 1979.

Survival, Island, 1979.

Bob Marley and the Wailers, Hammer, 1979.

Uprising, Island, 1980.

Crying for Freedom, Time-Wind, 1981.

Chances Are, Cotillion, 1981.

Soul Revolution, Part II, Pressure Disc, 1981.

Marley, Phoenix, 1982.

Jamaican Storm, Accord, 1982.

Bob Marley Interviews. . ., Tuff Gong, 1982.

Confrontation, Island, 1983.

Legend, Island, 1986.

Rebel Music, Island, 1986.

Bob Marley, Urban Tek, 1989.

Talkin Blues, Tuff Gong/Island, 1991.

One Love, Heartbeat, 1992.

Songs of Freedom (three-disc retrospective), Tuff Gong/Island, 1992.

Sources

Books

Blackbook: International Reference Guide, 1993 Edition, National Publications, 1993, pp. 62-63.

Davis, Stephen, Bob Marley, Doubleday, 1985.

Davis, Stephen, Reggae Bloodlines: In Search of the Music and Culture of Jamaica, Anchor Press, 1979.

Goldman, Vivian, Bob Marley: Soul-RebelNatural Mystic, St. Martins, 1981.

White, Timothy, Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, Holt, 1983.

Whitney, Malika Lee, Bob Marley, Reggae King of the World, Dutton, 1984.

Periodicals

Black Stars, July 1979.

Crawdaddy, July 1976; August 1977; May 1978.

Creem, August 1976.

Down Beat, September 9, 1976; September 8, 1977.

Encore, January 1980.

Essence, January 1976.

First World, Number 2, 1979.

Gig, June-July 1978.

Guitar Player, May 1991, p. 82.

Interview, August 1978.

Jet, December 30, 1992.

Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1990; July 16, 1991.

Melody Maker, May 1, 1976; May 14, 1977; November 18, 1978; September 29, 1979.

Mother Jones, July 1985; December 1986.

Newsweek, April 8, 1991, p. 57.

New York Times, May 13, 1991; September 3, 1992; December 13, 1992.

New York Times Magazine, August 14, 1977.

People, April 26, 1976; December 21, 1992.

Playboy, January, 1981.

Rolling Stone, April 24, 1975; June 1, 1978; June 15, 1978; December 28, 1978; January 11, 1979; March 18, 1982; May 27, 1982; June 4,1987; March 7,1991.

Sepia, March 1979.

Spin, June 1991.

Stereo Review, July 1975; September 1977; February 1982.

Time, March 22, 1976, pp. 83-84; December 20, 1976, p. 45; October 19, 1992, pp. 77-78.

Village Voice, June 27,1977; April 17,1978; November 5, 1979.

Washington Post, August 25, 1991.

Obituaries

Jet, May 28, 1981.

Macleans, December 28, 1981.

Newsweek, May 25, 1981.

New York Times, May 12, 1981; May 21, 1981.

Rolling Stone, May 28, 1981; June 25, 1981.

Time, May 25, 1981, p. 76.

Variety, May 20, 1981.

Marleys life and musical career are chronicled in the documentary Time Will Tell, released in 1992 in combination with his retrospective CD package.

Joan Goldsworthy

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Marley, Bob

Bob Marley

Bob Marley (1945–1981) was a Jamaican musician who popularized reggae music worldwide and became one of the most well-known exponents of the Rastafari religion. Marley was also a cultural revolutionary whose music expressed a fervent longing for political freedom, peace, and racial harmony.

Marley and his band, the Wailers, combined elements of ska, rock and roll, and other musical forms into their own version of reggae, a musical form that had its roots in the Jamaican ghetto of Trenchtown, where Marley spent his formative years. Marley's band had hit records in Jamaica for years before becoming more popular worldwide. The popularity of Marley's music and his message continued to expand around the globe for many years after his death, and many musicians of a number of pop genres credited Marley as a major influence on their songs.

Roots in Ska, Doo-Wop

Marley was born Robert Nesta Marley on February 6, 1945, in the Jamaican mountain village of Nine Mile, the child of a white British naval officer, Norman Marley, and a Jamaican woman, Cedellar Booker. His parents divorced when he was young, and in 1957 his mother moved with him to Trenchtown, an impoverished suburb of Kingston. Trenchtown was a housing project built after a 1951 hurricane had destroyed the area's squatter camps. The Rastafari religion combined with radical politics to foment a protest milieu in the ghetto, but those sentiments were unfocused and unorganized. The political repression and economic hardship that residents of Trenchtown experienced helped to inspire Marley's lyrics about the power of ordinary people standing up for their rights.

As a teenager in Trenchtown, Marley soon became friends with Peter Mcintosh, who as Peter Tosh later would inherit Marley's mantle of reggae superstar, and Neville Livingstone, whose stage name would be Bunny Wailer. They formed a band in 1963, a year after Marley auditioned solo for local Chinese-Jamaican businessman Lesley Kong and Kong produced a record, "Judge Not," on his Beverley label. During the same audition session Marley recorded two other numbers, "Terror" and "One Cup of Coffee," released with the name Bobby Martell, a pseudonym Kong had foisted on sixteen-year-old Marley. All three songs were recorded with a background beat of joyful, thumping ska—the latest popular music in Jamaica.

In the group, originally called the Teenagers, then the Wailing Rudeboys, and finally the Wailing Wailers and just the Wailers, Marley wrote music and lyrics and played guitar. But the young men, including a new member, Junior Braithwaite, took turns as vocalists. Their earliest ska recordings mingled a Jamaican proto-reggae style called mento with New Orleans blues.

Rude Boys and Rastafarianism

Record producer Clement Dodd took the group under his wing after it split with Kong. The band originally recorded two songs at Dodd's studio in 1963, "I'm Still Waiting" and "It Hurts to Be Alone." The latter was a hit, but the lead vocalist on it was Braithwaite, who had left Jamaica with his family for Chicago. Dodd insisted that Marley become the group's lead vocalist. Their next single, "Simmer Down," was released on Christmas Day 1963 and rose quickly to the top of the charts in Jamaica. It was recorded with the backing of a group of studio musicians that Dodd had brought in, including jazz trombonist Don Drummond. The song expressed Marley's warning to his fellow "rude boys" not to bring the law down on themselves, while at the same time replying to a letter from his mother, who was in the United States and was expressing concern that her son was falling in with the wrong kind of friends.

Since Marley's mother had left Jamaica to find work, Marley had no home of his own and stayed with friends. Dodd took Marley under his wing, becoming something of a substitute father figure. In exchange for letting Marley live in a back room at the recording studio, Dodd gave Marley several assignments: one was coaching a vocal group called the Soulettes. One of the trio was Rita Anderson, whom Marley would marry in 1966. A day after the wedding, Marley moved to Wilmington, Delaware, to live with his mother, who had moved there a year earlier.

The Wailers recorded several other records for Dodd's Coxsone label, including rebel anthems "Rude Boy," "Rule Dem Rudie," and "Jailhouse." At this point, Marley's music reflected his membership in the subculture of "rude boys," rebellious ghetto youth who frequently clashed with authorities. In 1965, however, Marley recorded an antidote to such militant anthems with "One Love," a song that distilled Rastafarian teachings and called for unity, peace, and love. These would be recurring themes throughout Marley's career: taking to the streets in strong protest against injustice tempered by a philosophy of non-violence and racial unity.

When Marley returned to Jamaica after his first stint in Wilmington, he and the Wailers signed with manager Danny Sims, an American living in Jamaica, and they recorded 80 songs for him between 1966 and 1972. Sims tried to steer Marley away from writing songs influenced by the Rastafari religion. Sims wanted the Wailers to reach the American market with a less radical message, like other reggae musicians he managed, including Jimmy Cliff and Johnny Nash, who made the upbeat U.S. hit record, "I Can See Clearly Now."

Stardom

After some time living back in Trenchtown and recording for Sims, mainly in the genre known as rock steady, Marley returned to Delaware to work on the assembly line. His early career was marked by interruptions and detours because he could not earn enough money to make a living and the band often battled for creative and financial control with record producers and companies. Marley soon fled back to Kingston after receiving a notice he had been drafted to fight in Vietnam.

Upon his return, Marley sought the advice of Rastafarian elder Mortimer Planner and decided to claim his musical independence. He was tired of compromising his message for other producers and did not like the way Sims had been toning down his philosophy to maximize commercial appeal. Marley opened a record shop and started a label, both called Wail 'N' Soul 'M,' named after the Wailers and the Soulettes, the group of singers that Rita Marley belonged to. After releasing a few singles, the venture folded.

In 1970, after meeting record producer Lee Perry, Marley and the Wailers—Tosh, Wailer, and studio drummer Carly Barrett—began experimenting with reggae, a musical style that was first popularized in a 1968 song by Toots and the Maytals, "Do the Reggay." The Wailers' version of reggae included an upfront bass line and the "one drop" beat played by a rhythm guitar. Perry was a major influence on the sound, persuading the Wailers to abandon doo-wop and dive deep into psychedelic reggae, borrowing heavily from American musicians Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone.

Marley's first authentically reggae songs drew on Caribbean myths, ghetto scenes, Old Testament verses, and radical sentiments. The Wailers had a series of Jamaican hits but did not burst on the international scene until they went to London and signed with Chris Blackwell's new Island Records. Their first recording for Island was Catch a Fire, the album that propelled Marley and the Wailers to global stardom. Their second album, Burnin', included the popular tracks "Get Up Stand Up" and "I Shot the Sheriff." Eric Clapton's cover of the latter song was a worldwide hit. The Wailers also recorded the influential album Natty Dread.

Just as the band's work was finally receiving increasing worldwide recognition, Tosh and Wailer left the group to pursue solo careers. In 1975 the group was rechristened Bob Marley and the Wailers, even though the original Wailers had left and had been replaced with backup from members of the former I-Threes, another vocal trio that included Rita Marley.

Rastafari Prophet

Marley's influence on music was monumental. Reggae captured the emerging, youthful, rebellious, and confident pulse of the Third World, but its infectious beat also captured the attention of youth in the United States and Europe. The dreadlocks Marley wore also became popular with young people in many countries, standing as a cultural symbol of defiance. But Marley's legacy went far beyond his music to include his spiritual and political crusades, which were always interwoven into his songs. The cultural and political aspects of Rastafarianism defined it as a potential threat to the Establishment. These included a belief in black racial superiority, radical nonviolent action, and an endorsement of the spiritual uplifting that could allegedly be attained by smoking marijuana. These threads fit in perfectly with the cultural rebellion of the 1970s, and Marley's songs expressed his commitment to political and social revolution. He became a prophet to downtrodden peoples worldwide, singing of freedom and justice, of fighting for rights and dignity.

Marley did not just sing about social justice; he practiced what he preached. He took on a series of community projects, at one time supporting more than 6,000 people with food, jobs, and housing. He invested in schools and infrastructure in Jamaica. Marley became a powerful political icon in Jamaica and in 1976 survived an assassination attempt by gunmen apparently trying to stop a free concert organized by the ruling People's National Party. After the frightening incident, Marley left for tours of Europe and the United States and produced four new albums that increased his worldwide popularity: Exodus (1977), Babylon by Bus (1978), Kaya (1978), and Uprising (1980).

In 1977, Marley bought a home in Miami, and other members of his clan later moved there. That same year, he injured his big toe in a friendly soccer game in France while he was there promoting Exodus. It never properly healed, and he refused to have it amputated, saying his Rastafari faith was all the healing he needed. But some believe the infected toe led to cancer that was not identified in stages early enough to be treated.

Marley died of lung, liver, and brain cancer at age 36 on May 11, 1981, in Miami, Florida, shortly after being awarded the Order of Merit by the Jamaican government. Two separate statues of Marley were commissioned; one is in Celebrity Park in Kingston and the other is at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

More Popular after Death

After her husband's death, Rita Marley continued to make music inspired by her husband with her group the Melody Makers. Their son Ziggy later became the group's headliner and lead vocalist. In 1984, Island Records produced Marley's greatest hits compilation, Legend, which sold more than 10 million copies in the United States alone.

Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. His legend and popularity continued to grow after his death. In 1999, a record, Chant Down Babylon, was released, pairing Marley's vocals with those of contemporary pop and urban artists. In Kingston, Marley's face is on posters and billboards everywhere. His family runs Tuff Gong International, which gives tours of Marley's birthplace, tomb, mansion, and recording studio, and oversees the Bob Marley Foundation, which supports community projects in Jamaica, and the Rita Marley Foundation, which funds projects in Africa. Marley's sons Ziggy, Stephen, and Julian and daughter, Stephanie, are also reggae musicians carrying on his legacy.

In 2001, journalist Dennis Howard told Knight Ridder/Tribune's Achy Obejas: "In Africa, in Latin America, in China—in the world, he's bigger than the Beatles, he's bigger than everybody. In the 21st century, he'll be the biggest global superstar." Twenty years after his death, Obejas noted, "his deceptively easy, hypnotizing rhythms and his … message of love ha[s] traveled the world many times over." Marley's records sold millions of copies yearly worldwide, much more than when he was alive. "In the world, he has iconic status," said Howard, "he's a messianic figure whose impact has been phenomenal.…" Eppie Edwards, deputy director of the National Library of Jamaica, told Obejas: "Marley is more popular in death than in life because a lot of his work is still being discovered and recognized. The message of his songs was peace, looking out for the underdog, love. Simple as that."

Periodicals

Africa News Service, May 11, 2001; May 11, 2002; August 7, 2002.

Billboard, February 25, 1995.

Billboard Bulletin, May 7, 2003.

Entertainment Weekly, November 1, 1999; December 8, 2000.

Jet, January 10, 1994.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, May 14, 2001.

Time, November 29, 1999.

Variety, June 8, 1998.

Online

"Bob Marley," BobMarley.com,www.bobmarley.com (December 31, 2003).

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Marley, Bob

Marley, Bob ( Robert Nesta (1945–81) Jamaican singer-songwriter. Marley and his band, The Wailers, transformed reggae into an internationally popular music form with hit singles such as “Get Up, Stand Up” (1973) and “No Woman No Cry” (1974). He combined faith in Rastafarianism with political statement. Marley's albums include Natty Dread (1975), Exodus (1977), and Uprising (1980).

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Marley, Bob

Bob Marley (Robert Nesta Marley), 1945–81, Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter, and guitarist. As a member of the Wailers, a reggae band that included Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, and later on his own, Marley propelled reggae to worldwide popularity. His commitment to nonviolence and the Rastafarian religion are transparent in his music, and his smoky tenor and loping reggae beat combine to enhance the appeal of his political message.

See biographies by A. Boot and V. Goldman (1982), T. White (1983, rev. ed. 2006), C. J. Farley (2006), and D. Burnett (2009); studies by V. Goldman (2006) and J. Toynbee (2009).

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Marley, Bob

Bob Marley

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

In his brief life, Bob Marley rose from poverty and obscurity to international stardom, becoming the first Third World artist to be acclaimed to that degree. It was largely through him that the world became familiar with reggae music and Rastafarianism, the religion embraced by much of Jamaicas black underclass. According to New York Times Magazine contributor Jon Bradshaw, Marley became an influential political force in his native country by articulating the plight of the Jamaican ghettosurging change and preaching revolution should change not come. Because exact and obvious analogies to the situation in Jamaica were applicable in so many parts of the world, Marley eventually became a heroic figure to poor and oppressed people everywhere.

Robert Nesta Marley was born to Cedella Malcolm Marley when she was barely nineteen years old. The child was the result of her clandestine affair with the local overseer of crown lands in the rural parish where she lived. Captain Marley, a white man more than twice Cedellas age, married the girl to make the birth legitimate, but he left the countryside the day after his impromptu wedding in order to accept a post in the city of Kingston and had almost no contact with his wife and son for several years. As the infant grew, he became the pet of his grandfathers large clan. He was known as a serious child and had a reputation for clairvoyance.

When Bob was about five years old, Cedella received a letter from her estranged husband asking that his son be sent to Kingston in order to attend school. Bobs mother reluctantly agreed and put her young son on the bus to Jamaicas largest city. Captain Marley met the child, but, for reasons unknown, he took him to the home of an elderly, invalid woman and abandoned him there. Bob was left to fend almost entirely for himself in Kingstons ghettos, which are generally considered some of the worlds worst. Months passed before Cedella Marley was able to track down her child and bring him back to his country home. Before long, however, mother and child had returned to Kingston, where Cedella believed she had a greater chance of improving her lot. With them were Bobs closest friend, Bunny Livingston, and Bunnys father Thaddeus.

Jamaican society held few opportunities for blacks. Bob and Bunny grew up in an environment where violent crime was glorified by many young people as one of the few ways of getting ahead. Music was seen as another means of escape. Like most of their contemporaries, the two boys dreamed of becoming recording stars and spent their days coming up with songs and practicing them to the accompaniment of makeshift guitars they fashioned from bamboo, sardine cans, and electrical wire. By 1963, Marleys dream had come

For the Record

Full name, Robert Nesta Marley; born February 6, 1945, in Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica; died of cancer May 11, 1981, in Miami, Fla., buried in Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica; son of Norval Sinclair Marley (a British army captain) and Cedella Marley Booker (formerly a shopkeeper, now a singer; maiden name Malcolm); married Alpharita Constantia Anderson (a singer), on February 10, 1966; children: David, Cedella, Stephen, and Stephanie; he also had seven other legally recognized children with seven different women: daughters Karen and Makeda Jahnesta, and sons Rowan, Robbie, Rimani, Julian, and Damian. Religion: Rastafarian.

Worked as a welder, Kingston, Jamaica, briefly in 1961; lab assistant at Du Pont, forklift driver in a warehouse, and assembly-line worker at Chrysler, all in Delaware, 1966; owner of a record store, Wailin Soul, Kingston, Jamaica, 1966; formed Tuff Gong recording label, 1970; recording artist, 196281; founding member, with Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, of musical group the Wailers (originally known as the Teenagers, then as the Wailing Rudeboys, then the Wailing Wailers), early 1960s.

Awards: Special citation on behalf of Third World nations from United Nations, 1979; Jamaicas Order of Merit, 1981.

truehed released his first single, Judge Not. Soon he and Bunny had teamed with another singer, Peter Tosh, to form a group known as the Wailers. Through talent shows, gigs at small clubs, and recordings, the Wailers became one of the most popular groups in Jamaica.

Their early success was based on popular dance hits in the ska music style, but as time passed, they added social commentary to their lyrics, and were instrumental in transforming the light, quick ska beat into the slower, bass-heavy reggae sound. The three men also came under the influence of Rastafarianism. This complex set of mystical beliefs holds that Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (whose given name was Ras Tafari) is the living God who will lead blacks out of oppression and into an African homeland. It was once considered the religion of outcasts and lunatics in Jamaica, but in the 1960s it came to represent an alternative to violence for many ghetto dwellers. Rastafarianism lent dignity to their suffering and offered them the hope of eventual relief. Rejecting the standards of the white world that led many blacks to straighten their hair, Rastas let theirs mat up into long, ropy dreadlocks. They follow strict dietary rules: abhor alcohol and drugs, but revere ganja (marijuana) as a holy herb that brings enlightenment to users. The Wailers soothed ghetto tensions with lyrical messages of peace, love, and racial reconciliation but, at the same time, they warned the ruling class of imminent dread judgement on the downpressors.

For all their acclaim in Jamaica, the Wailers saw few profits from their early recording careers, as unscrupulous producers repeatedly cheated them out of royalties and even the rights to their own songs. In the early 1970s, Marley sought an alliance with Chris Blackwell, a wealthy white Jamaican whose record company, Island, was the label of many major rock stars. At the time, reggae was still considered unsophisticated slum music that could never be appreciated by non-Jamaican audiences. Blackwell had a deep interest in the music, however, and because he felt that the Wailers were the one group who could popularize reggae internationally, he offered them a contract and marketed their first Island album, Catch a Fire, just as he would any rock band. Tours of Britain and the United States helped the Wailers sound to catch on, but perhaps the most important catalyst to their popularity at this time was Eric Claptons cover of Marleys composition, I Shot the Sheriff, from the Wailers 1973 album Burnin.Claptons version became a worldwide hit and led many of his fans to discover the Wailers music.

As their popularity increased, the original Wailers drew closer to a parting of the ways. Bunny Livingston (who had taken the name Bunny Wailer) disliked leaving Jamaica for extended tours, and Peter Tosh resented Chris Blackwells efforts to make Bob the focus of the group. Each launched solo careers in 1975, while Marley released Natty Dread, hailed by Rolling Stone reviewer Stephen Davis as the culmination of Marleys political art to this point. The reviewer continued: With every album hes been rocking a little harder and reaching further out to produce the stunning effect of a successful spell. Natty Dread deals with rebellion and personal liberation The artist lays his soul so bare that the careful listener is satiated and exhausted in the end. Rastaman Vibration was released the following year to even more enthusiastic reviews. It was full of acid commentary on the worsening political situation in Jamaica, including a denouncement of the CIAs alleged involvement in island politics that brought Marley under surveillance by that and other U.S. intelligence organizations. His prominence in Jamaica reached messianic proportions, causing one Time reporter to exclaim, He rivals the government as a political force.

Although Marley regarded all politicians with skepticism, considering them to be part of what Rastafarians call Babylon, or the corrupt Western world, he was known to favor Michael Manley of the Peoples National Party over Edward Seaga of the right-wing Jamaican Labour Party for the post of Prime Minister of Jamaica. When Manley asked Bob Marley to give a Smile Jamaica concert to reduce tensions between the warring gangs associated with the two parties, the singer readily agreed. On December 3, 1976, shortly before the concert was to take place, seven gunmen, suspected to be henchmen of the Jamaican Labour Party, stormed Marleys home. Marley, his wife Rita, and their manager Don Taylor were all injured in the ensuing gunfire. Despite the assassination attempt, the concert went on as scheduled. An audience of 80,000 people was electrified when Marley, bandaged and unable to strum his guitar, climbed to the stage to begin a blistering ninety-minute set. At the close of his performance, Bob began a ritualistic dance, acting out aspects of the ambush that had almost taken his life, reported Timothy White in Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley. The last thing [the audience] saw before the reigning King of Reggae disappeared back into the hills was the image of the man mimicking the two-pistoled fast draw of a frontier gunslinger, his locks thrown back in triumphant laughter.

Immediately after the Smile Jamaica concert, Marley left the country in self-imposed exile. After a period of recuperation, he toured the United States, Europe, and Africa. Reviewing his 1977 release, Exodus, Ray Cole-man wrote in Melody Maker: This is a mesmerizing album.more accessible, melodically richer, delivered with more directness than ever.After an attempt on his life, Marley has a right to celebrate his existence, and thats how the album sounds: a celebration. But Village Voice reviewer Roger Trilling found that Exodus was underscored by deep personal melancholy, a musical echo of the rootless wanderings that followed [Marleys] self-exile from Jamaica.

In 1978, Marley injured his foot during an informal soccer game. The painful wound was slow to heal and finally forced the singer to seek medical help. Doctors informed him that he had an early form of cancer and advised amputation of his damaged toe. He refused, because such treatment was not in keeping with Rasta beliefs. Despite worsening health, Marley continued to perform until September 1980 when he collapsed while jogging in New Yorks Central Park during the U.S. leg of a world tour. Doctors determined that tumors were spreading throughout his lungs and brain. He underwent radiation therapy and a controversial holistic treatment in the Bavarian Alps, but to no avail. After his death on May 11, 1981, he was given a state funeral in Jamaica, which was attended by more than 100, 000 people. Prime minister Edward Seaga remembered Marley as a native sona beloved and departed friend. He was a man with deep religious and political sentiments who rose from destitution to become one of the most influential music figures in the last twenty years, eulogized White in Rolling Stone.He was an inspiration for black freedom fighters the world over.When his death was announced, the degree of devastation felt beyond our borders was incalculable.

Selected discography

LPs

Soul Rebel, Trojan, 1971.

Catch a Fire, Island, 1973.

Burniti, Island, 1973.

African Herbsman, Trojan, 1973.

Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Studio One, 1974.

Natty Dread, Island, 1974.

Rasta Revolution, Trojan, 1974.

Live! Bob Marley and the Waiters, Island, 1975.

Rastaman Vibration, Island, 1976.

Birth of a Legend, Calla, 1976.

Reflection, Fontana, 1977.

Exodus, Island, 1977.

Kaya, Island, 1978.

Babylon by Bus, Island, 1978.

In the Beginning, Psycho, 1979.

Survival, Island, 1979.

Bob Marley and the Wailers, Hammer, 1979.

Uprising, Island, 1980.

Crying for Freedom, Time-Wind, 1981.

Chances Are, Cotillion, 1981.

Soul Revolution, Part II, Pressure Disc, 1981.

Marley, Phoenix, 1982.

Jamaican Storm, Accord, 1982.

Bob Marley Interviews, Tuff Gong, 1982.

Confrontation, Island, 1983.

Legend, Island, 1986.

Bob Marley, Urban-Tek, 1989.

Sources

Books

Davis, Stephen, Bob Marley, Doubleday, 1985.

Davis, Stephen, Reggae Bloodlines: In Search of the Music and Culture of Jamaica, Anchor Press, 1979.

Goldman, Vivian, Bob Marley: Soul RebelNatural Mystic, St. Martins, 1981.

White, Timothy, Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, Holt, 1983.

Whitney, Malika Lee, Bob Marley, Reggae King of the World, Dutton, 1984.

Periodicals

Black Stars, July 1979.

Crawdaddy, July 1976; August 1977; May 1978.

Creem, August 1976.

down beat, September 9, 1976; September 8, 1977.

Encore, January 1980.

Essence, January 1976.

First World, Number 2, 1979.

Gig, June-July 1978.

Interview, August 1978.

Melody Maker, May 1, 1976; May 14, 1977; November 18, 1978; September 29, 1979.

Mother Jones, July 1985; December 1986.

New York Times Magazine, August 14, 1977.

People, April 26, 1976.

Playboy, January 1981.

Rolling Stone, April 24, 1975; June 1, 1978; June 15, 1978; December 28, 1978; January 11, 1979; March 18, 1982; May 27, 1982; June 4, 1987.

Sepia, March 1979.

Stereo Review, July 1975; September 1977; February 1982.

Time, March 22, 1976; December 20, 1976.

Village Voice, June 27, 1977; April 17, 1978; November 5, 1979.

Obituaries

Jet, May 28, 1981.

Macleans, December 28, 1981.

Newsweek, May 25, 1981.

New York Times, May 12, 1981; May 21, 1981.

Rolling Stone, May 28, 1981; June 25, 1981.

Time, May 25, 1981.

Variety, May 20, 1981.

Joan Goldsworthy

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Goldsworthy, Joan. "Marley, Bob." Contemporary Musicians. 1990. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Goldsworthy, Joan. "Marley, Bob." Contemporary Musicians. 1990. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3492100059.html

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