Marley, Bob (actually, Robert Nesta)

views updated

Marley, Bob (actually, Robert Nesta)

Marley, Bob (actually, Robert Nesta), purveyor of authentic reggae music; b. Rhoden Hall, Jamaica, April 6, 1945; d. Miami, Fla., May 11, 1981. The Wailers: membership:Bob Marley, voc, gtr.; Peter Tosh (Winston Hubert Macintosh), voc, gtr. (b. Westmoreland, Jamaica, Oct. 9,1944; d. Kingston, Jamaica, Sept. 11, 1987); Neville O’Reilly “Bunny” Livingstone, voc, pere (b. Kingston, Jamaica, April 10, 1947); Junior (Franklin Delano Alexander) Braithwaite, voc. (b. Kingston, Jamaica, April 4, 1949; d. there, June 2, 1999); Beverly Kelso, voc; Aston “Family Man” Barrett, bs. (b. Kingston, Jamaica, Nov. 22, 1946); Carlton Lloyd “Carly” Barrett, drm. (b. Kingston, Jamaica, Dec 17, 1950; d. there, April 17, 1987); Al Anderson, gtr. (b. Montclair N.J.); Alvin Patterson, pere The I-Threes: membership:Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, and Marcia Griffiths. Ziggy (David) Marley (b. Kingston, Jamaica, Oct. 17, 1968.)

Bob Marley and The Wailers were popular recording artists in Jamaica for years before securing a contract with the internationally distributed Island label in 1972. Established with the landmark Burnin’ and Catch a Fire albums, The Wailers became the first reggae band to gain worldwide recognition and Bob Marley, as chief songwriter and lead vocalist, emerged as the first (and possibly only) artist from the Third World to achieve international stardom. Although their albums contained some highly personal songs, they were largely preoccupied with political repression, social injustice, and the tenets of the Rastafarian religion (which included the sacramental use of marijuana). Original members Peter Tosh and “Bunny” Livingstone left The Wailers in 1974 for their own careers, as the female vocal trio the I-Threes augmented Bob Marley and The Wailers beginning in 1975. The group achieved its biggest success with 1976’s Rastaman Vibration.However, Marley’s death in 1981 effectively coincided with the end of the first wave of reggae’s popularity.

Bob Marley began recording in his native land in 1961. By 1964 he had joined fellow Jamaicans Peter Tosh and “Bunny” Livingstone in the formation of the Wailing Rudeboys. The group became the Wailin’ Wailers (with Junior Braithwaite and Beverly Kelso) and later simply The Wailers for a series of recordings for small Jamaican labels, scoring their first big island hit in 1965 with “Simmer Down.” Extensive local success continued into the early 1970s as the group recorded for producers such as Leslie Kong and Lee Perry They added drummer Carlton Barrett and his bass-playing brother Aston “Family Man” Barrett around 1970, issuing four Jamaican albums by 1972. Johnny Nash used The Wailers to back his top pop hit “I Can See Clearly Now” in 1972, and Marley provided Nash with the 1972 British and 1973 American hit “Stir It Up.”

Signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island label in 1972, The Wailers recorded their critically acclaimed debut, Catch a Fire, but the album failed to sell in the United States, despite the inclusion of “Stir It Up,” “No More Trouble,” and Tosh’s militant “400 Years.” Following quiet tours of Great Britain and the United States, The Wailers recorded Burnin’, which was similarly overlooked, despite containing Tosh’s “Get Up, Stand Up” and “One Foundation” and Mar ley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.” Eric Clapton scored a top hit with a tame version of “I Shot the Sheriff” in the summer of 1974, but by then both Tosh and Livingstone had left The Wailers.

Bob Marley and The Wailers, as they became known, finally broke through with 1975’s Natty Dread, recorded with lead guitarist Al Anderson and the Barrett brothers. In addition to the title song the album included “Rebel Music,” “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry),”“Lively Up Yourself,” and the touching “No Woman, No Cry/” regarded as one of Marley’s finest personal songs. Successful tours of America and Britain in 1975 raised Marley to the status of cult figure as the rock press declared reggae the up-and-coming music of the 1970s.

In 1975 Bob Marley and The Wailers were augmented by the female vocal trio the I-Threes, which consisted of Marley’s wife Rita, Judy Mowatt, and Marcia Griffiths. Griffiths started her career in the early 1960s, scoring her first top Jamaican hit with “Feel Like Jumping” in 1968. Judy Mowatt had her own career as early as 1970. In 1976 the group’s Rastaman Vibration became a best-seller. Yielding their only (minor) hit with “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” the album also contained “Positive Vibration,” “Rat Race,” and “War.”

Following an assassination attempt on Dec. 3, 1976, Bob Marley went into self-imposed exile. His Exodus album included favorites such as “Jamming,” “Exodus,” and “Waiting in Vain,” and the inspirational medley “One Love /People Get Ready,” and sold quite well. However, Kaya, comprised entirely of love songs, sold only modestly. Bob Marley returned to the concert stage on April 22,1978, for the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston, Jamaica. He induced political rivals Michael Manley and Edward Seaga to publicly shake hands during a time dominated by political turmoil and ghetto gang riots. In 1980 Marley performed at the independence ceremony in Zimbabwe and won a United Nations Peace Medal. Following Survival and Uprising, Bob Marley took ill with brain cancer. He died in Miami, Fia., on May 11, 1981, at age 36. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

In the meantime, Peter Tosh launched a solo career on Columbia with Legalize It and Equal Rights. The debut album contained “Whatcha Gonna Do” and the classic title song, which advocated the legalization of marijuana. In 1978 Tosh became the first non-Rolling Stones act to record for Rolling Stones Records, and that summer he toured as the band’s opening act. His debut album for the label included the minor hit “(You Got to Walk and) Don’t Look Back,” recorded in duet with Mick Jagger and originally written for the Temptations by Smokey Robinson. By 1981 Tosh had switched to EMI for Wanted Dread and Alive and Mama Africa, which contained the antiapartheid title song as well as “Where You Gonna Run” and a minor hit version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” He continued to record through 1987, but on Sept. 11, 1987, he was fatally shot in his Kingston home during a robbery.

“Bunny” Livingstone, born Neville O’Reilly Livingstone, took the name “Bunny Wailer” for recordings on Mango and later Shanachie. His debut, Blackheart Man, was considered a reggae classic yet failed to make the American charts. His popularity may have suffered due to his refusal to make public appearances until the 1980s.

Marcia Griffiths was recording on her own by 1978. She recorded extensively in the 1980s and scored a minor hit with “Electric Boogie” in late 1989. Judy Mowatt, who’s 1979 Black Woman came to be regarded as a reggae classic, also recorded solo in the 1980s. Rita Marley, Bob’s wife, recorded on her own, beginning in 1982.

Bob Marley’s son David, born in 1968, began his musical career as Ziggy Marley in 1979 when his father brought him into the studio to record “Children Playing in the Streets,” backed by Marley children Sharon (Rita’s oldest daughter), Cedella, and Stephen. As a family group the four performed on special occasions. Ziggy began writing songs and, as The Melody Makers, the quartet recorded several albums for EMI. Switching to Virgin Records, the group recorded 1988’s best-selling Conscious Party, which included the moderate hit “Tomorrow People,” “Dreams of Home,” and “Have You Ever Been to Hell.” Their follow-up, One Bright Day, sold quite well, and with Jahmekya, Ziggy unveiled his modern hybrid of dance music and reggae. Despite his youth, some critics began to hail Ziggy Marley as the rightful heir to his father’s legacy.


the wailers: Catch a Fire (1973); Burniti’ (1973); Talkin’ Blues (ree. 1973; rei. 1991); One Love (1992). bob marley and the wailers:Birth of a Legend (1976); Birth of a Legend (1977); Roots of Music (1977); Natty Dread (1975); Rastaman Vibration (1976); Live! (1976); Exodus (1977); Kaya (1978); Babylon by Bus (1978); Survival (1979); Uprising (1980); Confrontation (1983); Legend (The Best of B. M. and The Wailers) (1984); Rebel Music (1986); Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On (1995). anthologies:Jamaican Storm (1982); More of the Mighty B. M (1990); Birth of a Legend (1990); B. M.(1990); Saga, Vol. 2 (1991); Reaction (1993). bob marley:Chances Are (ree. 1968;-1972; rei. 1981); Songs of Freedom (1992). tribute album:A Tribute to B. M.: The Riddim of a Legend (1995). peter tosh:Legalize It (1976); Equal Rights (1977); Bush Doctor (1978); Mystic Man (1979); Wanted Dread and Alive (1981); Mama Africa (1983); Captured Live (1984); No Nuclear War (1987); The Toughest (1988). bunny wailer:Blackheart Man (1976); Protest (1977); Sings The Wailers (1981); Roots, Radies, Rockers, Reggae (1983); Peace Talks/Rockers (1984); Marketplace (1985); Rule Dance Hall (1986); Liberation (1989); Time Will Tell: A Tribute to B. M.(1990); Gumption (1990); Bunny Wailer in Concert (1993); Crucial! (1994); Retrospective (ree. 1977–1993; rei. 1995); Live (1984); Just Be Nice (1993); Hall of Fame: Bunny Waller’s Tribute to B. M/s 50th Anniversary (1995). the wailers band:I.D.(1989). marcia griffiths:Sweet Bitter Love (1974); Naturally (1978); Rock My Soul (1984); I Love Music (1986); Marcia (1988); Carousel (1990); Steppin’ (1991); Indomitable (1993). judy mowatt:Black Woman (1979); Only a Woman (1982); Working Wonders (1986); Look at Love (1991). rita marley:Who Feels It Knows It (1982); We Must Carry On (1991). ziggy marley and the melody makers:Play the Game Right (1985); Hey World (1986); The Time Has Come (Best) (1988); Conscious Party (1988); One Bright Day (1989); Jahmekya (1991); Joy and Blues (1993); Free Like We Want 2 B (1995).


Adrian Boot and Vivien Goldman, B. M.: Soul Rebel—Natural Mystic (N.Y., 1982); Timothy White, Catch a Fire: The Life ofB. M.(N.Y, 1983); Stephen Davis, B.M. (Garden City, N.Y., 1985).

—Brock Helander

About this article

Marley, Bob (actually, Robert Nesta)

Updated About content Print Article