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Life of Bob Marley



Looking the biography of Bob Marley, one is convinced of the unparalleled influence of global culture upon his artistry. Even though he passed on in May 11 1981, his legend looms larger than expected. This is proved by his long list of accomplishments, which is attributed to his music that identified oppressors as well as agitating for social change. Through his music, the listeners are encouraged to forget their troubles and join in the dance. He was posthumously inaugurated into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in the year 1994. In 1999 December, the album he produced in his 1977 Exodus album became the ‘Album of the Century by Time Magazine’ while his song by the name ‘One Love’ was named by BBC as the ‘Song of the Millennium’. According to SoundScan, the compilation of Marley’s Legend is the 17th album to sell over ten million copies (Toynbee, 2013).

            When alive, Marley’s music was not recognized with the due nomination. He was awarded ‘The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award’ in2001. This is an honor that is given to artists who make creative contributions through exceptional artistic significance to the recording field during their lifetimes. He was also nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Long Form Music Video Documentary’ in 2001. Further as noted by Gooden (2003, p. 17), “In 2001 Bob Marley was accorded the 2171st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by the Hollywood Historic Trust and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, in Hollywood, California. As a recipient of this distinction, Bob Marley joined musical legends including Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations”. An eight block stretch in Brooklyn’s Church Avenue was renamed Bob Marley Boulevard in 2006. This evidences that even though Bob Marley is already dead, his music has a great significance as evidenced through the awarded honors to date.


Early Life and Career

Bob Marley’s birth name was Robert Nesta Marley. He was born on 6th February 1945 to Cedella Marley who was only 18 years old. He spent his early life in a rural community of Nine Miles and settled in the mountainous region of St. Ann. In his rural community, the residents are accustomed to their African ancestry customs of using the art of storytelling in sharing time-tested and past traditions that are mostly ignored in official historical records. The chores, proverbs, and fables linked to the rural life Bob lived greatly influenced his adult songwriting. His parents, Cedella and Norval married in 1945 with the marriage strongly disapproved by Captain Marley’s family. Nevertheless, the elder Marley met the financial needs to Bob and his mother. Bob saw his father the last time at the age of five. His father died at the age of 70 of heart attack when Bob was ten years old (Moskowitz, 2007).

Bob attended school at Stepney Primary and Junior High School. He was a friend to Neville Livingston (Bunny Wailer) from childhood at Nine Mile. The two started playing music while in the primary and high schools. In the late 1950s while in his teens, Bob left his rural community for Jamaica’s capital where he settled in Trench Town, in the western of Kingston. His new neighborhood was made up of low-income people who lived in government yards and squatter settlements. Bob had to learn to defend him from the rude boys in the community. His challenging street fighting skills gave Bob a respectful nickname, Tuff Gong. Even though Trench Town was full of poverty, unsavory activities, and despair, it was culturally rich, in which Bob was able to nurture his rich musical talents.In Trenchtown, Bob was sharing a house with Livingstone and thus had extensive musical explorations including R&B from the American radio stations.Through his songwriting skills, he provided a lifelong inspiration to the people living in Trench Town. This was through the songs he produced then including ‘No Woman No Cry’ in 1974, ‘Trench Town Rock’ in 1975, and ‘Trench Town’ that was produced later after his death in 1983 (Gooden, 2003).

Soon enough, Marley formed a vocal group with Junior Braithwaite, Bunny Wailer, and Beverley Kelso. The three were inspired by Joe Higgs and Roy Wilson. Marley and his team were not playing any instruments by the time they met vocal act Higgs and Wilson. Higgs helped them developed their vocal harmonies and also taught Bob how to play the guitar. The music industry in the island was beginning to establish its shape by the early 1960s. Through its development, the indigenous popular Jamaican music by the name of ska was born. As noted by Moskowitz (2007, p. 222), “A local interpretation of American soul and R&B, with an irresistible accent on the offbeat, ska exerted a widespread influence on poor Jamaican youth while offering a welcomed escape from their otherwise harsh realities. Within the burgeoning Jamaican music industry, the elusive lure of stardom was now a tangible goal for many ghetto youths”.Later, Bob met an aspiring singer, Desmond Dekker, at the age of 16 years.

He was aspired by Dekker’s music after he went to the top UK charts in 1969 with Israelites, a single. It is through Dekker that Bob learned of Jimmy Cliff, a young singer who was the future star of ‘The Harder They Come’, the immortal Jamaican film. At the age of 14, Cliff had several recordings of hit songs. Bob was introduced to produce Leslie Kong by Cliff in 1962 and thus managed to record his first singles, ‘Judge Not’, ‘One More Cup of Coffee’, and ‘Terror’. Since Bob’s singles did not connect with the public as it should, he only received $20 as payment. This was evidence of an exploitative practice that was widespread in Jamaica for infancy music business. Bob did not give up and promised Kong that hewould one time make money in the future even if he would not be able to enjoy it (Toynbee, 2013).

Bob’s career in music was grown after he met with the Wailers. In the year 1963, Marley, Wailer, Kelso, Smith, Braithwaite, and Tosh were known as The Teenagers. Their name was changed to The Wailing Rudeboys, to The Wailing Wailers in which they were recognized by Coxsone Dodd, a record producer, and later changed the name to The Wailers. Their first single as a team, Simmer Down, under the production of Coxsone became the Jamaican #1 in 1964 selling over 70,000 copies. Since they were working for Studio One, The Wailers found themselves in collaboration with well-known Jamaican musicians including Ernest Ranglin, Jackie Mitto the keyboardist, and Roland Alphonso the saxophonist. Smith, Braithwaite, and Kelso left The Wailers in 1966 leaving it with a trio of Tosh, Wailer, and Bob (Toynbee, 2013).

Personal Life

            Even though he was born a Catholic, he changed to Rastafari Movement, whose culture helped greatly in reggae development. He took the Rastafari music from the socially deprives Jamaican areas to international musical arenas. He married Alparita Constantia Rita Anderson in February 10th 1966 and had several children including three children born of his wife, two from Rita’s earlier relationships, and others with other women. It is notable that Rita was also a part of Bob’s singing team. The acknowledged children are eleven. Apart from music, Bob was a football player, he played it in parking lots, inside recording insides, and on the fields. Bob got ill in July 1977 when he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma under a toe’s nail, which was a sign of an existing cancer. Even though he was advised by his doctors to have the toe amputated, he refused on religious grounds and thus had the nail and the nail bed detached ad a skin graft from the thigh done to cover the toe area. In spite of his illness, he continued with his touring. He did several shown in 1980 before appearing at the Stanley Theater in September 1980, which was his last concert. His following tours and concerts were cancelled as his health deteriorated from cancer spread. He sought treatment at the Bavarian clinic but fought the cancer without success. He eventually flew to Jamaica but on his way, his main functions worsened and he was thus taken to hospital in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami where he died in May 11th 1981at the age of 36 (Moskowitz, 2007).



Gooden, L. (2003). Reggae heritage: Jamaica’s music history, culture & politic. London: AuthorHouse.

Moskowitz, D. V. (2007). Bob Marley: A biography.London: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Toynbee, J. (2013). Bob Marley: Herald of a postcolonial world.New York: John Wiley & Sons.