Bob Marley was born 6 February 1945 in a small
village called Nine Miles in the parish of St.
Ann, Jamaica. His father was a white Jamaican,
a Captain in the army named Norval Marley.
Bob had only a scant recollection of his father. This was largely due to the fact that the 'well to do' Marley family did not approve of the relationship Norval had formed with Bobs mother Cedella. His father therefore, despite marrying Cedella, was more an occasional visitor.
He did not live to witness the success of his son Bob.
Bob cut his first record at the age of 16 in Kingston. A song called 'Judge Not'.
In 1963 the original Wailers were formed, the line-up being Bob Marley, Bunny Livingstone (who was later to take the name Wailer), and Peter Tosh. Their first song 'Simmer Down' was an instant number one in Jamaica.
In 1966 Haile Sellasie visited Jamaica and Bob and the other Wailers embraced the Rastafarian faith and began to grow their 'locks'. Also at around this time they teamed up with the producer Lee Perry for what was to become a very productive but ultimately soured relationship. The union ceased when Perry allegedly sold their material to another label without their knowledge.
In 1972 Chris Blackwell signed the Wailers to his 'Island' label, and gave them 8000 to produce a record. The result - 'Catch A Fire', released in 1973 - was a breakthrough album, triggering international recognition of the Wailers. In the UK they appeared on BBC television, and in New York they opened for Bruce Springsteen at Max's Kansas City Club.
The touring schedule proved too much for Bunny and he announced his intention to quit the Wailers. Soon followed by Peter Tosh who left to concentrate on a solo career.
And so a new line up emerged, with Bob being the front man of 'Bob Marley and the Wailers'. He retained the stalwart rhythm section of the Barrett brothers (Aston and Carlton) on bass and drums, and added a trio of female backing vocalists called the 'I-Threes', one of which was his wife Rita who had sung occasionally with the Wailers since the beginning. The first album of the new line-up 'Natty Dread' was a major success.
In 1975 Bob Marley and the Wailers played the Roxy in Los Angeles. Among the ectstatic audience (apparently some were dancing on the tables) were Beatles George and Ringo, Bob Dylan, and Jack Nicholson!
Back home in Jamaica Bob was becoming revered
as a mystic and prophet, his influence was noted by politicians. When Bob
approached the then Prime Minister Michael Manley offering to stage a free
concert he responded by fixing a date (5 December) that would conveniently
coincide with the national elections, thus implying that he had the support
of Bob Marley. This dangerous move resulted in an attempt on Bobs life. On
the evening of the 3 December a number of gunmen arrived at Bobs house on
Hope Road and shot Bob, his wife Rita, and his manager. These gunmen were
thought to be the henchmen of the opposition leader Edward Seaga. Fortunately,
nobody was killed, and Bob went ahead with the planned concert defiantly
appearing with his arm in a sling. The
following year Bob cancelled the last few dates of a big European tour when
doctors diagnosed melanoma cancer in the big toe of his right foot. This
was the result of a neglected football injury (football being Bobs other
major passion alongside music) which occured in Paris when the Wailers took
on a team of French journalists some time earlier.
Back home in Jamaica the gunmen leaders of the two warring political factions (The Jamaican Labour Party and the Peoples National Party) approached Bob and asked him to perform at a concert marking a truce between them. The concert titled the 'One Love' Concert took place on 22 April 1978. During the concert Bob persuaded the Prime Minister Manley and the opposition leader Seaga to join him on stage where they shook hands. An incredible event in Jamaica at that time. As a reult of this act Bob received the United Nations' Peace Medal in New York the following June.
During 1979 Bob introduced reggae music to the world, touring Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
In 1980 he headlined the independence celebrations in Zimbabwe, one of the dignitaries present being non other than Prince Charles!
In September of this same year Bob collapsed while jogging in Central Park, New York, just after commencing the American leg of a world tour with the 'Commodores' playing support. Doctors told him the shocking news that the cancer (previously considered to have been cleared) had returned and was present in his lungs and brain. Despite this he flew to Pittsburg where on the 23 September 1980 he performed his last concert at the Stanley Theatre.
Initially Bob was treated in New York but the doctors eventually said there was nothing more they could do for him. He flew to Bavaria where he was treated by the unconventional Dr Issels. First signs were encouraging and for a while it appeared that Bob was improving. However by the beginning of May Dr Issels had to tell him that there was no longer any hope. Bob intended to end his days back in Jamaica but was so ill that he had to check into a hospital in Miami en route.
Here he died on 11 May 1981.
His body was returned to Jamaica where it was placed in a specially constructed mausoleum at his birthplace, Nine Miles.
We'll Always Remember