A poverty stricken Jamaican child sits on the side of a street in Kingston, drumming on a vegetable bin and singing to the beat. Robert Nesta Marley was only five, but it was clear music was his destiny. You might know him better as Bob Marley and he is without a doubt the most famous figure to emerge from the reggae community. His musical career beginning with his first band was influenced by his unique Rastafarian religious beliefs. It continued with his tumultuous lifestyle where he dealt with assassination attempts, and ending with his tragic death at 36 from cancer. Although Bob Marley died in 1981 he is still recognized as a major musical influence by pop culture.
Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945 in the rural areas of Nine Mile, Jamaica. He was the sixth of nine children and was born of a scandal when his Mother had an affair with an older army lieutenant. He was incredibly bright as a child and was sent to the nearest city to live with his aunt and get an education at age five. In the large city he became immersed in the world of music and knew right then that he wanted to be a performer. As he started to mature no one knew the career that Bob had ahead of him and the places it would take him.
Bob Marley is synonymous with reggae. He introduced the world to the laid back Jamaican beat. His albums are recognized world wide. The first gold reggae album was “Catch A Fire”. This was also his most successful compilation. His fame peaked following his move to the United States leaving behind his native band, The Wailers.
The Wailers originally consisted of Bob, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Cherry Green and Beverly Kalso and were formed in 1960. The band was discovered at a talent show by Coxsone Dodd who owned a small record company based in Kingston. Later just after signing their first record deal, Junior Braithwaite and Cherry Green quit leaving Bob to be the lead singer. There firs hit was “Simmer Down” that spread throughout Jamaica like a wild fire making the band an instant hit. Bob left the band in 1966 to move to the U.S. where he finally became a Rasta.
A Rasta is a follower of the Rastafarian religion. It was in 1967 when Bob finally became a Rasta. The main belief of this religion is that the only way Black people can escape oppression is to return to Africa. The religion was created to hail to Haile Selassie, the man crowned king of Ethiopia in 1933. This man is referred to as “Jah” which means god in the English language. Common practices of Rastafarianism include turning your hair to dread locks and smoking marijuana. In many of his songs you can find references to these practices such as “Smoke Two Joints” and “Buffalo Soldier.
With Bob’s strong political beliefs and his Rastafarian religion, he was an open target to assassination attempts and acts of violence. The most well known assassination attempt occurred in 1976, when gunmen burst into his home firing shots at random. Bob, his wife Rita, and his manager Don Taylor all had minor injuries. It has been claimed that the government is responsible for the attempt on Bob’s life. Even with this on his shoulders he still promoted political peace. “Political awareness brought about a proud moment in ’78. Marley played the Jamaican One Love peace concert, where he persuaded Michael Manley, the , the Jamaican Prime Minister, and Edward Seaga, the opposition leader, to shake hands in front of a huge crowd.”(Reggae, 1998).
Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981 of lung cancer and a brain tumor. He died at only age 36 from his turbulent lifestyle and smoking. Bob left the world of music in awe of his career that brought peace to a nation and changed reggae music forever.
Bob Marley had been recognized by many other performing artists for colorful style and his talent for song writing . Even artists such of Eric Clapton and Sublime have asked for the honor of recording one of Bob’s songs on his album.
Bob Marley has inspired many types of music and will be remembered as a revolutionary. He put the music of Jamaica on the map with his unforgettable songs and talent that will never be forgotten.
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