NAME: Bob Marley
BIRTH DATE: February 6, 1945
DEATH DATE: May 11, 1981
PLACE OF BIRTH:St. Ann Parish, Jamaica
Jamaican singer, musician and songwriter Bob Marley served as a world ambassador for reggae music and sold more than 20 million records throughout his career—making him the first international superstar to emerge from the so-called Third World.
Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945, in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica.
In 1963, Marley and his friends formed the Wailing Wailers. The Wailers’ big break came in 1972, when they landed a contract with Island Records. Marley went on to sell more than 20 million records throughout his career, making him the first international superstar to emerge from the so-called Third World. He died in Miami, Florida, on May 11, 1981.
Marley and one of his childhood friends Livingston devoted much of their time to music. Under the guidance of Joe Higgs, Marley worked on improving his singing abilities. He met another student of Higgs, Peter McIntosh (later Peter Tosh) who would play an important role in Marley’s career.
A local record producer, Leslie Kong, liked Marley’s vocals and had him record a few singles, the first of which was “Judge Not,” released in 1962. While he did not fare well as a solo artist, Marley found some success joining forces with his friends. In 1963, Marley, Livingston, and McIntosh formed the Wailing Wailers. Their first single, “Simmer Down,” went to the top of the Jamaican charts in January 1964. By this time, the group also included Junior Braithwaite, Beverly Kelso and Cherry Smith.
The group became quite popular in Jamaica, but they had difficulty making it financially. Braithewaite, Kelso, and Smith left the group. The remaining members drifted a part for a time. Marley went to the United States where his mother was now living. However, before he left, he married Rita Anderson on February 10, 1966.
For a time in the late 1960s, Marley worked with pop singer Johnny Nash. Nash scored a worldwide hit with Marley’s song “Stir It Up.” The Wailers also worked with producer Lee Perry during this era; some of their successful songs together were “Trench Town Rock,” “Soul Rebel” and “Four Hundred Years.”
The Wailers added two new members in 1970: bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his brother, drummer Carlton “Carlie” Barrett. The following year, Marley worked on a movie soundtrack in Sweden with Johnny Nash.
The Wailers got their big break in 1972 when they landed a contract with Island Records, founded by Chris Blackwell.
For their next tour, the Wailers performed with I-Threes, a female group whose members included Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and Marley’s wife, Rita. Now called Bob Marley & The Wailers, the group toured extensively and helped increase reggae’s popularity abroad. In Britain in 1975, they scored their first Top 40 hit with “No Woman, No Cry.”
Already a much-admired star in his native Jamaica, Marley was on his way to becoming an international music icon. He made the U.S. music charts with the album Rastaman Vibration in 1976.
The Wailers got their big break in 1972 when they landed a contract with Island Records, founded by Chris Blackwell. For the first time, the group hit the studios to record a full album. The result was the critically acclaimed Catch a Fire. To support the record, the Wailers toured Britain and the United States in 1973, performing as an opening act for both Bruce Springsteen and Sly & the Family Stone. That same year, the group released their second full album, Burnin’, featuring the hit song “I Shot the Sheriff.” Rock legend Eric Clapton released a cover of the song in 1974, and it became a No. 1 hit in the United States.
Back in Jamaica, Marley continued to be seen as a supporter of the People’s National Party. And his influence in his native land was seen as a threat to the PNP’s rivals. This may have led to the assassination attempt on Marley in 1976. A group of gunmen attacked Marley and the Wailers while they were rehearsing on the night of December 3, 1976, two days before a planned concert in Kingston’s National Heroes Park. One bullet struck Marley in the sternum and the bicep, and another hit his wife, Rita, in the head. Fortunately, the Marleys were not severely injured, but manager Don Taylor was not as fortunate. Shot five times, Taylor had to undergo surgery to save his life. Despite the attack and after much deliberation, Marley still played at the show. The motivation behind the attack was never uncovered, and Marley fled the country the day after the concert.
Living in London, England, Marley went to work on Exodus, which was released in 1977. The title track draws an analogy between the biblical story of Moses and the Israelites leaving exile and his own situation. The song also discusses returning to Africa.
While working on Exodus, Marley and the Wailers recorded songs that were later released on the album Kaya (1978). With love as its theme, the work featured two hits: “Satisfy My Soul” and “Is This Love.” Also in 1978, Marley returned to Jamaica to perform his One Love Peace Concert, where he got Prime Minister Michael Manley of the PNP and opposition leader Edward Seaga of the JLP to shake hands on stage.
That same year, Marley made his first trip to Africa, and visited Kenya and Ethiopia—an especially important nation to him, as it’s viewed as the spiritual homeland of Rastafarians. Perhaps inspired by his travels, his next album, Survival (1979),
A huge international success, Uprising (1980) featured “Could You Be Loved” and “Redemption Song.”
Traveling to Europe, Bob Marley underwent unconventional treatment in Germany, and was subsequently able to fight off the cancer for months. It soon became clear that Marley didn’t have much longer to live, however, so the musician set out to return to his beloved Jamaica one last time. Sadly, he would not manage to complete the journey, dying in Miami, Florida, on May 11, 1981.
Shortly before his death, Marley had received the Order of Merit from the Jamaican government. He had also been awarded the Medal of Peace from the United Nations in 1980.