It is now 65 years since the birth of Robert Nesta Marley. It seems like a very long time ago but when you listen to his music you are made to forget that he has been dead for over 28 years now.
That is the beauty of music. The beautiful reggae sound that Bob Marley popularised has in turn made him to live with us for ages. Bob Marley was born a mortal but he went on die a legend thanks to his music.
Bob Marley a.k.a Tuff Gong was born Nesta Robert Marley on February 6, 1945 in a small village of Nine Miles in St Ann Parish, Jamaica.
His father was Captain Norval Sinclair Marley, a 50 year old white Jamaican born to British aren’t from Sussex. He (Cpt. Norval) married cedilla Booker, an 18 year old black Jamaican and together they sired Bob Marley. When Bob Marley was ten years old, his father died of a heart attack at the age of 60 (1955).
Although Bob Marley recognised his mixed ancestry, throughout his life and because of his beliefs, he self-identified as a black African. Marley often sang about the struggles of blacks and Africans against oppression from the West or “Babylon.”
Later in life, Marley moved to Kingston where he met Neville ‘Bunny’ Livingston (Bunny Wailer) and Peter McIntosh (Peter Tosh). In 1963, Bob Marley, Bunny Livingston, Peter McIntosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith formed a group, “The Wailers.” The Wailers’ first album Catch A Fire introduced the Jamaican reggae sound to the rest of the world.
The wailers broke up in 1974 with each of the three main members (Bob, Bunny and Peter) going on to pursue solo careers.
The reason for the break up is shrouded in mystery; some believe that there were disagreements amongst Bunny, Peter and Bob concerning performances, while others claim that Bunny and Peter simply preferred solo work.
Bob Marley went on to achieve more success with his group, Bob Marley and The Wailers. He toured several countries spreading his music and Rastafarianism. Some of his biggest hits include, “Buffalo Soldier”, “One Love”, “No Woman No Cry”, “Zimbabwe”, “Africa Unite” and the famous so called Reggae anthem, “Redemption song”. It was in “Redemption Song” that Marley sang the famous lyric, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds...”
In July 1977, Marley was diagnosed with cancer on his right big toe. He refused amputation, citing worries that the operation would affect his dancing, as well as the Rastafari belief that the body must be “whole”. “Rasta no abide amputation. I don’t allow a man to be dismantled.” (From the biography Catch a Fire).
The cancer later spread to other parts of his body and at the start of May 1981, Bob Marley left Germany for his Jamaican home, a journey he did not complete. He died in a Miami hospital on May 11, 1981.
On May 21, 1981, the people of Jamaica gave the Hon. Robert Nesta Marley O.M. a state funeral. His body now rests in a mausoleum at his birth place at Nine Mile. Bob Marley was 36-years-old. His final words to his son Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life.” He was buried with his Gibson Les Paul guitar.
Bob Marley had a number of children: three with his wife Rita, two adopted from Rita’s previous relationships, and several others with different women. The Bob Marley official website acknowledges eleven children.
Although he never won a Grammy award in his lifetime, in 2001 he was honoured with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. At this year’s Grammys, three of his sons were nominated for prizes and two of them won.
Ziggy Marley, the eldest son, picked the fifth Grammy of his career. His younger brother Stephen won the Grammy for best reggae album by beating his other brother Julian!
Since this month was kicked off with heroes’ day celebrations, it is right and fitting for us to celebrate the heroics of Bob Marley.
“His music was pure rock, in the sense that it was a public expression of a private truth”, says Timothy White, author of the acclaimed Bob Marley biography CATCH A FIRE: THE LIFE OF BOB MARLEY.
He was a man with a humble beginning but with a phenomenal life and legacy. Imagine a musician from the Third World having a 100,000 people audience in Milan, Italy and performing at a fully packed Wembley stadium in UK.
We all need to strive to find the natural mystic that resides inside of us. If you died today, how would you like to be remembered? So get to work now because “who Jah bless, no one curse.” Happy Birthday Nesta.