Travel to any tropical place in the world and there’s a good chance you’ll hear some Bob Marley music. Entire sub-cultures are now devoted to reggae and generations of people have been inspired by Marley’s message of peace and love.
Although the great man himself died nearly 30 years ago, his music endures as it continues to turn people on to the style of music he helped define.
He is, rightfully, the godfather of the genre, responsible for bringing reggae to the world. This week, in celebration of what would be his 65th birthday, Sunday Times will is doing a tribute to Bob Marley. We do this to pay homage to Marley as well as discuss his legacy.
Few people can deny that Bob Marley deserves his hero status. Born in Jamaica in 1945, Marley grew up in the village of Nine Mile in Jamaica, the son of a white father and a black mother.
In previous accounts of Marley’s upbringing, half his life is missing. Information about Marley’s “white” father is critically important in understanding Marley’s expansive cultural viewpoint on the world.
Bob Marley once said: “If you’re white and you’re wrong, then you’re wrong, if you’re black and you’re wrong, you’re wrong. People are people. Black, blue, pink, green -- God make no rules about color, only society make rules where my people suffer and that why we must have redemption and redemption now.”
By the time he was 18 he’d collaborated with musicians, including Peter Tosh and the band that would later become The Wailers was formed.
Their first album Catch a Fire sold well for the still relatively unknown band and after Eric Clapton covered ‘I shot the Sheriff’ in 1974, Marley’s place was confirmed. The rest is history.
As well as helping to bring reggae to wider audiences, Marley is credited as being an ambassador for the Rastafarian religion, a movement that would have a huge influence on his life.
It was from here that he gained his trademark dreadlocks and the religion’s ideology would help to shape some of his best-known lyrics. Also among his famous quotes is this one “
Although many of his songs are catchy and well written, it is the lyrics that attract many people’s attention. Deep and often profound, Marley had the ability to describe the world and our place in it, reminding us in his humble and non-assuming way of our responsibility to one another.
His influence is still heard in the music industry, his style emulated by countless artists and his songs regularly covered by folk, jazz, rock and country artists
Because Marley dared to make music of depth, it has had longevity as well.
Once shunned by many African-Americans and held at arm’s length by whites, Marley is now embraced by every race there is and, the general public’s feelings towards Bob Marley are now best summarized by the title of what is among his most singular songs: One Love.
Few musicians are as well loved, and his message is as relevant today as ever. There continues to be ‘so much trouble in the world’ and perhaps it’s time we stopped and wondered what Bob Marley would have to say about it.
More of a day to remember ‘The God of Reggae’ today promises a feast of reggae culture and a look at the man who made it famous.