Photo Credit: Photo by Bill Fairs
Happy Birthday, Bob Marley! The Jamaican Legend Would Have Turned 78 Today
Jamaica has produced many prominent figures, from Usain Bolt to Grace Jones, Marcus Garvey to Shaggy. But, most would agree that Bob Marley, who would have turned 78 today, is in a class by himself.
His music fuses island flavor with social and political commentary. I Shot The Sheriff, Redemption Song and Exodus are three examples. In the same vein is, Get Up, Stand Up, with one memorable lyric: “you can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time.” This rings as true now as it did then.
Marley would have continued to create chart-topping music, were it not for his untimely death in 1981. Jamaica has gone on to produce fantastic artists in the Reggae and Dancehall genres. All of them likely drew from Marley’s blueprint.
There are many tributes to Marley in Jamaica today, including murals and statues. His former home was converted into a museum, which is a Jamaican Heritage Site. According to the museum’s website, “the property also features a well-equipped 80-seat theater, a photographic gallery, a record shop, and a gift shop filled with a wide array of Bob Marley memorabilia.”
Bob Marley: Origins
Marley was born in St. Ann’s Parish in Jamaica on February 6, 1945. According to Biography, “he was the son of a Black teenage mother and a much older, later absent white father.” In spite of the poverty of his formative years, Marley found refuge in music.
In 1963, Marley, alongside fellow Jamaicans “Bunny” O’Riley Livingston (Bunny Wailer) and Peter McIntosh (he later changed his surname to “Tosh”) started the Wailers. Each brought a distinct flavor to the band, and members rotated over the years. They enjoyed great success in Jamaica and overseas, but life took the trio in different directions eventually.
All About Jazz wrote, “following the disbandment of The Wailers, Marley went on to release his solo material under the band’s name.”
Murder Attempt, Solo Artist Success, And Enduring Legacy
In 1976, Marley and his wife Rita narrowly escaped a murder attempt, which was political in nature. Far Out Magazine explained, “political tensions heightened in Jamaica due to the approaching elections between the CIA-backed Jamaican Labor Party and the People’s National Party.” Both parties sought Marley’s support, but he and his wife “decided to remain neutral during the 1976 elections.”
Shaken by the experience, Marley relocated to London, where he recorded Exodus. Biography explained, “released as a single, “Exodus” was a hit in Britain, as were “Waiting in Vain” and “Jamming.” The entire album stayed on the U.K. charts for more than a year. Today, Exodus is considered to be one of the best albums ever made.” Buffalo Soldier, written by Marley toward the end of his life, was released in 1983. It was well received, as were a number of other, posthumous hits.
In 1978, at the One Love concert in Kingston, Bob Marley convinced two important men to shake hands before thousands of spectators. Prime Minister Michael Manley and Opposition Leader Edward Seaga did exactly that, to thunderous applause. It was a testament to Marley’s star power.
The next time you’re visiting one of Jamaica’s beach bars or clubs, you’re sure to hear Marley’s recognizable voice at some point in the evening. It’s almost impossible to have an authentic Jamaican experience without it.