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Bob Marley - The Life and Death Of a Reggae Legend

Updated on July 4, 2011

Who was Bob Marley?

Bob Marley was born in Jamaica on February 6th 1945 to Norval Sinclair Marley a white Englishman and Cedelia Booker a black Jamaican. He was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician and was very well known, more so after his death on May 11th 1981. He lives on in the lifestyle of reggae music and his music is still widely listened to and respected worldwide.

Bob had 12 children, four from his wife Rita. These were Imani Carole, Sharon Marley, Cedella Marley, David 'Ziggy' Marley, Steven Marley, Robert Marley, Rohan Marley, Karon, Julian Ricardo Marley, Ky-Mani Marley, Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley, and Makeda. Most of which have pursued or lived through a musical career, following their father's footsteps.

Bob was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the rock steady, ska and reggae band Bob Marley & The Wailers who were together from 1963-1981. In the reggae music industry, Bob is by far the most well known performer and has been given credit for widening the audience globally for the reggae scene.

As well as being given credit for broadening the variety of people who listen to this style of music, he was also respected for bringing to light political and cultural issues in his homeland through song.

Three Little Birds

Bob's best jams and success

Bob had many successful reggae hits that touched the hearts of adoring fans and reggae music lovers all over the world. These hits are still listened to very regularly today, and will remain constant forever more.

Some of Bob Marley's best-known ballads are:

''No Woman, No Cry''

''I Shot the Sheriff''

''Could You Be Loved''

''Stir It Up''


''One Love''

''Redemption Song''

Also, a song called ''Three Little Birds'' that arose from his prominence in the band Bob Marley & The Wailers is an extremely famous feel good reggae track. Some other great songs from this band were ''Iron Lion Zion'' and ''Buffalo Soldier''.

Three years following Bob Marley's young death, a compilation album of his best tracks was released. Incredibly, this album was Bob's best selling album and went Platinum (Diamond) in the U.S 10 times, selling 25 million copies worldwide.

In Bob Marley's prime, his success was huge due to the popularity of his music and style. He did many performances in various venues where fans from near and far would come and jam with this reggae music master.

The rise of his reggae career

When Bob was just 10 years old, his father passed away. Following this pain and distress, his mother moved to Kingston's Trench town neighbourhood with Bob, where he then met and became friends with Bunny Wailer. The two spent time learning to play music together, and at the mere age of 14 Bob left school to learn the welding trade. Meanwhile in his spare time, he practised jamming and forming close bonds with Bunny and Joe Higgs the ska musician.

In the year of 1962, Bob recorded his own pieces of music, which came to no real interest at that particular time. The next year, he formed a band with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. This was to become the famous Bob Marley and The Wailers. However, many choices of names were debated to begin with. These included, 'The Teenagers', 'The Wailing Wailers' and 'The Wailing Rude boys' before finally coming to the conclusion that they would just be named 'The Wailers'.

They created some early Studio One Hits, which were 'Simmer Down' (1964) and 'Soul Rebel' (1965). These were recorded in the popular rock steady style. In 1966 Bob married Rita Anderson and began studying the Rastafarian faith, which included growing his trademark dreadlocks and ritually smoking ganja (marijuana).

Once a married man, Bob Marley continued on his musical journey to record many other hits and tour with The Wailers. The Wailers' 1974 album Burnin' which included 'Get Up, Stand Up' and 'I Shot The Sheriff' gathered big followings and attention within the US and Europe. This was the beginning of his success.

However, despite the success that The Wailers were receiving, they split a year after and went solo. Bob transitioned from ska and rock steady style music to reggae, which was to make him the legend he has become. Bob carried on under the name of 'Bob Marley and The Wailers' even though he was the only original wailer.

The breakthrough

In the year of 1975, Bob's hit 'No Woman, No Cry' became a phenomenal success that made him. This was his true breakthrough song and his album 'Rasta man Vibration' was to become a top 10-billboard album. He continued on this path to build an ever-growing posse of fans for his reggae style of music and had finally received the recognition he deserved.

Bob's work for political and religious activism

In 1978 he won the award for 'Peace Medal Of The Third World' in result to his efforts on peace. Most of the late 1970s Bob spent trying his best to promote peace and a sense of cultural understanding. This was after he got shot along with his wife and manager, who both survived before a peace concert.

Nevertheless, he kept striving for peace and acted as a willing cultural ambassador for the Jamaican people and Rastafarian religion. For those who study his faith and come from his home country, he is looked up to as a Godlike figure and holds great status for respect.

Awards and nominations

Following Bob's tragic death, he has received numerous awards and nominations.

· 1992

Won Q Award
Category - Best Reissue/Compilation for "Songs of Freedom"

· 1994

Won Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Category - Performer

· 1981

Won Jamaican Order of Merit

· 2001

Won Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

· 2001Got nomination for Grammy Award
Category - Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (from "The Best Man" soundtrack) for "Turn Your Lights Down Low" shared with Lauryn Hill 

· 2001

Won Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

· 2002

Got nomination for Grammy award
Category - Best Music Video, Long Form for "Rebel Music - The Bob Marley Story"

· 2005

Won Posthumous Achievement Award

Performing I Shot The Sheriff

Bob Marley's death

Following a soccer injury, in 1977 Bob discovered a wound on his big toe. He believed this was result of hurting his foot when playing soccer. However, he later discovered that it was malignant melanoma. Doctor's visits continued to recommend Bob to have an amputation of his toe, to prevent it worsening or spreading.

Due to Bob's faith, he did not agree with the amputation method and so did not go forward with the procedure. His Rastafarian faith has a belief that amputation is sinful. Because of this, the cancer eventually spread. In 1980, Bob finally decided to get medical help after learning that the cancer had become terminal.

When on a trip to New York City to perform, Bob collapsed when jogging through central park. He became increasingly sick following this. His wishes were to die in Jamaica, but he could not withstand the long flight home and so he sadly passed away in Miami.

His final performance was held in Pittsburgh, in September of 1980. This performance was remastered and released in February 2011 as 'Bob Marley and The Wailers Live Forever'.

His famous last words were said to be those he spoke to his son Ziggy Marley, which were, ''Money can't buy you life.''

Celebrating Bob Marley's life

Bob Marley's life lives on through people all over the world, and on the anniversary of his birthday and death he is celebrated for his magnificent work and help to regain peace.

Bob is the defining figure of Jamaican music and as a spiritual leader. His 12 children and wife continue to carry on his musical legacy, as do many others.

Performing No Woman, No Cry


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    • carolestoll profile image


      4 years ago

      Blessed love

    • profile image


      9 years ago


    • mcrawford76 profile image

      Matthew I Crawford 

      10 years ago from Greeley, Colorado

      One of the world’s most idyllic figures. He had such a pure and simple message to humanity as a whole. His death was a loss for all people, peace, and goodness.

      None but ourselves can free our minds.

      Bob Marley

      Excellent hub, voted up and awesome.

    • BethanRose profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South Wales

      No problem I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's really interesting writing about him, but sad that he was just 36 and had so much more to give. I am a huge fan of Bob Marley also, I have his picture on my wall :)

    • pedrn44 profile image


      10 years ago from Greenfield, Wisconsin

      I have always been a huge fan of Bob Marley. Thanks so much for this wonderfully written hub. Love the pictures and especially the videos:)


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