Bob Marley, May 11, 1981
Singer-songwriter, musician, 1945-1981
Robert Nesta Marley was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the reggae bands The Wailers (1964–1974) and Bob Marley & The Wailers (1974–1981)
Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited for helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience.
Marley's best known hits include "I Shot the Sheriff", "No Woman, No Cry" and "Could You Be Loved". The compilation album, Legend (1984), released three years after his death, is reggae's best-selling album of all time.
Bob Marley was born in the small village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica as Nesta Robert Marley. His father, Norval Marley was a Jamaican of English descent, whose family came from Essex, England. Norval was a captain in the Royal Marines when he married Cedella Booker, an Afro-Jamaican then 18 years old.
Norval provided financial support for his wife and child, but seldom saw them, as he was often away on trips. In 1955, when Marley was 10 years old, his father died of a heart attack at age 60. Marley was teased as a youth because of his mixed racial origins, and faced questions about his own racial identity throughout his life.
He left school at the age of 14 to make music with Joe Higgs, a local singer and devout Rastafari. In 1963, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and others formed a ska group, calling themselves "The Teenagers". They later changed their name to "The Wailing Rudeboys", and then to "The Wailing Wailers". By 1966, all that was left was the core trio of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh.
The same year, Marley married Rita Anderson, and moved to Wilmington, Delaware in the United States for a short time, during which he worked as a DuPont lab assistant and on the assembly line at a Chrysler plant.
Upon returning to Jamaica, Marley became a member of the Rastafari movement, and started to wear his trademark dreadlocks. For the next few years Marley sang and performed with various artists. The Wailers' first album, Catch a Fire, was released worldwide in 1973, and sold well. It was followed a year later by Burnin', which included the songs "Get Up, Stand Up" and "I Shot the Sheriff". In 1975, Marley had his international breakthrough with his first hit outside Jamaica, "No Woman, No Cry".
Marley left Jamaica at the end of 1976 for England, where he spent two years in self-imposed exile. Whilst there he recorded his Exodus and Kaya albums. Exodus stayed on the British album charts for 56 consecutive weeks. During his time in London, he was arrested and received a conviction for possession of a small quantity of cannabis.
In 1978, Marley returned to Jamaica and performed at a political concert in an effort to calm warring parties. Near the end of the performance, by Marley's request, Michael Manley (leader of then-ruling People's National Party) and his political rival Edward Seaga (leader of the opposing Jamaica Labour Party), joined each other on stage and shook hands.
Under the name Bob Marley and the Wailers, eleven albums were released. Survival, a defiant and politically charged album, was released in 1979. Tracks such as "Zimbabwe", "Africa Unite", "Wake Up and Live", and "Survival" reflected Marley's support for the struggles of Africans.
In July 1977, Marley was found to have a form of malignant melanoma, in a wound reportedly picked up in a friendly football match. Shortly afterwards his health deteriorated and he became very ill, the cancer had spread throughout his body. Marley sought treatment at a Bavarian clinic where he received a controversial type of cancer therapy partly based on avoidance of certain foods, drinks and other substances. After fighting the cancer without success for eight months he boarded a plane for his home in Jamaica. While flying home from Germany to Jamaica, accepting that he was going to die, Marley's vital functions worsened. After landing in Miami, he was taken to hospital for immediate medical attention. He died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami on the morning of May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. His final words to his son Ziggy were "Money can't buy life."
Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica on May 21, 1981. He was buried in a chapel near his birthplace with his red Fender Stratocaster.