Reggae music genre has managed to captivate virtually every corner of the world with its charm. This has become possible thanks to Bob Marley – the genre’s chief ambassador. Bob Marley was a Jamaican musician, black sheep, songwriter, and singer. He helped introduce reggae music to the world and remains one of the most popular and beloved artists to this day. He told stories of his home in Jamaica, politics, and his Rastafarian religion through his music.
Bob Marley’s birth name is Nesta Robert Marley. He was born in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica on February 6, 1945. His mother Cedella was a 19-year-old black country villager while his father was nearly 60-years-old British naval captain. Because of this racial duality, Marley was bullied in his childhood and given the offensive nickname ‘White Boy’. He spent his early years in Nine Miles – a rural village situated in St. Ann Parish.
Marley and his mother later settled in Trench Town, where he quickly made some friends. His beloved friends were Peter McIntosh and Neville Livingstone, who is also known as Bunny. Marley’s mother and Bunny’s father forged a relationship and ultimately decided to start a home. It was the time when Marley and his friends started to experiment with traditional Jamaican music.
Childhood to Adulthood
In his childhood, Marley rarely saw his father because as a British naval captain, he worked a lot and was always on duty. He died when Marley turned ten. Marley went to an ordinary local school and after graduation, started to work as a handyman.
When Marley was a teenager, he joined the subculture of Rudeboys that viewed crimes in romantic light and promoted aggressiveness. This group had its music preferences. The young people often went to disco parties where ska music was played. Young Marley tried himself in art in this subculture and developed his potential.
Key Moments for the Black Sheep, Bob Marley
Leslie Kong – a local record producer – liked Marley’s vocals and hence had him record a few singles. “Judge Not” was the first single that he recorded in 1962. While Marley didn’t fare well as a solo artist, he found some success working with his friends. Marley, McIntosh, and Livingston formed the Wailing Wailers in 1963. Their first single, “Simmer Down” topped the Jamaican charts in January 1964. Meanwhile the group also included Cherry Smith, Beverly Kelso, and Junior Braithwaite.
The group became very popular in Jamaica but faced financial challenges. Smith, Kelso, and Braithwaite left the group. The remaining members also drifted apart for some time. Marley moved to United States where his mother was living. Before leaving, he married Rita Anderson in 1966.
Marley returned to Jamaica after eight months and reunited with McIntosh and Livingston to form the Wailers. During this time, he was developing a growing interest in the Rastafarian movement and exploring his spiritual side. Both political and religious, the Rastafarian movement started in 1930s in Jamaica and drew its beliefs from many sources, including the Old Testament, Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey, and their African culture and heritage.
When the Wailers landed a contract with Island Records in 1972, they got their big break. For the first time, the group recorded a full album in the studio and critically acclaimed Catch a Fire was the outcome. The next year, they released their second full album that featured the smash hit song “I Shot the Sheriff”. It’s cover that was released in 1974 by Rock legend Eric Clapton became a No. 1 hit in the United States.
For their next tour, the group performed with I-Threes. They then toured extensively and increased the popularity of reggae music in the world. The group was now known as Bob Marley & The Wailers. They scored their first Top 40 hit in 1975 in Britain with the song “No Woman, No Cry”.
Politics and Assassination Attempt
Bob Marley was seen as a supporter of the People’s National Party in Jamaica. His influence in his native land was considered a threat to that party’s rivals. Perhaps this was the reason that led to the assassination attempt on Marley. A group of gunmen attacked the Wailers while they were rehearsing for an upcoming concert on December 3, 1976. One bullet hit Marley in the bicep and the sternum, and another struck his wife in the head. Fortunately, both survived as they were not severely injured.
Living in London
Exodus was released in 1977. It is considered one of Marley’s best albums. The title track of this album draws an analogy between the Israelites leaving exile and the biblical story of Moses and his own situation. The title song also discusses returning to Africa. Released as a single, this track was a hit in Britain, as were “Jamming” and “Waiting in Vain”. In fact, the entire album stayed on the U.K. charts for over a year.
The 12th studio album of Bob Marley & The Wailers called Uprising was a huge international success when it was released in 1980. It featured “Redemption Song” and “Could You Be Loved”. Known for its political and social importance and its poetic lyrics, the folk-sounding, pared down “Redemption Song” was an illustration of Bob Marley’s amazing talents as a songwriter.
While traveling in Europe, Marley underwent extensive treatment in Germany, and was ultimately able to fight off cancer for months. However, it soon became clear that he didn’t have much longer to live. So, he decided to return to his beloved Jamaica. Unfortunately, he could not manage to complete his journey and died on May 11, 1981 in Miami, Florida.
Most Notable Work
Bob Marley achieved a number of great accomplishments during his lifetime, e.g. becoming a world ambassador for reggae music, selling millions of records, earning induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, and becoming the first international superstar to emerge from the third world.
Decades after his demise, his music remains globally acclaimed. His musical legacy has also continued through his longtime bandmates and his family. His dedication to fighting oppression also remains through The Bob Marley Foundation that was established by his family in Marley’s memory. It is devoted to helping organizations and people in developing nations.
What Makes Bob Marley a Black Sheep?
In his short life, Bob Marley rose from obscurity and poverty to international fame, becoming the first third world artist to rise to such heights. It was largely through him that the world became familiar with Rastafarianism and the reggae music. It is a huge achievement worthy of the man himself and that’s what makes him a Black Sheep of the month.
Bob Marley is without a doubt the greatest third world country musician that ever lived. Through Rastafarian ideas, and a word most commonly used “authenticity”, he influenced many with tracks that touched the lives of millions. His wisdom through experience and struggle helped him achieve a great distinction over other artists. Till next time–The Black Sheep