The biography of Bob Marlay
In the year 1944, Captain Norval Marley married a young Jamaican girl named Cedalla Booker. On February 6, 1945 at two thirty in the morning their son, Robert Nesta Marley was born in his grandfather’s house. Soon after Bob was born his father left his mother. He did however give financial support and occasionally returned to see his son.
It was now the late fifties, jobs were scarce in Jamaica, so Bob followed his mother from their home in Stt. Ann to Trenchtown (West Kingston) to seek employment in the big city. Trenchtown got it’s name because it was built over a ditch which drained the sewage of old Kingston. In Trenchtown Bob spent a lot of his time with his good friend Neville Livingstone who people called by his nickname, Bunny. Also in the big city Bob was more exposed to the music which he had loved, including such greats as Fats Domino and Ray Charles. Bob and Buunny attended a music class together which was held by the famous Jamaican singer Joe Higgs. In that class they met Peter Macintosh and soon became good friends. In the meantime Jamaican music evolving and became very popular throughout the Ca
1970 saw the Wailers family grow with the addition of Aston “Family Man” Barret and his brother Carleton. The Wailers were now quite popular throughout the Caribbean but still internationally unknown. With this popularity a second more successful label was formed by the Wailers called Tuff Gong after a nickname of Bob Marley. The Wailers met Johnny Nash and soon Bob accompanied Nash to Sweden and London. When in London, Bob recorded “Reggae on Broadway” which was released by CBS. After this the rest of the Wailers arrived in London to help promote the single only to find that there were out of money and stranded there. With little options available, Bob went into the Island Records Basing Street Studios and asked to speak to the boss, Chris Blackwell with hopes of a possible record deal. Mr. Blackwell had already heard of th
In the Spring of 1973 the Wailers arrived back in London to kick off their three month tour of Britain. At the conclusion of the tour they returned back to Jamaica where Bunny decided to quit touring. Joe Higgs replaced him. The Wailers along with Higgs traveled to the US were they were scheduled to open 17 shows for the number one black act in the States, Sly and the Family Stone. The Wailers were fired after 4 shows because they were more popular then they band the opened for, the crowd often chanted “Wail-ers” well into the Sly and the Family Stone set. Also they opened a couple dates for Bruce Springsteen. After Sly and the Family Stone axed the Wailers they found themselves once again without money and stranded, this time in Las Vegas. Somehow they found their way to San Fransico. While there they did a live concert broadcast for the radio station KSAN-FM. The whole experience boosted their popularity in North America.
With 1973 winding down the Wailers released the much anticipated follow up album to “Catch a Fire” called “Burnin”. On this album many Wailer classics appear such as “I shot the Sheriff” and “Get Up Stand Up”. The Wailers popularity in North America grew even more when Eric Clapton re-recorded “I Shot the Sheriff”, becoming a number one hit on the US singles charts.
1975 saw the release of the Wailers’s third album, “Natty Dread” with such great tracks as “Talking Blues”, “No Woman No Cry” and “Revolution”. On the down side though two thirds of the original Wailing Wailers, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer quit the band to pursue solo careers. This caused the band to change their name again. This time to Bob Marley and the Wailers. The departure of the two members created a hole in the backing vocal section, this hole was filled and then some by the I-Threes (Rita Marley, Judy Mowatts and Marcia Grittiths). That summer the band started a new European tour. Two of those shows were at the Lyceum Ballroom, both shows were considered among the top of the decade. Both shows were recorded and made the album “Live!” which included the unforgettable live version “No Woman No Cry” which was a worldwide hit. The band underwent more changes with the addition of Al Anderson and Bernard Harvey who were later replaced by Junior Marvin and Tyrone Downie. The last time the original Wailers ever played together was at a Stevie Wonder concert for the Jamaican Institute for the blind. Bob Marley and the Wailers continued their roll releasing the incredible album “Rasta man Vibration” in 1976. This capped off a type of Reggae-Mania happening in the states. Rolling Stone named them band of the year. On the Rasta man Vibration album was the powerful track “War” which lyrics came from a speech given by Emperor Haile Selassie. Bob Marley decided to play a free concert at Kingston’s National Heroes Park on December 5, 1976. The idea behind the concert was a peaceful message against the ghetto wars happening in Trenchtown at the time. Tragedy struck two days before that he get on stage, gunmen broke into the Marley home and shot at Bob, Rita, and two friends. Luckily no one was killed. Despite this Bob Marley went on to put on a memorable show two days later at the Smile Jamaica concert. Following the show the band left for the UK. While they were there they recorded 1977’s “Exodus”. Possibly their best album to date, it solidified the band’s international stardom. It went number one in many countries including England and Germany. It was also one of the top albums of the year.
During their European tour, the band did a week of shows at the Rainbow Theatre in London. It was at the start of the tour when Bob injured his toe playing football. It was later diagnosed as cancerous. Also during this tour Bob received a very important ring, who’s previous owner was the Ethiopian Emperor. In May Bob was informed of his cancer. His cancer would most certainly be taken care of by amputating the toe but Bob refused. To do so would be against his Rastafarian faith. With this news the remainder of the Exodus tour was cancelled. His illness didn’t prevent him from recording music though, 1978 saw the release of “Kaya” which had a much more mellow sound then previous albums. Bob was accused of selling out because many of the songs were love songs or tributes to ganja (marijuana). Rastafarians believed the smoking the holy herb would bring them closer to Jah (god).
In April 1978, Bob returned to Jamaica to play the One Love Peace Concert. In attendance was Jamaican President Michael Manley and the leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga. It was Bob who got them on stage and even got them to shake hands. On June 15 he was awarded the Peace Medal of the Third World from the United Nations. For the first time he visited Africa going to Kenya and Ethiopia. On this trip he started to work on the song “Zimbabwe”. The band also released their second live album “Babylon by Bus” with was recorded in Paris. The album which followed it was Survival in 1978. Throughout the album the theme of black survival was evident. The Seventies were now coming to a close, Bob Marley and the Wailers were the most popular band on the road breaking many festival records. In 1980 the band found themselves in Gabon to perform in Africa for the first time. Here Bob Marley discovered that there manager had defrauded the band, Bob gave him a beating and fired him. The Zimbabwean government invited the whole band to perform at the countries Independence Ceremony in April. Bob later said of the invitation to be the biggest honour of his life.
After the amazing honour and experience Bob Marley continue to record, “Uprising” was released in 1980. Everything was looking bright, the band was planning an American tour with Stevie Wonder for that winter. Bob’s health was deteriorating, but he still got clearance from a doctor to go on the road. The tour started with Boston, followed by New York. During the New York show Bob’s looked very sick and he almost fainted. The next morning on Sept. 21 while jogging through Central, Bob collapsed and was brought to the hospital. There a brain tumour was discovered and doctors gave him a month to live. Rita Marley wanted the tour cancelled but Bob wanted to continue on. He played an unforgettable show in Pittsburgh but was too ill to continue so the tour was finally cancelled. It would be the last show he ever performed. Treatment prolonged his life somewhat but the inevitable was soon to happening. Bob was transported to a Miami hospital where he was baptized Berhane Selassie in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on November 4. In a final attempt to save his life he underwent a controversial treatment in Germany. While in Germany he celebrated his 36th and final birthday. Ultimately the treatment didn’t work. Bob wanted to die at home so he was flown back. Unfortunately he didn’t finish the trip, he died on May 11, 1981 in a Miami hospital. He was internationally mourned for and thousands showed up at his May 21 funeral to show their respects. In attendance wereboth the Jamaican President and the Leader of the Opposition. Bob Marley now rests in a mausoleum at his birthplace. After his death he was awarded Jamaica’s Order of Merit. The Prophet Gad insisted on becoming the owner of Bob’s ring. However, amazingly the ring the disappeared and still has yet to be found. Bob’s mother said that the ring was returned to it’s place of origin.
Bob Marley knew of his fate. Being a visionary he foresaw this, his words will forever be immortalized in the lyrics in which he wrote.
“One bright morning when my work is over I will fly away home”