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Bob marley – the king of reggae

What does Bob Marley present for the people of today? Just another dead music star, which is almost forgotten? Not many people would say so. To most people he is a legend, a role model, someone who will never be forgotten, and will be remembered and even worshipped forever. What did he do to deserve this? A lot of things. Over 300 million of his records have been sold, all over the world until today, he proclaimed the message of reggae music to the world, and became the most famous Jamaican ever. He left behind a song called “one love” which was announced the anthem of the millennium by the BBC, and the Time magazine awarded his album “Exodus” as the best album of the 20th century.


Around 1944 Norval Marley, a white Jamaican and a supervisor for British crown, and a black Jamaican girl called Seddela got to know each other. Norval was in his late forties and Seddela was only 18 years old. Seddela was attracted to Norval’s sense of humor and they soon became lovers. Shortly after that Seddela got pregnant. When she found out about this, she told it to Norval right away and he promised that he would marry her. After some troubles with Seddela’s family they finally got married. But Bob’s father had to move to Kingston to work right after. Seddela lived in her family’s house and got every help she needed from them. Bob was born on Wednesday, 6th February 1945 in a family house. The whole family waited for Norval to come and give the boy a name. Bob was baptized Robert Nesta Marley. Everyone in family called him Nesta. He was a very clever boy and had a great sense of music. Some old people in the village Nine Mile in St. Ann remember how he sang to them when they went in his grandfather’s shop. He sung them songs which he thought out by himself. When Bob turned six his father wrote to Seddela and said that he would like Bob to come to Kingston and start going to school there. Bob went and his mother stayed in St. Ann thinking about him all the time. Not long after that, she realized that she had to go and see him in Jamaica’s capitol. She found him at some old lady’s house. Mr. Marley had brought him there and asked that lady to bring him up as her own child. Seddela took the boy back to her home in the countryside. Bob was much different after he had returned from Kingston, the only same thing was his love for singing. He was so good at singing that sometimes people came to his grandfather’s shop to hear him sing and often gave him money. When Bob was 10 years old he lost his father, who he didn’t even know, Norval Marley died in Kingston in 1955. And not much later his mother went to Kingston to find a job. Nesta was again with his grandfather Omeria, looking after the sheep and goats in the Nine Mile’s fields. At that time his mother was struggling in Kingston’s slums trying to find enough money to survive. When she finally found some place to live in she wrote to her family to send Bob to her in Kingston. Omeria did so and Bob got there soon. He started going to school there and as he was older Kingston was much different to him this time. He had no idea that his life was about to change.


At the time Bob got to live with his mother again, Kingston was swarming with poor black people, who had over crowded it in search for jobs and better living. Since there weren’t enough flats for all those people, extremely poor quarts were formed. The houses were made of crates or cardboards, and whole quarts were very dirty, full of smoke, and very dangerous to live in. In one of these parts of Kingston Bob Marley grew up. The slum in which Bob was living bore the name of Trench town. In all that poverty Bob Marley had that luck at least to live in government’s building, which was made of concrete and was a certain luxury among all those shanties. His mother worked as a house keeper and earned hardly enough to keep him go to school. At that time he was said to be a shy boy who always waited for the end of the class to go out and play football with his friends. But as he grew a bit older he started to hang out with boys who were older than him and with rude boys[1]. But he was never interested in crime or anything like that. He liked to play football very much but above all he adored music.

Jamaicans are generally people who can’t live without music and music is part of their everyday life. No matter how hard their life is they will always sing, dance or listen to the music as soon as they get the chance. Bob especially fell in love with new Jamaican rhythm called ska[2]. Ska got very popular in Jamaica in short time thanks to musicians like the Skatalites, the big ska orchestra very famous in Jamaica.

At that time Bob met Bunny Livingston (latter Bunny Wailer) and formed duo with him. They used to sing in the neighborhood. They were impressed by bands like “the Drifters” or “the Impressions” (synchrony trio from Chicago) and of course “the Skatalites”. All they wanted at that time was to get attention of famous Joe Higgs, who was a star and lived near Bob’s flat. They used to sing in his backyard with a lot of other young people who were hoping for some musical carrier. Joe would hold some auditions in order to find young talents. They saw it as the best chance for success in musical business of Jamaica. It was in this backyard where they met another boy, a bit older, called Winston Hubert McIntosh or better known as Peter Tosh. They formed the first line-up of perhaps the most famous Jamaican band in history called the Wailers. At this point Bob decided to leave school and try his luck with the love of his life-music. Since he had no money he earned his living by working in a welder’s shop. All day at work he would be singing and making new melodies waiting for the evening to try them with his band. Eventually he got to know Jimmy Cliff, who although fourteen year old was already famous. Jimmy liked Bob’s singing and introduced him to Leslie Cong who had a recording studio. After hearing Bob, Leslie got him to record three SP records. The first was “Judge Not” and it can still be heard today. But Bob didn’t earn much money from that. But the most important thing was that he was sixteen and already had 3 tracks recorded, that gave him hope of musical carrier.

In the meantime his mother got married and moved to live in Delaware, Ohio. And Bob stayed in Jamaica waiting for her to get him a passport. He was homeless and starving.

Some time later one of the best friends of the Wailers, Elvin Paterson Zico, presented them to the Coxon Dodd. Coxon was the owner of one of the biggest studios in Kingston. He liked the Wailers and offered them a contract. They would get 20 pounds for every track they record. Some of the tracks they recorded for Coxon were: Simmer down; “I am Going Home”, “Put it On”… These tracks were played on sound systems[3] and wailers were honored by this.

On the way from the place where he was sleeping to the Studio One (the Coxon Dodd’s studio) he met a beautiful, black, teenage girl name Rita. She liked Bob from the start but Bob was too busy thinking about the music to even notice her. Later on he started to like her as well and eventually fell in love with her. They decided to get married. And about that time his mother wrote to him to come to Delaware. So Bob and Rita got married in February 1966, Bob was 21 and Rita was only 19. But the same as his father Bob had to leave his wife right after the wedding. He went to the USA to earn money in order to start his own recording firm.


Bob knew that coming to Delaware was a mistake from the start. His first impression of the USA was awful. Being a simple, island man, he wasn’t used to all that rush. He used to say to his mother: “It’s all too loud, too noisy, too much rush in Delaware”[4]. But that was America, everybody was going ahead, doing different things, searching for possibilities. Bob did many different jobs, he was a waiter, assistant in a lab, worker in “Chrysler” factory….He spent most of his time in his room, playing melodies on his acoustic guitar and writing verses in his note book. Also he gradually revealed his marriage with Rita. Bob was witness of segregation and racial injustice that was going around in the USA. He was depressed by the fact that he was put to be a second class citizen. Also he saw a police brutality over the blacks who started a few uprisings at that time. It couldn’t be taken no more. It was clear that he had to go back to Jamaica.


The first thing Bob did when he returned to Jamaica was to roll and light a large spliff[5]. There was something about that smoke that he liked, a sense of control, which was unreachable in Delaware, he felt at home at last. He was thinking about the cruelty of the white people who had been oppressing his ancestors for centuries. It caused him to get closer to Rasta movement and eventually to become a Rasta himself.

Rasta movement was started in Jamaica in the 1950s. It all started in 1920s when the black priest Marcus Garvey was preaching about the black king from the east who will come and lead all the stumbling blacks to Zion[6]. When in 1930 Haile Selassie I was crowned in Ethiopia as an Emperor and was titled “king of kings, lord of lords, conquering lion of the tribe of Judah[7]” followers of Marcus Garvey were sure that it was a clear sign and that the prophecy had been revealed. That’s when the Rastafari movement was founded. The origin of name Rastafari comes from Selassie’s real name[8]– Ras Tafari Makonen. To the members of the Rastafari movement Selassie is the true messiah, the savior who will take them away from Babylon back to their homeland. Babylon is a wrong white man’s system which keeps everyone, no matter whether they are white or black, in mental or physical slavery.

The important thing about Rastafarians is their nutrition. They eat food similar to the vegetarian food, not any kind of meat. Food is based on fruit and vegetables, also all spices are ruled out and anything that was chemically treated is not allowed for Rastas to eat. Their nutrition is called I-tal which means vital on Jamaican[9], so it consists only of the most natural food. Drinking alcohol is forbidden and taking medicines is also strictly defined, in most cases they treat illnesses with variety of herbs of which Cannabis or Marijuana is the most common and the most sacred. They call it “the weed of wisdom” and it is considered to be necessary for meditation. Rastas believe that Babylon banned marijuana from using just to stop people from reaching the wisdom.

One of the most famous Rasta symbols is their flag. The flag is in three colors-red, yellow and green, or as Rastas would say-red, gold and green. Red represents blood that their ancestors spilt in slavery, gold represents the mining treasures of Africa, mostly the diamonds and gold that the oppressors have stolen and green represents the beautiful nature of Ethiopia. Second famous symbol Rastas wear on their heads, this symbol is called dreadlocks or simply dreads. Dreads are entangled coils of hair, which are formed by constant washing the hair but never combing it out. Dreadlocks present the African roots and connection with homeland and also the difference between disheveled Rasta and combed white people who present Babylon.

Their type of fight against Babylon is a peaceful one, not violent, it is through meditation, singing, smoking ganja[10] and dreaming of going back to Africa. Today there are a few million of people in the world who declare themselves as Rastas. They have different social positions, some are rich, others are homeless, some are black, others are white, some smoke marijuana, others don’t, but they are all gathered by the idea of one love[11], equality and justice for all.

They were widely spread in Kingston at that time, and were constantly prosecuted by the police. Bob, after seeing all that brutality, segregation, and racial injustices decided to become a Rasta and join their fight. That fact would change his way of life and way of thinking entirely and it would also have a large influence on his musical career. Selassie literally became the father figure for Bob, he was the father Marley never had.


After Bob’s return to Jamaica the songs that Wailers did before his trip to the USA started to make large success, these songs were: “Love and Affection”, “Put it On”, “Cry to Me” and some others. Coxon had already published some Wailers material on which Bob was substituted by some girl name Beverly Kelso. He liked the material, but the audience missed Marley’s voice. Coxon and some artists thought that Bob had lost some of his skills during the trip and the Jamaican musical scene had been changed a little bit. The popular ska rhythm was replaced with new, slower “rocksteady” rhythm with more bass. Coxon’s studio had also been upgraded with some new equipment like two channel mix-board. But that wasn’t problem for Marley and he quickly got adapted to this new situation on the scene. Bob slowly started to reveal the treasure he brought with him from Delaware, the treasure of his notebook. Bunny and Peter were amazed with new melodies and songs which were more personal but were still close to everyone. One day in the recording studio while one of these tracks was being recorded Coxon said in amazement: “Bob is now fully mature, you see. He has overgrown the rest, there is no doubt about it”[12]. It was now clear that the Wailers had a clear way towards the stars, they just needed to be heard and they needed the money. However, the money was a big problem, so Wailers got into fight with Coxon for not paying them enough. So Bob, being a family man, went to the Nine Mile in St. Ann County to work as a farmer. He was constantly writing during this period and after a few months he returned to Kingston. At about that time band The Maytals sang their famous song “Do the Reggay” in a fantastic two-string rhythm and this song would be a door opener for a whole new musical genre and some kind of a Jamaican symbol. Wailers had the chance to try this rhythm themselves at Leslie Kong’s studio. They liked it but they sounded somehow raw in it and they were aware of it.

Right after the birth of Reggae one lively and tireless producer Lee “Scratch” Perry made a large success with his band The Upsettesrs – he was at the top of the British Music Charts for four weeks and had a good sixteen week tour of Britain. But he paid little to the band and they were angry. Bob got to know the members of the band and they decided to collaborate. This collaboration was a huge hit, they were producing one song after another. But now Lee Perry was mad and was talking that he would kill Bob. Marley and Scratch had a meeting and just when everybody expected one of them to come out with blood on his hands, they both came out with new song-“Small Axe”. Marley and Lee Perry wanted to warn all those rich people that they can easily fall if the small ones rebel. So the lyrics of the song reflect that emotion:

Small Axe
Why boasteth thyself, O evil men;
Playing smart and not being clever, oh no!
I say you’re working iniquity
To achieve vanity, yeah, if a-so a-so.
But the goodness of Jah – Jah
Idureth[13] for Iver.[14]

If you are the big tree,
We are the small axe
Sharpened to cut you down, (well sharp)
Ready to cut you down, oh yeah!

These are the words of my master
Keep on telling’ me – o-oh! – No weak heart shall prosper:
Oh no, they can’t! Eh.

And whosoever diggeth a pit, Lord,
Shall fall in it – shall fall in it.
Whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall bury in it – shall bury in it.

If you are the big tree,
We are the small axe
Sharpened to cut you down,
Ready to cut you down.

Whosoever diggeth the pit
Shall fall in it – fall in it, eh!
Whosoever diggeth the pit
Shall bury in it – shall bury in it.

If you are the big tree,
We have a small axe
Ready to cut you down, (well sharp)
Sharpened to cut you down.

If you are the big tree,
Let me tell you this: we are the small axe
Ready to cut you down, (well sharp)
Sharpened to cut you down.
… This song is one of the first big hits and it is still loved by Marley’s fans.

Soon after that, he got to know a singer named Johnny Nash, who was a star since had been a child. Nash showed Bob’s material to his manager mister Sims who made Bob contracts with production houses JAD and “Cayman music”. Since this had happened the Wailers were hoping for calls from British or American studios present their music on international market. During this period music which Wailers were making alongside Lee Perry was the best of the early Jamaican reggae. Perry’s rhythms were unrepeatable and different from what others were making. While other producers on the island were fond of horns he was using the rhythm guitar wherever he could.

Finally this long and hard work started to pay off. In the summer of 1970 the first album of Bob Marley and the Wailers came out. The album was called Soul Rebels and it caused positive and loud reactions. The sale was also going pretty well and Bob finally had money to feed his two young kids. Soon after they published their second album called Soul revolution, containing old tracks “Keep on Moving” and Put it on” and one title-“Kaya[15]” which was interesting since no one had ever sung about marijuana before. This album, the same as the mixes of the tracks from the album, made a huge success. Leslie Kong dreamed how he could earn large amount of money by publishing album called “The Best of Wailers”. The band fiercely objected and Bunny even said:” If you do that, I predict you are going to die”[16]. Leslie did it anyway and it made him a millionaire in almost one day. When he found out about it he died of a heart attack. Having heard of the success which the Wailers had achieved in Jamaica, Chris Blackwell, the owner of “Island records”, wished to meet them. He offered them large money to record an album for him. They agreed and recorded the album “Catch a Fire”. It was an album with strong influences of rock and use of guitar and keyboards. This album changed the standards of reggae, changed the reputation of Jamaican music in the world, changed everything. First song on side one of the album was about hard life in the city. Song was called “Concrete Jungle”.

Concrete Jungle
No sun will shine in my day today
The high yellow moon won’t come out to play
I said darkness has covered my light
And the stage my day into night
Where is the love to be found
Won’t someone tell me
Cause life must be somewhere to be found
Instead of concrete jungle
Where the living is harder

Concrete jungle
Man you got to do your best
No chains around my feet
But I’m not free
I know I am bound here in captivity
yeh-I’ve never known the happiness
I’ve never known what sweet caress is
Still-I’ll be always laughing like a clown
Won’t somebody help me ’cause
I’ve got to pick myself from off the ground
In this ya concrete jungle
I said what do you got for me now
Concrete jungle ah won’t you let me be now

Album was also sold out in the UK and attracted a great publicity.

Bob now became a millionaire and moved to large estate in 56 Hope Road which Chris Blackwell had bought earlier. But he never changed. He was still a dreadlock Rasta, always letting his friends from the Trenchtown to come to the estate. Everyone from the ghetto who needed help could count on Bob. The house was always full, the closest friends were living with him and the others were passing by. Singing, writing songs, exercising, playing football and the usual marijuana smoking are the things that were done everyday in the 56 Hope Road.

Work done in the Bob’s estate produced another great album-“Burnin’”. Some collaborations with Lee “Scratch” Perry were published on this LP. Album was sold all over the world in an enormous number. It increased Marley’s wealth but that didn’t matter to him anymore. The only thing he wanted was better life for the sufferers from the ghetto, he wanted freedom for his black people, he dreamed of united Africa and these were the themes he wrote about. Tracks on this LP were I “Shot the Sheriff”, showing a revolt he had against the police, “Burnin’ and Lootin’” was a song about the brutality over blacks and explosive track –“Get up, Stand up” which was a call for his brothers to rise against Babylon. At that time this was a controversial record in many ways. It had pictures of Bob smoking ganja and people wearing dreadlocks and the world audience was intrigued by that. Soon the articles about Bob, Jamaica, reggae, Rasta religion, and ganja flooded the world’s newspapers.

Now that Marley, his family and friends were so influential in Jamaica they naturally became a wanted company for the politicians. Two leading Jamaican parties JLP[17] and PNP[18] were constantly competing who would be better with Bob Marley, who was a national icon.

In 1974, while an album which was intended to be a huge hit was being recorded, Peter and Bunny decided to leave the band because they were afraid of being in the Bob’s shadow. It was a big problem but Chris Blackwell and Bob knew some people who could substitute them. The new line-up was: Aston “Family man” Barrett[19] – bass, Earl Lindo – keyboards, organs, Al Anderson – guitar, Carlton Barrett – drums, Alvin Patterson – percussions, Junior Marvin – guitar, Donald Kinsey – guitar, and Tyrone Downie – keyboards, also three women were singing back vocals. This trio was called I-threes and the members were: Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths. This line-up was much stronger and they didn’t perform all at a time, some were covering the absence of others. Band got a new name Bob Marley and the Wailers and under that name published new album called “Natty Dread”[20].

Love, religion, rebellion against society and his passion for living were things that inspired this album. “No Woman, No Cry”[21] and “Bend Down Low” were love songs and “So Jah Seh”[22] and “Natty Dread” were religious songs. Rebellion against society was the strongest motif and songs like “Rebel Music”, “Them Belly Full” and “Revolution” carried this message. “Lively up Yourself” is a song full of life and it was almost always performed first on Bob’s concerts to get the crowd worked up.

After Bunny and Peter had left the band another thing which impacted Bob’s life was the death of Haile Selassie I. Sellasie’s death on 27th of August 1975 caused a huge shock in the Rasta world and those who were accusing Rastas of idol worshiping thought to have proven right. It didn’t provoke a doubt in Bob’s mind, instead he temporarily postponed recording sessions for the new album called “Rastaman Vibration” and started to record a new song called “Jah Live”. What Marley wanted to achieve with this song was to send a message to all Rastas not to listen to those who are trying to destroy them.

Jah Live
Children yeah
Jah-Jah live children yeah
Jah Live
Children yeah
Jah-Jah Live children yeah
The truth is an offence
But not a sin
Is he who laugh last, children?
Is he who wins?
Is a foolish dog
Bark at the flying bird
One sheep must learn, children
To respect the shepherd
Jah live
Children yeah
Jah-Jah Live children yeah
Jah Live
Children yeah
Jah-Jah Live children yeah
Fool say in their heart
Rasta your God is dead
But I and I know, Jah-Jah
Dread it shall be Dreader Dread
Jah Live children yeah
Jah-Jah Live children yeah
Jah Live children yeah
Jah-Jah Live children yeah
Let Jah arise
Now that the enemies are scattered
Let Jah arise
The enemies, the enemies are scattered
Jah Live children yeah
Jah-Jah Live children yeah
Jah live Children yeah
Jah-Jah Live children yeah

Later that year Rastaman Vibration album was in stores. This album contained some legendary tracks like: “Positive Vibration”; “Roots, Rock, Reggae”; “Crazy Baldheads”; “War[23]” and the last song on the album was “Johnny Was”, a song about the violence in the streets.


During the 1976s elections campaign the streets of Kingston became extremely violent and the police and army were trying to control the city. JLP was oriented to America and was getting the guns from CIA and then giving it to their “street-soldiers”, on the other hand PNP was a national party and they got their finances through smuggling of marijuana. Since there were some rumors about Bob being sympathizer of PNP he became a target of an attempted assassination.

He was scheduled to perform on 5th December 1976 on Smile Jamaica Concert and two nights before concert a terrible incident took place. As Bob and his friends were resting in the house that night, two armed men got into the house. One was carrying revolver and the other was armed with an automatic gun. Somehow they approached the room in which Bob was sitting and the man with the automatic gun fired eight bullets. Five bullets ended in the Don Taylor’s[24] body and one scratched Bob’s chests and entered his left arm. One bullet from the other gunman’s revolver got stuck in the Rita’s skull. Her injury was very dangerous and she needed an urgent surgery. Bob got hospitalized, the bullets were pulled out and he could go to home recovery. Don Taylor had hard operation and one of the bullets was stuck in his spine so there was a possibility that he would never walk again. Fortunately, his operation was successful so nobody died in the assassination attempt.

Bob was hidden in the Rasta camp in the mountains near Kingston. They were trying to hide him from the danger he was exposed to. Everyone knew that was a political move from someone who didn’t like Bob. But Bob, himself was never a treat, but his ideology and guidance could lead people rebel against the awful living conditions and incapable government. So he was guilty of opening people’s eyes. But neither attempt of murder couldn’t scare him, he was fearless and determined in his struggle.

In the evening of 5th December 1976 Heroes Arena in Kingston was filled with people it was estimated that there were about 50 thousand people in the arena. The night was being opened by a band called “Third World”. Some of the Wailers’ friends were on the spot and informing Bob about the atmosphere. The crowd was shouting for the Wailer and giving the huge support. When Bob heard this, he decided to get ready as soon as possible and to go and make those people happy. The rest of the band was at Bob’s home at 56 Hope Road. Everyone agreed with the decision to perform on this concert.

About an hour after Bob was standing in front of 50 thousand people. He didn’t have the guitar in his hands but he was ready to hold the biggest performance of his life. Even Rita joined the other two members of I-threes. Bob said that he was there to sing only one song but he held 90-minute concert. The first song was “War” and he sang it wholeheartedly, the crowd was in trance. His painful injury couldn’t prevent him from dancing and jumping. The atmosphere was hot. Bob also made clear that he had been told that there would be no politics on the concert. He also said that he had hoped to sing just for the love of people. But it was clear that politics was flooding the place. In spite of all troubles before the concert everything ended well and Jamaicans were very happy with Bob’s performance and admired his determination to hold the concert no matter what.

On the elections Jamaican gave their trust to Manley who won 47 out of 60 places in the parliament. And those who were involved in the assassination attempt got killed later.

As for Bob’s life, he went to Miami for a short visit and revealed his relationship[25] with Cindy Breakspear[26] which had lasted some time before that. He made a decision to go to London on some time. It wasn’t safe for him in Jamaica anymore so the best move for him was to leave. The politics got this man who loved Jamaica and Jamaicans so much into danger and made him leave his beloved country.


At the beginning of 1977 Bob Marley and the Wailers were working hard on their next master-piece album called “Exodus”. Bob and his girlfriend Cindy were living in London in some kind of exile from Jamaica. Their life was nice but at that time Bob started to feel stressed out. The world fame took its pay and Bob was feeling the huge pressure of popularity. Everybody wanted to interview him, to see him, to touch him… Being the type of man he was, he didn’t want to let anyone down. However he somehow managed to hold the balance and to do everything that was expected from him.

Bob Marley and the Wailers’ musical tale continued with another legendary album-Exodus. Album was subtitled “Movement of Jah People”. Song which bears the same name as the album-“Exodus” compares the biblical story about exodus of Israelites with the exodus of black people who were brought to the America to be slaves and to work for white slave masters. Songs form side one of this album carried mystical, social and religious messages. “Natural Mystic” is a rather philosophical song about natural mysticism which Bob was interested in. Songs from side two are love songs, carrying strong emotions. This is probably because he was deeply in love with his girlfriend Cindy. This classic album which was awarded as the best album of 20th century ends with the song which was selected as the anthem of the millennium by the BBC-“One Love”. This song is about universal love – one love for all good things in life and about unity which should be among all people.


One Love! One Heart!

Let’s get together and feel all right.

Hear the children crying’ (One Love!);

Hear the children crying’ (One Heart!),

Saying’: give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;

Saying’: let’s get together and feel all right. Woo wa-wa wo-wo!

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One Love!);

There is one question I’d really love to ask (One Heart!):

Is there a place for the hopeless sinner,

Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?

One Love! What about the one heart? One Heart!

What about – ? Let’s get together and feel all right

As it was in the beginning (One Love!);

So shall it be in the end (One Heart!),

All right!

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;

Let’s get together and feel all right.

One more thing!

Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armagiddyon (One Love!),

So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (One Song!).

Have pity on those whose chances grows thinner;

There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation.

Saying’: One Love! What about the One Heart? (One Heart!)

What about the – ? Let’s get together and feel all right.

I’m pleading’ to mankind! (One Love!);

Oh, Lord! (One Heart) Woo-ooh!

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;

Let’s get together and feel all right.

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;

Let’s get together and feel all right.

Since album was so successful Bob Marley and the Wailers were hoping for another successful tour. And it certainly was. They were filling every stadium, every hall, and every arena in which they played. However, during the tour in France, Bob and his friends played football match against some professional French team. In that match he badly injured his toe which he had already injured once before. It didn’t seem so bad at start but later it got worse and he had to see a doctor. In the end of summer of 1977 doctors found melanoma[27] in his toe and told him that they should amputate his toe. Since Rasta religion doesn’t allow any cutting to be made in ones flesh, Bob couldn’t agree to go to surgery. The main reason why Rastas don’t go to surgeries especially amputations is their belief that body must remain whole if they are to achieve eternal life. Doctors couldn’t persuade him to go to surgery so they let him go and said that he should do some analyses from time to time to prevent cancer from spreading.

At the beginning of 1978 Bob and Cindy made a decision to return to Jamaica. On 26th February 1978 they landed on “Norman Manley” airport in Kingston. It was the first time Bob saw Jamaica since the assassination attempt. The thing which helped him decide to return was the proposal he got from political leaders of Jamaica to come and hold one big concert called “One Love Peace Concert”. The purpose of the concert was to raise money for helping the poorest Jamaicans and to prevent a civil war. There was a huge tension in Kingston during that time so they hoped that concert could cool things down. Large demonstrations were taking place and there were conflicts between police and demonstrators.

Before the concert new album called “Kaya” came out. The love songs prevailed on the album some smashing hits were: ”Is This Love”, “Sun is Shining”, “Easy Skanking” and “Kaya”. The album was to be promoted on this big concert.

The “One Love Peace Concert” took place on 22nd April 1978 at National Stadium in Kingston. Bob Marley and the Wailers were to perform last on schedule. They played nine songs and made perfect atmosphere. And when no one expected it Bob Marley said the following as he called the two politicians onstage, holding his hands over his face:

“Just let me tell you something (yeah), to make everything come true, we gotta be together. (Yeah, yeah, yeah) and through the spirit of the Most High, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie, we’re inviting a few leading people of the slaves to shake hands. . . To show the people that you love them right, to show the people that you gonna unite, show the people that you’re over bright, show the people that everything is all right. Watch, watch, watch, what you’re doing, because… I mean, I’m not so good at talking but I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. Well, I’m trying to say, could we have, could we have, up here onstage here the presence of Mr. Michael Manley and Mr. Edward Seaga. I just want to shake hands and show the people that we’re gonna make it right, we’re gonna unite, we’re gonna make it right, we’ve got to unite . The moon is high over my head, and I give my love instead. The moon is high over my head, and I give my love instead.”[28] The two politicians got onto stage and shook hands as Bob asked them to. Although for the two politicians this act was just another way of propaganda, it left some impression of peace between two warring sides. The entire concert and what Bob Marley did on stage that evening amazed Jamaicans.

During the year 1978 Bob Marley and the Wailers had one huge world tour which started in the USA. Sold out concerts in the USA were followed by even more interesting shows in Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada etc. Everywhere they went people knew their songs and sang with them, no matter whether they were English speaking or not. Last show of the tour was in Santa Barbara on Haile Selassie’s birthday – July 23rd. 90% of all the people who attended that concert were white and they were all chanting together with Bob: “Rastafari, Rastafari!!” Journalists wondered what was so special about Bob when so many people were so impressed with him. In the winter the live album which was recorded during the tour was out. The album was called “Babylon by Bus”. It contained live versions of already known songs and people flocked in the shops to buy it.

In September 1979 in Heroes arena Bob Marley and the Wailers held charity concert for Rasta children. Two new songs were performed on this concert – “Ambush in the Night” and “Zimbabwe”. “Ambush in the Night” is a song about the assassination attempt on Bob in 1976 and about those who wanted to kill him but eventually they ended up dead. These songs had been published on the album called “Survival” some time before the concert. The song called “Africa Unite” showed Bob’s dream about the unification of all Africans. And “Survival” says that suffering black people will survive no matter how hard the system tried to destroy them.

At this point everybody could see that Bob was going to fight till the end. He started to reveal his pro-Marxist political view and rebellion against CIA. It was clear that he had “No friends in high society” as he said in a song called “We and Them”. He could rely only on the poor ghetto people but there were so many of them.

On April 18th 1980 Zimbabwe was celebrating the Independence Day and Bob Marley and the Wailers were proposed to perform at the celebration. They accepted the offer wholeheartedly. Stadium “Rafaro” was full of people waiting to see this living legend. This was perhaps the most glorious moment of Marley’s life. He was feeling like he was changing the history, like he helped those people to free themselves.

Harold Bloom, who was a representative of communications company ICB from New York, heard them playing that night in Zimbabwe. He wanted to hire them to perform in Madison Square Garden three nights in a row. Their goal was to sell Bob’s music on the American market where the demand for the reggae music was small. The reason was that reggae music couldn’t get the airplay. If they could present Bob Marley and the Wailers to the Americans before publishing their new album they could earn a lot of money. Bob knew all this but since he wasn’t interested in making money he just sat there while others were discussing things.

These concerts achieved exactly what was expected. The huge attention had been attracted just before the album called “Uprising” came out. The album was published for the American market. Some legendary songs from this album are: “Could you be Loved”; “Zion Train”; “Redemption Song”; “Forever Loving Jah” etc. It is not necessary to mention how big publicity was attracted and how much money was earned on this album.

On Sunday morning September 21st 1980 Bob and his friend went for a jogging in Central Park, New York. Suddenly Bob fell on the ground. He wasn’t able to move or talk so his friend Alan Cole transferred him to New York City Hospital. Doctors found that cancer had spread from his toe injury to his stomach, brain and lungs. Their tour was cancelled and Bob was transferred to Memorial-Slown-Ketering Cancer Center on Manhattan. It was found that he could die in less than ten weeks without proper treatment but even with treatment he couldn’t survive next year. He changed a few clinics and eventually returned to Slown-Ketering Center. He decided to be baptized in Ethiopian Orthodox church on November 4th 1980 taking the name Berhane Selassie which means The Light of the Trinity.

Jamaican doctor Carl Frazer suggested that Bob should go and find a German doctor name Josef Isels and ask him for a treatment. He took doctor’s advice and went to Isels’ clinic. Doctor Isels said that they could make it and started his treatment right away. This kind of treatment was proven to be very successful although never scientifically accepted. It was based on right nutrition and psychological exercises also all areas of chronic infections like tonsils and spoilt teeth were removed. Bob felt good during his stay there and his friends were with him all the time. Isels managed to keep him alive six months longer than anyone could imagine. But when spring came Isels realized that there was nothing more he could do. Bob flew to his mother’s home in Miami where he died on May 11th. It was just a few days after he had been given Jamaican Medal for Merit. On the day Bob Marley died incredible thunderstorm hit Jamaica and like it was a sign from above Jamaicans knew he had passed away. No man ever was so loved by Jamaican people as him so he was given a state funeral.

The funeral was held on May 21st in Kingston. Although it was held by Ethiopian Orthodox priests it wasn’t just a regular funeral, it was a celebration of life. Everybody knew that Bob wouldn’t want them to cry on his grave so they were singing some of his hits paying last respect to the legend. The streets of Kingston were filled with people trying to enter the arena in which the funeral was taking place. In his speech Jamaican President said:

“His message was a protest against injustice, a comfort for the oppressed. He stood there, performed there, his message reached there and everywhere. Today’s funeral service is an international right of a native son. He was born in a humble cottage nine miles from Alexandrea in the parish of St. Ann. He lived in the western section of Kingston as a boy where he joined in the struggle of the ghetto. He learned the message of survival in his boyhood days in Kingston’s west end. But it was his raw talent, unswerving discipline and sheer perseverance that transported him from just another victim of the ghetto to the top ranking superstar in the entertainment industry of the third world.”[29]

Body of late Bob Marley was buried in mausoleum in his birthplace Nine Mile.

He left behind his eleven children of which some are very famous in modern reggae music.

He also left behind many unpublished songs which were posthumously published on album called Confrontation. This album was a compilation of songs recorded during Marley’s lifetime.

56 Hope Road is now a museum dedicated to the most famous Jamaican of all times – Bob Marley. This museum attracts a great many visitors every year and it is Kingston’s muste see sight.


The legend known as Bob Marley is still alive, now perhaps more than ever, and as the years pass it becomes more and more famous and amazing. His music still has enormous number of fans all over the world and some of today’s biggest music stars are proud to say that Bob Marley was their greatest influence. He presented the message of reggae music and Rasta ideology to the world. He sang about peace in a time of war, about freedom in a time of slavery, about love in a time of hate. He was a man, who above all loved life, but he also loved freedom and he was prepared to trade his life for his people’s liberty. So everywhere you go around the world today, Bob Marley is the symbol of freedom.


  • Bižić, Mirko, «Uhvati plamen-život Boba Marlija», Beograd, Mono i Manjana, 2007.
  • Marli, Rita, «No Woman, No Cry: Moj život sa Bobom Marlijem», Beograd, LOGOS-ART, 2007.

[1] At that time in Jamaica rough boys from the ghetto were called rude boys

[2] Ska is a mixture of mento( a Jamaican variation of calypso) and American Rhythm and Blues( better known as R’n’B)

[3] Sound systems were large speakers and gramophones with all equipment which toured Jamaica and played music for the people who couldn’t afford to buy a gramophone.

[4] Mirko Bižić “Uhvati Plamen-Život Boba Marlija” page 99


[6] To Rastas Zion is Africa, their homeland, later when they were speaking about Zion they were thinking of Ethiopia

[7] In bible, New Testament book of revelation 5:5 is said: “And one of the elders saith unto me, weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” And also Haille Sellasie is thought to be a descendent of biblical King Davi who was form Judah’s tribe.

[8] Haile Selassie had taken that name which means the power of the Trinity before he got crowned

[9] Jamaicans speak a special language which is variation of English. It is sometimes called “broken English” because of its bad grammar.

[10] ganja is the name for marijuana that Rastas use most often

[11] one love is the idea that Rastas have about the universal love for everything good in life

[12] Mirko Bižić “Uhvati Plamen-Život Boba Marlija” page 108

[13] Idureth means endured on Jamaican

[14] Iver means ever

[15] Kaya is a Jamaican street name for marihuana

[16] Mirko Bižić “Uhvati Plamen-Život Boba Marlija” page 115

[17] JLP-Jamaican Labor Party led by Edward Seagga

[18] People’s National Party led by Norman Manley

[19] He was called Familyman because he had a lot of kids-nearly forty

[20] Natty dread is expression which refers to a member of Rastafari movement and sometimes to all Rasta community as one

[21] “No Woman, No Cry” is one of the most famous Bob’s songs and by some researches one of the best known songs ever.

[22] “So Jah Seh” or “So Jah Says” is deeply religious song which expressed Bob’s faith in things which God said to people through bible and prophets.

[23] War is a song which was inspirited by Haile Selassie’s speech which had been spoken in the League of Nations about the human rights and equality of all people.

[24] Don Taylor was Bob’s manager for a long time

[25] Rita didn’t mind Bob’s adventures with other women because she was mostly devoted to her children and she didn’t want to put bounds on his freedom.

[26] Cindy Breakspear was Miss World in 1976

[27] Melanoma is a skin cancer, one of the most fatal types of cancer.

[28] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Love_Peace_Concert

[29] http://www.thirdfield.com/new/funeral.html

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