"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds."
Happy Birthday Bob Marley!
Bob Marley (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981) was a Jamaican musician known for bringing reggae and the Rastafari movement to worldwide attention. Marley began his singing career in a band called The Wailers (1963-1974) which later turned into Bob Marley & The Wailers (1974–1981). His records have been the most famous and best-selling reggae albums of all time, with compilation album Legend (1984) reaching over 25 million copies worldwide. Some of Bob Marley's most well known songs include I Shot The Sheriff, No Woman No Cry, Redemption Song, One Love, Get Up Stand Up and Jamming.
Nesta Robert Marley was born in a village called Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica. He was of mixed race, his father coming from Sussex in England and his mother from Jamaica. His father Norval Sinclair Marley was a captain with the Royal Marines and was away often because of this. When Marley was only ten, his father died of a heart attack. He was far older than Marley's mother Cedella Booker, who was been eighteen when they married. Although Marley understood that he was mixed race, he struggled to find his identity. He eventually decided to identify as black-African and believed in the repatriation of black people to Africa. Above all, he believed that he was a creation of God rather than of a particular ethnic origin. Overtones of racial, political and national stress would be integral throughout Marley's music and messages.
Bob Marley grew interested in music while still at school. He played with his friend Bunny Wailer but moved with his mother to Kingston at age twelve. There, Marley met singers Joe Higgs and Peter Tosh. He reunited with Wailer and the four of them began to jam together, sharing similar beliefs and ideologies. In 1962 Marley recorded two singles that went mostly unnoticed. By 1963, the band was a uniform entity and along with Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith they formed a ska band called The Teenagers. The band's name changed many times over the years and solidified on The Wailers when they were discovered by producer Coxsone Dodd.
No Woman, No Cry Live at Boston Concert, 1979
Marley met his wife Rita Anderson in 1966 and they moved to Delaware, where he would hold a string of odd jobs including working on an assembly line at Chrysler. Marley became obsessed with Rastafarian ideals and officially converted from Catholicism, which was how he was raised. He would be largely responsible for taking the Rastafari music and exposing it to an international audience. Marley wore dreadlocks from then on, and was a vegetarian due to the practice of Ital. Marley chose to be baptised into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in 1980.
"I don't stand for the black man's side, I don' t stand for the white man's side. I stand for God's side."
In 1968 The Wailers traveled to London, where they would eventually meet Chris Blackwell of Island Records. Blackwell had been looking for an iconic character to represent reggae music and bring it to fame. He instantly recognized in Marley what he had wanted. Blackwell's beliefs in the band led him to offer them £4,000 to record a whole album. The Wailers returned to Jamaica and recorded Catch a Fire. The record came out in 1973 and was well received.
It wasn't until the release of Burnin' later that year, that The Wailers became highly successful. Audiences responded to the stylistic combination of reggae and rock and the album would be remembered in "Best Of" lists for years to come. The Wailers were paid to open for Sly and the Family Stone but excited the audience so much that the headline act claimed they no longer wanted them to steal their thunder. They stopped touring with Sly after only four shows. By 1974, the Wailers were doing so well for themselves that the members decided to branch out into solo careers. The band fell apart but Bob Marley continued recording under the name Bob Marley & The Wailers.
Redemption Song, Acoustic
Armed with new band members and his wife Rita providing backing vocals, Bob Marley set out to create some new records. In 1975, his hit single No Woman, No Cry was released on album Natty Dread. His next album Rastaman Vibrations came out in 1976 and stayed on the top 100 billboards for four weeks. In December of 1976, Marley, his wife and his manager Don Taylor, were attacked by a mystery gunman. They were injured but survived, and still performed at the concert Smile, Jamaica two days later. The attack was suspected to have been due to political tensions, as the concert was organized by Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley. Marley stated that he would not be canceling the concert and that he wouldn't rest as long as people like the gunman were actively trying to make the world worse.
"Me only have one ambition, y'know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together - black, white, Chinese, everyone - that's all."
Marley returned to England in 1976 to spend two years in a "self-imposed exile". Blackwell had gifted Marley the former Island Records office and Marley inhabited it. He recorded two albums, Kaya and Exodus during this time. The albums were successful and contained hits such as Exodus, Waiting in Vain, Jamming, and One Love. In 1978 he performed at the One Love Peace Concert in Jamaica. It was his constant effort to raise awareness and calm political tensions through music. His moving performance brought Prime Minister Michael Manley and his rival Edward Seaga to shake hands on stage.
"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain"
Bob Marley and The Wailers released seven studio albums and four lives ones through the course of their career. Babylon by Bus (1978) was critically acclaimed and Survival (1979) was rife with more political commentary. Marley performed at the Amandla Festival in the summer of 1979 to voice his opposition to the South African apartheid. His songs Zimbabwe, Africa Unite, Wake Up and Live, Survival and War all expressed these concerns. His final album Uprising came out in 1980. The album was focused more on religion and mortality and contained the hits Redemption Song and Forever Loving Jah. After Marley's death in 1981, more unreleased records would be discovered.
Bob Marley died of cancer related causes in 1981. He left the world with a legacy of eleven children and music that is still globally praised to this day. Marley's last concert was held in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1980. The performance was celebrated with the release of a recording that is available on multiple formats. He was buried near his birth place in Jamaica with his red Gibson guitar by his side. Marley will always be remembered as the first true "pop star" to voice the concerns of Africa and be an activist for third world peace. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award after his death and his life has since been celebrated in many documentaries and films.
"Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!"
- Birthday Date: Thursday, 06 February 2014