Bob Marley was born in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, on February 6, 1945. Marley began playing music while he was still in school. When he was ten he moved to Kingston; it was there, in 1962, he recorded his first three songs, “Judge Not”, “Terror,” and “One Cup of Coffee. ” These singles attracted very little attention. In 1963, Marley and a few others formed a ska band “The Teenagers,” which went through many names before finally settling at “The Wailers. ” Ska music is a Jamaican interpretation of American R&B, with an accent on the offbeat.
Bob, Bunny, and Peter were the core trio of the band. They wrote lyrics that told of the struggles the Jamaican poor experienced. The band gained local following fairly quickly, which lead them to incorporate dub, a reggae style of music with the drums and bass foundation in the forefront, in the 1970s. In early 1972, The Wailers were loaned 4,000 Euros to record a record produced by the London offices of Island Records. “Catch A Fire” was met with international media fanfare and a tour in the UK and US ensued.
Their second album, “Burnin” was released in October 1973 and included such hits as “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Get Up Stand Up. ” The single “I Shot the Sheriff” was one of their most widely known hits. Eric Clapton recorded a cover in 1974 which gained The Wailers a large fan base in the US. Bob Marley and The Wailers went on their final tour in 1980 that broke attendance records and sold out such venues as Madison Square Garden. Bob Marley’s final performance was September 23, 1980 at Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, PA.
The final album released in Marley’s lifetime, “Uprising,” was released in 1980 and made a connection to African-American listeners with the single “Could You Be Loved,” which fused reggae and disco to give a danceable sound. The Rastafari Movement was a key element in the development of reggae music, and Bob Marley was a member of this culture. Rasta is a spiritual movement that worships the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I. The spiritual use of cannabis and rejecting the western society are key themes upheld by the Rastafari Movement. Reggae music is said to have largely helped spread awareness of Rasta worldwide.
Bob Marley was a key component in doing so. Marley is also known for having dreadlocks, which is a Rasta custom. They uphold that the bible warns against cutting hair; but not every Rasta has dreads, rather every Rasta has love in their heart and that is what sets them apart. Bob Marley was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in July of 1977, under one of his toenails. It was advised that Marley have his toe amputated, but he refused based upon religious beliefs. It was later confirmed this infection was a spreading of already existing cancer in Marley’s body.
He continued touring despite being sick and shortly after the concert at Stanley Theater, became increasingly ill and attempted to fight the cancer using a controversial type of therapy based on avoiding certain substances. After eight months of unsuccessful therapy, Marley was set to return to Jamaica. Marley’s plane was forced to land in Miami, however, as his vitals worsened. The melanoma had spread to his lungs and brain, causing his death on May 11, 1981. He was 36 years old. Marley’s last words to his son, Ziggy, were “Money can’t buy life. ”