Today marks the 30th year since the untimely passing of Reggae’s greatest ambassador, Robert Nesta Marley better known as Bob Marley to the world. Marley, an iconic force in the world of reggae succumbed to cancer on May 11, 1981. Among his many musical contributions, he is credited for spreading Reggae music and the Rastafarian culture worldwide respectively.
His most popular hits include: “I Shot the Sheriff”, “One Love”, “No Woman, No Cry”, “Could You Be Loved” “Stir It Up”, “Jamming” , “Get Up, Stand Up” , and “Redemption Song.” Other favorites include “Three Little Birds” with the Wailers and posthumously “Buffalo Soldier” and “Iron Lion Zion.” His compilation album “Legend” has achieved Diamond status selling over 25 million copies since its debut in 1984. It is also Reggae music’s best selling album.
The singer born to Norval Marley, a white Jamaican of English descent and an Afro-Jamaican mother Cedella Booker embraced both sides of his racial ancestry. Marley, however, identified himself as a Black African and was a promoter of the Pan-African movement. In 1999, Time magazine proclaimed Bob Marley’s “Exodus” as the greatest album of the 20th century. Bob Marley’s image has now been commercialized around the world and has caused flack with many of his fans who consider this a watering down of the singer’s legacy.
Marley is the father to more than 10 children most by birth and two by adoption with several different women. Eleven of the thirteen children said to be his are mentioned on his official website. The most famous of the bunch being Ziggy, Damian (Jr. Gong), Stephen, Ky-Mani, Julian, Rohan, and Cedella (adopted), His grandchildren include rapper/singer/actress Lauryn Hill’s children with Rohan among others. Cedella has ventured into the world of fashion with her clothing line “Catch A Fire”. Her more famous brothers carry on the musical tradition of their father and the family name as a whole.
I grew up on Bob Marley’s music and can recite almost all of his songs without any conscious effort. Reggae had evolved into a mostly dancehall movement and uplifting messages such as Bob’s are few and far in between. The spirit of Marley lives on and like musical legends Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Tupac Shakur, and recently added to this list Michael Jackson, his music is very much alive and as relevant as it is was decades ago. This line from “Trenchtown Rock” summarizes it all, “One good thing about music, when it hits…you feel no pain!”
Check out the video for “Trenchtown Rock” below: