Written By Thirdfield.com's Mike Peake.
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 St. 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 Bunny 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 Caribbean due to it's invention of Ska
music. When Bob was 16, he started to follow his dream of becoming a musician.
Music to many young Jamaicans was an escape from the harshness of everyday life.
One of those kids was Jimmy Cliff who at the age of 14 had already recorded a
couple of hits. After meeting Bob, Jimmy introduced him to Leslie Kong, a local
record producer. Bob followed his advice and auditioned for Leslie Kong. Bob's
musical talents shone much more brightly then anyone else that day and found himself
in the studio recording his first single "Judge Not". Unfortunately
neither "Judge Not" nor his 1962 single "One more cup of Coffee"
did very well. Bob soon left Kong after she failed to give him his pay. The following
year Bob, Bunny and some other friends formed the Wailing Wailers. The didn't
get off to a great start, after just a couple recording sessions two members,
Cherry and Junior Braithwait left the band. The band continued on and were introduced
to Clemet Dodd, a producer of the record company Coxsone. It was here where the
Wailing Wailers recorded the first song "Simmer Down" which did quite
well in Jamaica. To help with the recording of their songs the studio provided
several talented Ska musicians. The Wailing Wailers consisting now of Bob Marley,
Peter Tosh and Bunny were starting to become quite popular locally. Their audiences
rapidly grew and they recorded several more songs on the Coxsone label which included
"It Hurts to be Alone" and "Rule the Roadie" Bob soon took
on the role of the leader, being the main songwriter and all. Bob's life continued
to look more bright on February 10, 1966 when Bob Marley married girlfriend Rita
Anderson. The next day Bob left for the United States to visit his mother who
lived in Delaware. While in the US he worked to better finance his music and soon
returned home. When Bob Marley returned the Wailing Wailers' music evolved from
Ska to Rock Steady. This evolution conflicted with Coxsone who wanted a Ska band.
So the newly Wailing Wailers left Coxsone to form and renamed themselves the Wailers.
Instead of looking around for a new label the Wailers decided to form their own
which they called Wail 'N' Soul. This coincided with the birth of the Marley's
first born who they named Cedalla. They released a couple signals on their label
such as "Bend down low" and "Mellow Mood" before it folded
the very same year. The ending of their label affected the band greatly, it wasn't
until they met Lee Perry that they got back on track. With the help of Lee Perry
the Wailers produced such great tracks as "Duppy Conquerer", "Soul
Rebel", "400 Years" and "Small Axe".
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 the Wailers and signed them on
the spot. He advanced them eight thousand pounds so that they could fly back home
and record their first album for Island. This was a massive deal, for the first
time a reggae band would have access to the finest recording facilities. The album
they released was "Catch a Fire", it was very well received by critics
and was one of the first reggae albums. Before the Wailers reggae was sold on
signals or compilation albums.
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. He was replaced by Joe Higgs. The Wailers
along with Higgs travelled 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.
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
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 world wide 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).
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.
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.
Marley knew of his fate. Being a visionary he foresaw this, his words will forever
be immortalized in the lyrics in which he wrote.
bright morning when my work is over I will fly away home"
This was written by Mike Peake,
Friday March 20, 1998.