Reggae’s most transcendent icon, Bob Marley was the first Jamaican artist to achieve international stardom, in the process introducing the music of his native island, which zipped across the geographical borders of the globe. His music gave voice to the day-to-day struggles of the Jamaicans, vividly capturing not only the plight of the country’s public but also the devout spirituality that remains as their source of strength. His songs created a tide of faith, devotion, and revolution, along with a legacy that continues to live on through music.
Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945, in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica. The son of a black teenage mother and a much older, later absent white father, he spent his early years in the rural village known of Nine Miles. One of his childhood friends was Neville “Bunny” O’Riley Livingston. Attending the same school, the two shared a love of music with the same passion. Bunny inspired Bob to learn to play the guitar. Arriving in Kingston in the late 1950s, Marley lived in Trench Town, one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods. He struggled in poverty, but he found inspiration in the music around him. Marley and Livingston devoted much of their time to music. Under the guidance of Joe Higgs, Marley worked on improving his singing abilities and met another student of Higgs, Peter McIntosh (later Peter Tosh), who played an important role in Marley’s career.
The Wailers’ big break came in 1972, when the friends landed a contract with Island Records. For the first time, the group hit the studios to record a full album. The result was the critically acclaimed ‘’Catch a Fire’’. Already a much-admired star in his native Jamaica, Marley was on his way to becoming an international music icon. He made the U.S. music charts with the album Rastaman Vibration in 1976. One track stands out as an expression of his devotion to his faith and his interest in political change: “War”. Marley went on to sell more than 20 million records throughout his career, becoming the first international superstar to emerge from one of the most remote nations of the world.
As great as Marley’s fame had grown outside of Jamaica, at home he was viewed as a figure of almost mystical proportions along with a penchant for being a political figure. People saw him as an poet and prophet who’s every word had the nation’s collective ear. His power was perceived as a threat in some quarters, and on December 3, 1976, he was wounded in an assassination attempt. This ordeal forced Marley to leave Jamaica for over a year.
Bob Marley achieved several great accomplishments during his lifetime, including serving as a world ambassador for reggae music, earning induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. Shortly before his death, Marley had received the Order of Merit from the Jamaican government. He had also been awarded the Medal of Peace from the United Nations in 1980. Bob died in Miami, Florida, on May 11, 1981. Adored by the people of Jamaica, Marley was given a hero’s send-off. More than 30,000 people paid their respects to the musician during his memorial service.
Sterling Music salutes his audacity to bring a change through music and prays for his timeless existence through it.