LIFE & LEGACY
The Bob Marley biography provides testament to the unparalleled influence of his artistry upon global culture. Since his passing on May 11, 1981, Bob Marley’s legend looms larger than ever, as evidenced by an ever-lengthening list of accomplishments attributable to his music, which identified oppressors and agitated for social change while simultaneously allowing listeners to forget their troubles and dance.
Bob Marley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994; in December 1999, his 1977 album “Exodus” was named Album of the Century by Time Magazine and his song “One Love” was designated Song of the Millennium by the BBC. Since its release in 1984, Marley’s “Legend” compilation has annually sold over 250,000 copies according to Nielsen Sound Scan, and it is only the 17th album to exceed sales of 10 million copies since SoundScan began its tabulations in 1991.
Bob Marley’s music was never recognized with a Grammy nomination but in 2001 he was bestowed The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor given by the Recording Academy to “performers who during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.” That same year, a feature length documentary about Bob Marley’s life, Rebel Music, directed by Jeremy Marre, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video documentary. In 2001 Bob Marley was accorded the 2171st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by the Hollywood Historic Trust and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, in Hollywood, California. As a recipient of this distinction, Bob Marley joined musical legends including Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations.
In 2006 an eight block stretch of Brooklyn’s bustling Church Avenue, which runs through the heart of that city’s Caribbean community, was renamed Bob Marley Boulevard, the result of a campaign initiated by New York City councilwoman Yvette D. Clarke. This year the popular TV show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon commemorated the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley’s passing with an entire week (May 9-13) devoted to his music, as performed by Bob’s eldest son Ziggy, Jennifer Hudson, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz and the show’s house band The Roots. These triumphs are all the more remarkable considering Bob Marley’s humble beginnings and numerous challenges he overcame attempting to gain a foothold in Jamaica’s chaotic music industry while skillfully navigating the politically partisan violence that abounded in Kingston throughout the 1970s.
One of the 20th century’s most charismatic and challenging performers, Bob Marley’s renown now transcends the role of reggae luminary: he is regarded as a cultural icon who implored his people to know their history “coming from the root of King David, through the line of Solomon,” as he sang on “Blackman Redemption”; Bob urged his listeners to check out the “Real Situation” and to rebel against the vampiric “Babylon System”. “Bob had a rebel type of approach, but his rebelliousness had a clearly defined purpose to it,” acknowledges Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, who played a pivotal role in the Bob Marley biography by introducing Marley and the Wailers to an international audience. “It wasn’t just mindless rebelliousness, he was rebelling against the circumstances in which he and so many people found themselves.”
Bob Marley was born Robert Nesta Marley on February 6, 1945. Bob was born to Cedella Marley when she was 18. Bob’s early life was spent in rural community of Nine Miles, nestled in the mountainous terrain of the parish of St. Ann. Residents of Nine Miles have preserved many customs derived from their African ancestry especially the art of storytelling as a means of sharing the past and time-tested traditions that are oftentimes overlooked in official historical sources. The proverbs, fables and various chores associated with rural life that were inherent to Bob’s childhood would provide a deeper cultural context and an aura of mysticism to his adult songwriting.
Norval and Cedella married in 1945 but Captain Marley’s family strongly disapproved of their union; although the elder Marley provided financial support, the last time Bob Marley saw his father was when he was five years old; at that time, Norval took his son to Kingston to live with his nephew, a businessman, and to attend school. Eighteen months later Cedella learned that Bob wasn’t going to school and was living with an elderly couple. Alarmed, she went to Kingston, found Bob and brought him home to Nine Miles.
The next chapter in the Bob Marley biography commenced in the late 1950s when Bob, barely into his teens, left St. Ann and returned to Jamaica’s capital. He eventually settled in the western Kingston vicinity of Trench Town, so named because it was built over a sewage trench. A low-income community comprised of squatter-settlements and government yards developments that housed a minimum of four families, Bob Marley quickly learned to defend himself against Trench Town’s rude boys and bad men. Bob’s formidable street-fighting skills earned him the respectful nickname Tuff Gong.
Despite the poverty, despair and various unsavory activities that sustained some ghetto dwellers, Trench Town was also a culturally rich community where Bob Marley’s abundant musical talents were nurtured. A lifelong source of inspiration, Bob immortalized Trench Town in his songs “No Woman No Cry” (1974), “Trench Town Rock” (1975) and “Trench Town”, the latter released posthumously in 1983.
By the early 1960s the island’s music industry was beginning to take shape, and its development gave birth to an indigenous popular Jamaican music form called ska. A local interpretation of American soul and R&B, with an irresistible accent on the offbeat, ska exerted a widespread influence on poor Jamaican youth while offering a welcomed escape from their otherwise harsh realities. Within the burgeoning Jamaican music industry, the elusive lure of stardom was now a tangible goal for many ghetto youths.
Uncertain about the prospects of a music career for her son, Cedella encouraged Bob to pursue a trade. When Bob left school at 14 years old she found him a position as a welder’s apprentice, which he reluctantly accepted. After a short time on the job a tiny steel splinter became embedded in Bob’s eye. Following that incident, Bob promptly quit welding and solely focused on his musical pursuits.
At 16 years old Bob Marley met another aspiring singer Desmond Dekker, who would go on to top the UK charts in 1969 with his single “Israelites”. Dekker introduced Marley to another young singer, Jimmy Cliff, future star of the immortal Jamaican film “The Harder They Come”, who, at age 14, had already recorded a few hit songs. In 1962, Cliff introduced Marley to producer Leslie Kong; Marley cut his first singles for Kong: “Judge Not”, “Terror” and “One More Cup of Coffee”, a cover of the million selling country hit by Claude Gray. When these songs failed to connect with the public, Marley was paid a mere $20.00, an exploitative practice that was widespread during the infancy of Jamaica’s music business. Bob Marley reportedly told Kong he would make a lot of money from his recordings one day but he would never be able to enjoy it. Years later, when Kong released a best of The Wailers compilation against the group’s wishes, he suffered a fatal heart attack at age 37.
In 1963 Bob Marley and his childhood friend Neville Livingston a.k.a. Bunny Wailer began attending vocal classes held by Trench Town resident Joe Higgs, a successful singer who mentored many young singers in the principles of rhythm, harmony and melody. In his Trench Town yard, Higgs introduced Bob and Bunny to Peter (Macintosh) Tosh and The Bob Marley and the Wailers legend was born. The trio quickly became good friends so the formation of a vocal group, The Wailing Wailers, was a natural progression; Higgs played a pivotal role in guiding their musical direction. Additional Wailing Wailers members included Junior Braithwaite, Beverly Kelso, and Cherry Smith but they departed after just a few recording sessions.
Bob, Bunny and Peter were introduced to Clement Sir Coxsone Dodd, a sound system operator turned producer; Dodd was also the founder of the seminal Jamaican record label Studio One. With their soulful harmonies, influenced primarily by American vocal group Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, and lyrics that echoed the struggles facing Jamaica’s poor, the Wailers attained a sizeable local following. The Wailers’ first single for Studio One “Simmer Down”, with Bob cautioning the ghetto youths to control their tempers or “the battle would be hotter”, reportedly sold over 80,000 copies. The Wailers went on to record several hits for Coxsone including “Rude Boy”, “I’m Still Waiting,” and an early version of “One Love”, the song the BBC would designate as the Song of the Century some thirty-five years later.
By the mid 60s, the jaunty ska beat had metamorphosed into the slower paced rocksteady sound, which soon gave way to Jamaica’s signature reggae rhythm around 1968. Dodd had not made a corresponding shift in his label’s releases nor did he embrace the proliferation of lyrics imbued with Rastafarian beliefs that were essential to reggae’s development. Declining sales of the Wailers’ Studio One singles compounded by a lack of proper financial compensation from Dodd prompted their departure from Studio One.
Cedella Booker, meanwhile, decided to relocate to the US state of Delaware in 1966. That same year Bob Marley married Rita Anderson and joined his mother in Delaware for a few months, where he worked as a DuPont lab assistant and on an assembly line at a Chrysler plant under the alias Donald Marley.
In his absence from Jamaica, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I visited the island from April 21-24, 1966. His Majesty is revered as Lord and Savior, according to Rastafarian beliefs and his visit to Jamaica had a profound impact upon Rita and Bob. Bob soon adopted the Rastafarian way of life and began wearing his hair in dreadlocks.
Upon Bob’s return to Jamaica, The Wailers established the Wail’N Soul’M label & record shop in front of his aunt’s Trench Town home. The label’s name identified its primary acts: The Wailers and The Soulettes, a female vocal trio featuring Rita Marley. A few successful Wailers’ singles were released including “Bend Down Low” and “Mellow Mood” but due to lack of resources, the Wailers dissolved Wail’N Soul’M in 1968.
As the 1970s commenced, soaring unemployment, rationed food supplies, pervasive political violence and the IMF’s stranglehold on the Jamaican economy due to various structural adjustment policies heavily influenced the keen social consciousness that came to define Bob’s lyrics.
In 1970, the Wailers forged a crucial relationship with Jamaican producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, a pioneer in the development of dub, the reggae offshoot where the drum and bass foundation is moved to the forefront. Perry wisely paired The Wailers with the nucleus of his studio band The Upsetters, brothers Carlton and Aston “Family Man” Barrett, respectively playing drums and bass. Collectively, they forged a revolutionary sonic identity, as heard on tracks like “Duppy Conqueror”, “400 Years” and “Soul Rebel”, which established an enduring paradigm for roots reggae. The Wailers’ collaborations with Perry were featured on the album “Soul Rebels” (1970) the first Wailers album released in the UK. The Wailers’ reportedly severed their relationship with Perry when they realized he was the sole recipient of royalties from the sales of “Soul Rebels”.
In 1971 Bob Marley went to Sweden to collaborate on a film score with American singer Johnny Nash. Bob secured a contract with Nash’s label CBS Records and by early 1972 The Wailers were in London promoting their single “Reggae On Broadway”; CBS, however, had little faith in Marley and The Wailers’ success and abruptly abandoned the group there. Marley paid a chance visit to the London offices of Island Records and the result was a meeting with label founder Chris Blackwell. Marley sought the finances to record a single but Blackwell suggested the group record an album and advanced them £4,000, an unheard of sum to be given to a Jamaican act.
Island’s top reggae star Jimmy Cliff had recently left the label and Blackwell saw Marley as the ideal artist to fill that void and attract an audience primed for rock music. “I was dealing with rock music, which was really rebel music and I felt that would really be the way to break Jamaican music. But you needed someone who could be that image. When Bob walked in he really was that image,” Blackwell once reflected. Despite their “rude boy” reputation, the Wailers returned to Kingston and honored their agreement with Blackwell. They delivered their “Catch A Fire” album in April 1973 to extensive international media fanfare. Tours of Britain and the US were quickly arranged and the life of Bob Marley was forever changed. Bunny Wailer refused to participate in the US leg of the “Catch A Fire” tour so the Wailers’ mentor Joe Higgs served as his replacement. Their US gigs included an opening slot for a then-relatively-unknown Bruce Springsteen in New York City. The Wailers toured with Sly and the Family Stone, who were at their peak in the early 70s, but were removed after just four dates because their riveting performances, reportedly, upstaged the headliner.
Following the successful “Catch A Fire” tour, the Wailers promptly recorded their second album for Island Records, “Burnin”, which was released in October 1973. Featuring some of Bob’s most celebrated songs “Burnin” introduced their timeless anthem of insurgency “Get Up Stand Up” and “I Shot The Sheriff”, which Eric Clapton covered and took to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974; Clapton’s cover significantly elevated Bob Marley’s international profile, the same year that Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the group.
Bob Marley’s third album for Island Records, “Natty Dread”, released in October 1974, was the first credited to Bob Marley and The Wailers; the harmonies of Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were replaced with the soulfulness of the I-Threes—Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. The Wailers band now included Family Man and Carly Barrett, Al Anderson on lead guitar, Tyrone Downie on keyboards and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson playing percussion. Session musicians for the album also included Bernard “Touter” Harvey and Jean Roussel on piano/organ, while Lee Jaffe sometimes played harmonica with the band live. Characterized by spiritually and socially conscious lyrics, the “Natty Dread” album included a rousing, blues-influenced celebration of reggae, “Lively Up Yourself”, which Bob used to open many of his concerts; the joy he experienced among friends amidst the struggles of his Trench Town youth is poignantly conveyed on “No Woman No Cry”, while the essential title track played a significant role in introducing Rastafarian culture and philosophies to the world. A commercial as well as a critical success, “Natty Dread” peaked at no. 44 on Billboard’s Black Albums chart, no. 92 on the Pop Albums chart, and no. 43 in the UK album charts. In 2003, the album was ranked No. 181 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The following year Bob embarked on a highly successful European tour in support of “Natty Dread”, which included two nights at London’s Lyceum Theater. The Lyceum performances were captured on Bob’s next release for Island, “Bob Marley and the Wailers Live!”, which featured a melancholy version of “No Woman No Cry” that reached the UK top 40.
Bob Marley catapulted to international stardom in 1976 with the release of “Rastaman Vibration”, peaking at no. 8 on the Billboard Top 200. With the inclusion of “Crazy Baldhead”, which decries “brainwash education” and the stirring title cut, “Rastaman Vibration” presented a clearer understanding of Rastafari teachings to the mainstream audience that was now attentively listening to Bob. Also included was “War”, its lyrics adapted from an impassioned speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 1963, delivered by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, whom Rastafarians consider a living God. Thirty-five years after its initial release “War” remains an unassailable anthem of equality, its empowering spirit embraced by dispossessed people everywhere.
As 1976 drew to a close Bob Marley was now regarded as a global reggae ambassador who had internationally popularized Rastafarian beliefs. At home, that distinction fostered an immense sense of pride among those who embraced Bob’s messages. But Bob’s expanding influence was also a point of contention for others in Jamaica, which was brutally divided by political alliances. With the intention of suppressing simmering tensions between Jamaica’s rivaling People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), Bob decided to put on a (non partisan) free concert for the people, Smile Jamaica, to be held on December 5, 1976 in Kingston. Two days prior to the event, as Bob Marley and The Wailers rehearsed at his Kingston home, an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made on his life. Gunmen sprayed Bob’s residence with bullets, but miraculously, no one was killed; Bob escaped with minor gunshot wounds, and Rita underwent surgery to remove a bullet that grazed her head, but she was released from the hospital the next day. Bob’s manager Don Taylor was shot five times and critically wounded; he was airlifted to Miami’s Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for the removal of a bullet lodged against his spinal cord.
If the ambush in the night at Bob Marley’s home was an attempt to prevent him from performing at the Smile Jamaica concert or a warning intended to silence the revolutionary spirit within his music, then it had failed. Bob defiantly performed “War” at the Smile Jamaica concert, which reportedly drew 80,000 people, but shortly thereafter he went into seclusion and few people knew of his whereabouts.
The reality was, Bob had flown to London (after a couple of weeks stay in the Bahamas), where he would live for the next 14 months. There, he recorded the albums “Exodus” (1977) and most of “Kaya” (1978); with some work on the latter being finished in Miami. Exodus’ title track provided a call for change, “the movement of JAH people”, incorporating spiritual and political concerns into its groundbreaking amalgam of reggae, rock and soul-funk. It was during this time in London, that lead guitarist Junior Marvin joined the band; Marvin had worked with Stevie Wonder and was about to join his band, but opted instead to join The Wailers because he believed in the message. A second single, the sultry dance tune “Jamming” became a British top 10 hit. The “Exodus” album remained on the UK charts for a staggering 56 consecutive weeks, bringing a level of commercial success to Bob Marley and the Wailers that had previously eluded the band.
In a more laid back vein, the “Kaya” album hit no. 4 on the British charts, propelled by the popularity of the romantic singles “Satisfy My Soul” and “Is This Love?”. Kaya’s title track extols the herb Marley used throughout his lifetime; the somber “Running Away,” and the haunting “Time Will Tell” are deep reflections on the December 1976 assassination attempt. The release of “Kaya” coincided with Bob Marley’s triumphant return to Jamaica for a performance at the One Love Peace Concert, held on April 22, 1978 at Kingston’s National Stadium. The event was another effort aimed at curtailing the rampant violence stemming from the senseless PNP-JLP rivalries; the event featured 16 prominent reggae acts and was dubbed a “Third World Woodstock”. In the concert’s most memorable moment, Bob Marley summoned JLP leader Edward Seaga and Prime Minister Michael Manley onstage. As the Wailers pumped out the rhythm to “Jamming”, Bob urged the politicians to shake hands; clasping his left hand over theirs, he raised their arms aloft and chanted “JAH Rastafari”. In recognition of his courageous attempt to bridge Jamaica’s cavernous political divide, Bob traveled to the United Nations in New York where he received the organization’s Medal of Peace on June 15, 1978.
At the end of 1978 Bob made his first trip to Africa, visiting Kenya and Ethiopia, the latter being the spiritual home of Rastafari. During his Ethiopian sojourn, Bob stayed in Shashamane, a communal settlement situated on 500-acres of land donated by His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I to Rastafarians that choose to repatriate to Ethiopia. Marley also traveled to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he visited several sites significant to His Majesty’s life and ancient Ethiopian history.
That same year Bob Marley and The Wailers’ tours of Europe and America were highlighted on their second critically acclaimed live album “Babylon By Bus”. In April 1979, Bob and The Wailers also toured Japan, Australia and New Zealand, where the indigenous Maori people greeted them with a traditional welcoming ceremony typically reserved for visiting dignitaries.
Bob released “Survival”, his ninth album for Island, in the fall of 1979. Featuring now-iconic songs such as “Wake Up and Live”, “So Much Trouble In The World”, “One Drop”, “Ambush In The Night” – his definitive statement on the 1976 assassination attempt – as well as the album’s title track, “Survival” is a brilliant, politically progressive work championing pan-African solidarity. “Survival” also included “Africa Unite” and “Zimbabwe”, the latter an anthem for the soon-to-be liberated colony of Rhodesia. In April 1980, Bob and the Wailers performed at Zimbabwe’s official Independence Ceremony at the invitation of the country’s newly-elected president, Robert Mugabe. This profound honor reconfirmed the importance of Bob Marley and The Wailers throughout the African Diaspora and reggae’s significance as a unifying and liberating force.
Unbeknownst to the band, the Zimbabwe Independence concert was solely for a select group of media and political dignitaries. As Bob Marley and The Wailers started their set, pandemonium ensued among the enormous crowd gathered outside the entrance to the Rufaro Sports Stadium—the gates broke apart as Zimbabweans surged forward to see the musicians who inspired their liberation struggle. Clouds of tear gas drifted into the stadium; the Wailers were overcome with fumes and left the stage. The I-Threes returned to their hotel but Bob Marley went back onstage and performed “Zimbabwe”. The following evening, Bob Marley and the Wailers returned to Rufaro Stadium and put on a free show for a crowd of nearly 80,000.
The final album to be released in Bob’s lifetime, “Uprising”, helped to fulfill another career objective. Bob had openly been courting an African American listenership throughout his career and he made a profound connection to that demographic with “Could You Be Loved”, which incorporated a danceable reggae-disco fusion. “Could You Be Loved” reached no. 6 and no. 56 respectively on Billboard’s Club Play Singles and Black Singles charts. “Uprising” also included contemplative odes to Bob’s Rastafarian beliefs, “Zion Train” and “Forever Loving Jah”, and the deeply moving “Redemption Song” a stark, acoustic declaration of enduring truths and profoundly personal musings; Angelique Kidjo, the Clash’s Joe Strummer, U2’s Bono, Sinead O’Connor and Rihanna are but five of the dozens of artists who have recorded versions of “Redemption Song”.
Bob Marley and The Wailers embarked on a major European tour in the spring & summer of 1980, breaking attendance records in several countries. In Milan, Italy, they performed before 110,000 people, the largest audience of their career. The US leg of the “Uprising” tour commenced in Boston on September 16 at the JB Hynes Auditorium. On September 19, Bob and the Wailers rolled into New York City for two consecutive sold out nights at Madison Square Garden as part of a bill featuring New York-based rapper Kurtis Blow, and The Commodores. The tour went onto the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pa. where Bob delivered the final set of his illustrious career on September 23, 1980.
The Pittsburgh show took place just two days after Marley learned the cancer that had taken root in his big toe in 1977, revealed following a football injury, had metastasized and spread throughout his body. Bob courageously fought the disease for eight months, even traveling to Germany to undergo treatment at the clinic of Dr. Josef Issels. At the beginning of May 1981, Bob left Germany to return to Jamaica but he did not complete that journey; he succumbed to his cancer in a Miami hospital on May 11, 1981.
The Bob Marley biography doesn’t end there. In April 1981 Bob Marley was awarded Jamaica’s third highest honor, the Order of Merit, for his outstanding contribution to his country’s culture. Ten days after Bob Marley’s death, he was given a state funeral as the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley O.M. by the Jamaican government, attended by Prime Minister Edward Seaga and the Opposition Party Leader Michael Manley. Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the streets to observe the procession of cars that wound its way from Kingston to Bob’s final resting place, a mausoleum in his birthplace of Nine Miles. The Bob Marley and the Wailers legend lives on, however, and forty years after Bob Marley’s transition, his music remains as vital as ever in its celebration of life and embodiment of struggle.
The Bob Marley influence upon various populations remains unparalleled, irrespective of race, color or creed. Bob Marley’s revolutionary-yet-unifying music, challenging colonialism, racism, “fighting against ism and scism” as he sang in “One Drop”, has had profound effects even in countries where English isn’t widely spoken. In August 2008, two musicians from the war-scarred countries of Serbia and Croatia (formerly provinces within Yugoslavia) unveiled a statue of Bob Marley during a rock music festival in Serbia; the monument’s inscription read “Bob Marley, Fighter For Freedom, Armed With A Guitar”. “Marley was chosen because he promoted peace and tolerance in his music,” said Mirko Miljus, an organizer of the event.
In Koh Lipe, Thailand, Bob Marley’s February 6th birthday is celebrated for three days with a cultural festival. In New Zealand, his life and music are now essential components of Waitangi Day (February 6) observances honoring the unifying treaty signed between the country’s European settlers and its indigenous Maori population. When Bob visited New Zealand for a concert at Auckland’s Western Springs Stadium on April 16, 1979, the Maori greeted him with a traditional song and dance ceremony reserved for visiting dignitaries. Marley’s former manager, the late Don Taylor, referred to the Maori welcoming ritual as “one of my most treasured memories of the impact of Bob and reggae music on the world”.
On April 18, 1980 when the former British colony of Rhodesia was liberated and officially renamed Zimbabwe, and the Union Jack replaced with the red, gold, green and black Zimbabwean flag, it is said that the first words officially spoken in the new nation were “ladies and gentlemen, Bob Marley and the Wailers”. For the Zimbabwean freedom fighters that listened to Bob Marley, inspiration and strength were drawn from his empowering lyrics. Marley penned a tribute to their efforts, “Zimbabwe”, which was included on the most overtly political album of his career, 1979’s “Survival” and he was invited to headline their official liberation celebrations. Zimbabwean police used tear gas to control the crowds that stampeded through the gates of Harare’s Rufaro Stadium to get a glimpse of Marley onstage. As several members of Marley’s entourage fled for cover, he returned to the stage to perform “Zimbabwe”, his words resounding with a greater urgency amidst the ensuing chaos: “to divide and rule could only tear us apart, in every man chest, there beats a heart/so soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionaries and I don’t want my people to be contrary.” “There was smoke everywhere, our eyes filled with tears so we ran off,” recalls Marcia Griffiths, who sang backup for Marley, alongside Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, as the I-Threes. “When Bob saw us the next day he smiled and said now we know who are the real revolutionaries.”
A generation later a group of political refugees from Sierra Leone living in Guinean concentration camps and traumatized by years of bloody warfare in their country, found through the music of Bob Marley, inspiration to form their own band and write and record their own songs. The Refugee All Stars won international acclaim for their 2006 debut “Living Like A Refugee” and their 2010 album “Rise and Shine”, each utilizing a blend of reggae, Sierra Leone’s Islamic rooted bubu music and West African goombay.
Further evidence of Bob Marley’s ongoing influence arrived on October 13, 2010 when Victor Zamora, one of 33 Chilean miners rescued after being trapped in a San Jose mine for 69 days, asked to hear Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” shortly after his release. Recorded in 1980 and posthumously released in 1983, “Buffalo Soldier” recounts the atrocities of the slave trade. Like so many of Bob Marley’s songs, it highlights the importance of relating past occurrences to present-day identities: “if you know your history then you would know where you’re coming from/then you wouldn’t have to ask me, who the hell do I think I am?”
And in the years since, a number of protests – including 2011’s Occupy Wall St. movement, the 2020 protests against police brutality across the U.S., and many others – have used Bob’s music and message as a voice for their revolutions. The uncompromising sentiments expressed on Bob’s “Get Up Stand Up” in particular are commonplace at these demonstrations, with masses of people around the world chanting: “So now we see the light, we’re gonna stand up for our rights!”