Childhood & Early Life
Robert Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945, in Nine Mile, British Jamaica, to Norval Sinclair Marley and Cedella Booker. At the time of Bob Marley’s birth, Norval was working as a supervisor at a plantation and Cedella was a singer-songwriter.
A young Bob Marley pursued his education at the 'Stepney Primary and Junior High School,' located at the Saint Ann Parish in Jamaica. His father succumbed to a heart failure when Bob was just ten years old.
In school, he had a friend named Neville Livingston (later known as Bunny Wailer), whose father Thadeus had a daughter named Pearl with Bob's mother Cedella. The two boys began collaborating on music and soon formed a band along with their friends, Beverley Kelso, Junior Braithwaite, and Peter Tosh.
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It was in 1962 that Marley first released his singles, 'Do You Still Love Me?,' 'Judge Not,' 'Terror,' and 'One Cup of Coffee' with the help of recording artist Leslie Kong.
The following year, the music band changed its name several times before settling on 'The Wailers.' It was initially named 'The Teenagers,’ then 'The Wailing Rudeboys,' and then 'The Wailing Wailers.' Coxsone Dodd, the owner of a record company, took notice of the band only after it was named 'The Wailers.'
In 1963, ‘The Wailers’ produced their debut track 'Simmer Down' under Coxsone's banner. In 1965, the reggae band released their first album 'The Wailing Wailers,' which had the successful single, 'Rude Boy.'
In 1966, however, lead artistes Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso left the band to pursue their solo careers.
'The Wailers' released their first international album 'Soul Rebels' in 1970, with the help of recording artist, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. The album was produced by 'Trojan Records' in the United Kingdom, and it became highly successful. It was later released by different music companies on several occasions.
In 1971, the band released two popular albums, 'Soul Revolution' and 'The Best of the Wailers.' Ironically, the latter contained new tracks and was not a collection of the songs produced earlier.
The next year, Marley signed a contract with London-based 'CBS Records' and collaborated with American musician Johnny Nash for a tour of UK. During the same time, they got acquainted with the owner of 'Island Records,' Chris Blackwell.
In 1972, Blackwell proposed that 'The Wailers' release a new album and made an advance payment of £4,000. He also signed Marley on for his record company as a substitute for the famous reggae artiste, Jimmy Cliff.
In 1973, 'The Wailers' released their next album 'Catch a Fire' for the label, 'Island Records.' It was moderately successful, with 14,000 copies being sold. The same year, the album 'Burnin' was produced, containing the hit track, 'I Shot the Sheriff.'
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In 1974, Bob's band was supposed to kick-start 17 concerts in the US, before other music groups took over. However, their popularity had grown to such an extent that their performance had to be stopped after the first four concerts.
The same year, 'The Wailers' disbanded, but Marley continued to produce solo albums and singles under the name 'Bob Marley and The Wailers.' The famous singer released the solo album 'Natty Dread' in the year 1974, with popular singles like ‘No Cry’ and ‘No Woman.’
In 1975, Bob recorded the album 'Live!' along with his new band members, Tyrone Downie, Al Anderson, Junior Marvin, as well as brothers Aston and Carlton Barrett. The following year, he also produced the album 'Rastaman Vibration,' with the hit single, 'War.'
During 1977-78, Marley produced albums, such as 'Exodus,' 'Kaya,' and 'Babylon by Bus.' Around the same time, he made an appearance at the 'One Love Peace Concert' in Jamaica.
In the next two years, Marley released the commercially successful album 'Survival,' which had heart-rending tracks like 'Africa Unite,' 'Zimbabwe,' and 'Wake Up and Live.' He also released the album 'Uprising,' which had famous singles like 'Redemption Song' and 'Forever Loving Jah.'
During the same period, he performed at Boston's 'Amandla Festival' and at Pennsylvania's 'Stanley Theater.'
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1966, Bob Marley converted from Catholic to 'Rastafari' religious faith, inculcating the movement's rituals and culture into the reggae music he played. He also used marijuana and continued using it despite being arrested once for possession of the drug.
Marley got married to Alpharita Constantia Anderson, commonly known as Rita, on February 10, 1966, in Kingston. The couple had three children, Cedella, Ziggy, and Stephen.
Though he was married only to Rita, the singer had children from other relationships too. He also adopted the children Rita had borne from other affairs.
In 1976, while on a free concert named ‘Smile Jamaica,’ which was organized by the Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley to dissolve warring political tensions, Marley, his wife, and manager Don Taylor were assaulted by gunmen in his house. His wife and manager sustained severe injuries, while Marley suffered minor wounds.
In 1977, Marley was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a kind of incurable skin cancer. It took four years for the disease to spread, and his health deteriorated.
The revered singer succumbed to his illness on May 11, 1981, at Miami's 'Cedars of Lebanon Hospital.' The funeral service, presided over by Prime Minister Edward Seaga, was held in Jamaica and Marley’s mortal remains were interred at a chapel in his hometown, Nine Mile.
In 1983, a posthumous album titled 'Confrontation,' containing the single 'Buffalo Soldier' was released.
Statues of this great singer have been erected at Kingston, Jamaica, as well as in the Banatski Sokolac village of Serbia.
Many festivals are held all around India to commemorate this brilliant singer's works. In 2012, the movie 'Marley,' directed by Kevin Macdonald, was released.