Bob Marley Before He Was Dead
Before They Were Dead
Bob Marley Before He Was Dead
Before Bob Marley’s legacy would transcend reggae and race, and fuel movements for peace in Jamaica and liberty in Africa.
Before the charismatic Rastafarian had his image replicated endlessly on t-shirts and he became the poster boy for cannabis culture in dorm rooms across the world.
Before Bob Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received a grammy for lifetime achievement, and The United Nations Peace Medal of the Third World.
Before Bob Marley’s Music would be covered by Johnny Cash, the Fugees, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and countless others.
Before the ladies man used the pick line ‘You wan have my baby?’ a little too well and fathered an estimated 20 children with several women.
My favorite work of all his children is Damien Marley’s Pimpa’s Paradise. That song got me through my first break up.
Robert Marley grew up poor in a rural community of Jamaica where he was raised Catholic by his 18-year-old mother and teased for his light skin and mixed heritage. Early in his teens he decided he would be a singer but found little success at first, and went to America with his mom and wife. When he returned to Jamaica, he was drawn to a religious movement that would completely influence his philosophy, lifestyle and shaped him into the icon we know and love today. For a long time Bob Marley, he was Jammin but his religion restricted him to proper treatment of his skin cancer which resulted in his untimely death on May 11th 1981, at the age of just 36.
My name is Michael McCrudden documenting the life of the revolutionary artist Bob Marley leading up to his passing here for you on before they were dead. I’ve also done other icons like Tupac, Prince and Elvis Presley.
Bob Marley Born in Nine Miles, Jamaica
Robert Nesta Marley was born in Nine Miles Jamaica on February 6, 1945. His mother Cedella Marley was 18 when she had him, his father Norval Sinclair was a white British captain more than 40 years her senior.
His father was usually away but he supported them financially while his mother raised him. Bob attended Stepney primary school and was actually raised catholic. But because of his lighter skin was usually teased and called “white boy”. When he was 5 his father sent him to Jamaica’s capital to attend school, and that was the last he ever saw of dad. Soon his family joined him in Kingston and lived in an area known as trench town. Why was it called Trench Town? Well for starters it was built over a sewage trench. Plus the low-income area was home to a whole lot of poverty, crime, and violence, and young Bob learned how to defend himself from bad men real quick. In fact he was so good at street fighting he earned himself the nickname Tuff Gong.
Bob Marley plays Soccer (Football)
Robert spent a lot of time playing soccer amongst his friends and actually got really good at it. Soccer continued to be an important pastime for Marley and eventually he would become as good as the pros. Then one day he decided it was his destiny to become a singer.
Momma didn’t like the sounds of that and instead got him a job as a welder’s apprentice, but his welding career was short-lived when he quit after getting a metal splinter lodged
in his eye.
Island Ska Music
Around this time Island music, or Ska, it’s popularity was on the rise. He and his pal Bunny started taking vocal lessons where they learned some basics about harmony, rhythm, and melody. Their teacher introduced the two to Peter Tosh, and together they would become The Wailers.
Bob Marley Wife – Rita Anderson
When Marley was 21 he married his first wife Rita Anderson, a beautiful Sunday school teacher. He adopted two of her children from a previous relationship and the two went to America, joining his mom who had moved to Delaware. There he worked as a lab assistant for DuPont Chemical and at a Chrysler plant driving a forklift for a few months.
When he and his wife moved back to Jamaica, they converted to Rastafarianism and started wearing their hair in those signature dreads oh yes, and of course they would smoke herb.
Cannabis is considered a sacrament to Rastas, used for healing and personal enlightenment. Bob Marley started supporting its legalization and preached the positive effects of it, trying to combat the negative attitudes media had towards it.
Bob Marley Children (up to 20)
Over the next few years, Bob started fathering numerous children with other woman, including miss world 1976 who gave birth to my man, the grammy-award winning Damien Marley. His motto became that of a free love philosophy and although his website officially acknowledges 11 children, it’s estimated he had as many as 20. The force was strong with this one.
But Jamaica was still in the midst of some troubling times, with widespread famine, unemployment, and violence on the rise. This made Marley very socially conscious, and gave him a clear purpose for his new music. He hired a new band and called it Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Chris Blackwell from Island Records
They got a bit of traction as a reggae act and were in London promoting their music. While there Marley approached Island Records on a whim and asked founder Chris Blackwell to finance a single. He told them to make him a whole record instead.
Get Up Stand Up on Catch a Fire Album – Bob Marley
Their first album ‘Catch a Fire’ was released when Marley was 28, and was a global success. Tours of the US and Britain were soon arranged and though Bob wasn’t a star just yet, was praised by critics. The second album “Burnin” would contain iconic anthems “Get up Stand up’ and of course…
I Shot the Sheriff – Bob Marley
On tour they first shared the stage with the massive group Sly and the Family Stone, but after a few performances were fired after their act was getting way more adoration and praise than the headliners. Afterwards they toured with a relatively unknown Bruce Springsteen who’s cover of “I shot the sheriff’ soared to #1 on the charts. I know that sounds like an awkward time on the tour bus to me also…
Tuff Gong Studios – Natty Dread album featuring No Woman No Cry
Marley had gained fans from reggae and rock audiences and the head of his record label was so pleased, he gave him his Kingston home. Marley, now a star in his home city, turned the building into his office as well, the base for Tuff Gong Studios. Here he made his breakthrough ‘Natty Dread’ album with his wife Rita on backing vocals. The single “No Woman No Cry” Marked his breakthrough to star status and let him start giving back to his community.
Charity and Generosity
A friend who ran a soup kitchen in Trench Town inspired the song and Marley gave him the royalties for the song as thanks. He continued to spread his generosity amongst friends and family, buying houses and feeding those less fortunate.
Smile Jamaica turned Assassination Attempt
But not everybody back home was happy about him popularizing Rasta beliefs. Jamaica was still battle-ground for warring political parties and Marley was asked to perform a free concert called Smile Jamaica in December of 76, in hopes of easing the rising tension. Two days before they were to perform the concert, someone opened fire on his home in hopes of stopping a revolution.
His manager was seriously wounded and airlifted, while his wife underwent surgery to remove a bullet. Bob only suffered minor injuries. When Bob Marley and the Wailers appeared on stage two days later, unshaken, and defiantly performed the anthem “war” the crowd went wild.
Exodus and Kaya
He disappeared for a few months following that concert then popped up in London where he’d produce the legendary albums “Exodus” and “Kaya” in 77 and 78, which fused religious and political messages of positivity, encouraging change. They had some of his best-known work. With it came commercial success unlike anything the band had experienced. Exodus stayed on the UK charts for 56 consecutive weeks!
Then in July 1977 Bob Marley was diagnosed with skin cancer. The disease was in it’s early stages and was only found in his toe, something that could be easily stopped by amputating it. Marley’s religious beliefs however, went against this, and he refused treatment.
One Love Peace Concert 1978
He continued to tour and though he was more successful than he had ever been, his homeland remained in turmoil. Marley returned to Jamaica two years after the assassination attempt on him to perform at the One Love Peace concert in 1978.
The concert was aimed to bring a day of peace by featuring popular reggae acts and was called the “Third World Woodstock”. When Marley took the stage, he called upon both leaders of the rival parties to come up, and proceeded to make history.
They wanted a day of peace, and boy did Marley deliver. The UN honored him with the Medal of Peace in recognition of his bold actions.
Marley’s ‘Uprising’ tour would be even bigger than the last, playing to stadiums of 100 thousand people. One of the most notable concerts was the one that celebrated Zimbabwe’s independence day from Britain.
Last Concert in Pittsburg
He was able to get through the first few shows but his cancer was spreading, and his health deteriorated quickly. His last concert was in Pittsburg on September 1980.
Bob Marley Died in Miami on May 11 1981 at age of 36
He fought his cancer with experimental methods allowed by his religion for 8 months before deciding to return home to Jamaica. Sadly on the plane ride over, his vitals dropped so low they had to land in Miami instead, where he was taken to hospital. Bob Marley died in that hospital on May 11 1981 at the age of 36, his final words to his son Ziggy;
“Money can’t buy life”.
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