He was a singer-songwriter and guitarist born Robert Nesta Marley in Nine Miles, Saint Ann Paris, Jamaica. His father was a white Jamaican Marine Officer whose parents had moved to the island from Sussex, England. He suffered at the hands of racial prejudice as a child because he came from a mixed race and after when he moved to Kingston while still young he learned self defence. He became known for his physical strength and was nicknamed “Tuff Gong”.
He left school at 14 to become an apprentice welder and at the same time he began to play music with Bunny Livingston, later Bunny Wailer, and a local singer, Joe Higgs. On one of their jam sessions they met Peter Tosh and in 1962 he recorded his first two singles “One Cup of Coffee” and “Judge Not” under the name of Bobby Martell. In 1963 he was a co-founder of the ska group The Teenagers who would later become The Wailing Rudeboys, The Wailing Wailers and eventually The Wailers.
In 1964 The Wailers topped the Jamaican charts and became well known throughout the country. They teamed up with the studio band The Upsetters and remained with them for a year recording what is now thought of as some of their most acclaimed work. In 1973 the first album Catch a Fire was released followed by Burnin’ and after Eric Clapton released a version of “I Shot the Sheriff” he became internationally known.
The Wailers broke up in 1974 although he continued to record as Bob Marley and the Wailers. His breakthrough came with the hit “No Woman, No Cry”. In 1976 he and his wife and his manager were shot and wounded by gunmen inside his home which was thought to be to do with the political discord of the day. They all made full recoveries and later that year he moved to England to record the album Exodus which spawned 4 hit singles.
His music was known for making political and religious statements and he was invited to perform in Zimbabwe for the Independence Day celebrations. His final concert would be given in Pennsylvania in September 1980 and in April 1981 he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit.
He was found to be suffering from cancer on his big toe in 1977 but refused to have surgery done as he said it would affect his dancing and it also went against his Rastafarian beliefs. The cancer spread until he collapsed in Central Park in New York in the autumn of 1980. He went to Munich, Germany, for treatment but it was in its final stages and while flying home to Jamaicahe became ill and died in hospital in Miami, Florida, aged 36. He was survived by his wife, Rita, and 13 children from 9 different mothers.
A pioneer of reggae music, he had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and in 2001 was awarded a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bob Marley and the Wailers recordings
Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley)
Island WIP 6610-A (UK 45)
One Drop (Bob Marley)
Island WIP 6610-B (UK 45)
Redemption Song (Bob Marley)
Island: WIP 6653-A (UK 45 PS)
Redemption Song (Band Version)(Bob Marley)
Island: WIP 6653-B (UK 45 PS)