Death, as it is said, comes not to the living soul, nor age to the loving heart. Despite having been dead for 32 years, Nesta Robert “Bob” Marley, forever lives on in our hearts.
The king of reggae, the Jamaican rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rock steady and reggae bands, ‘Bob Marley & The Wailers’, was born on February 6, 1945 and died on May 11, 1981 after he lost his battle to cancer. He died at a ‘young age’ of 36.
Till date, he remains the icon and ‘godfather’ of reggae music. Even to fans that were born after his death, his music is appreciated. What a legend he is!
He sold more than 75 million albums worldwide. He was pivotal and instrumental to the worldwide acceptance of Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement whose culture was a key element in the development of reggae. His music was strongly influenced by his immediate environment that he became a hero figure in the classic mythological sense to the oppressed in Jamaica and beyond.
According to Cedella Marley who is Bob’s first daughter, “he made his reggae music to uplift us, inform, entertain, inspire, and make change in the world. He’s a musician, a poet and songwriter, a philosopher, a soldier, an activist and a leader.” We cannot but agree with what she said. He was an inspiration to the black movement. In his words, “Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, and don’t give up the fight.
As a musician, he gave the world a reason to relax and enjoy ourselves. As a poet and philosopher, he composed lyrics that will make the great Shakespeare grow green with envy. Just as he orated “Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.This is a very deep saying. He basically saw beyond his immediate environment.
Being a Pan Africanist, his core message was the return of black people to Zion, which in his view was Ethiopia, or more generally, Africa. He considered himself as a black African despite being of mixed descent. His father was a White Jamaican, whose family came from Sussex, England while his mother was an Afro-Jamaican.
As a soldier and activist, he was armed with his songs to liberate the people of Jamaica. At a point in time in his life, precisely December 3, 1976, Marley was marked for assassination by the political class. He was seen as a powerful voice that must be silenced.
In his usual self, when asked why he still came to perform for a show he was billed to perform (he was actually attacked prior to the show and had minor injuries to his chest), he said “the people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?” This totally shows the kind of person he was – he wanted to make the world a better place at all cost.
The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively. With this, Bob Marley influenced several people and this remains incomparable, regardless of race, colour or creed. His radical yet unifying music, challenging imperialism, racial discrimination, “fighting against ism and scism” as he sang in “One Drop”, has had insightful effects even in countries where English isn’t widely spoken. He was so much into music that he once opined that “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”. He felt no pain even in the face of death and adversities.
His best-known hits include “I Shot the Sheriff”, “No Woman, No Cry”, “Could You Be Loved”, “Duppy Conqueror”, “Stir It Up”, “Get Up Stand Up”, “Jamming”, “Redemption Song”, “One Love”, and “Three Little Birds”, as well as the posthumous releases “Buffalo Soldier” and “Iron Lion Zion”. The compilation album Legend (1984), released three years after his death, is reggae’s best-selling album, going ten times Platinum which is also known as one Diamond in the U.S., and selling 25 million copies worldwide.
As we celebrate his death today, we are grateful he graced this world and showed us the way in his own way. He believed no one but ourselves can free our minds. He fought for the liberation of the poor masses and as has been a major influence for activists. He may be dead but his songs are still evergreen and will remain so. His songs will continue to inspire us, uplift us as well as entertain us. Adios Bob. You will never be forgotten. You remain evergreen.
NB: The original article was written three years ago when we celebrated his 32nd death anniversary. I simply changed the title to read 35 years. The original article was written by me as well. This is reproduction.