Robert Nesta Marley popularly known as Bob Marley was born on 6th February, 1945 at the home of his maternal grandfather in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica.
His parents were Norval Sinclair Marley and Cedella Malcolm. Bob Marley attended Stepney Primary and Junior High School. In 1955, Bob was 10 years old when his father died of a heart attack at the age of 70. In later years his mother Cedella would marry Edward Booker, a civil servant from the United States, giving Bob two step brothers: Richard and Anthony.
Bob Marley and Neville Livingston who was later called Bunny Wailer had been childhood friends in Nine Mile.
They started learning music together while at Stepney Primary and Junior High School.
Bob left Nine Mile with his mother when he was 12 and moved to Trenchtown, Kingston. His mom and Bunny Wailer’s dad, Thadeus Livingston, who lived together, had a daughter, Claudette Pearl who became a sister to Bob and Bunny.
For a long time, Bob and Bunny had an interest in the latest ‘Rhythm and Blue’ music genre from USA radio when it reached Jamaica.
Marley soon found himself in a vocal group with Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Beverley Kelso and Junior Braithwaite.
Joe Higgs, a part of the successful vocal act Higgs and Wilson, resided together and his singing partner Roy Wilson had been raised by Junior Braithwaite’s grandma. They were a successful duo.
Higgs helped Bob and his group to develop themselves. He then taught Bob how to play a guitar which helped him to be one of the biggest reggae artist in the world.
In February 1962, Bob recorded four songs, Judge Not, One Cup of Coffee, Do You Still Love Me? and Terror, at Federal Studios for local music producer Leslie Kong. Three of the songs were released on Beverley’s with One Cup of Coffee being released under the pseudonym Bobby Martell.
In 1963, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith were called the Teenagers and they later changed the name to the Wailing Rudeboys, then to the Wailing Wailers. They were seen by Coxsone Dodd, who later produced their single Simmer Down and it became the best selling song in 1964. By 1966, Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith had left the Wailers, leaving only Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh.
In 1966, Bob married Rita Anderson, and moved to Wilmington, Delaware, in the United States for a short time, where he worked as a DuPont lab assistant with the name Donald Marley.
Although raised as a Catholic, when his mom wasn’t around he became interested in Rastafarianism. Bob officially converted to Rastafari and began to grow dreadlocks after he came back to Jamaica.
Bob and Perry split after a conflict but they would continue to work together.
Between 1969 and 1972, Bob and his crew made songs and tried to publish it on an album but it led to an argument which introduced Bob into the USA. Marley was living in Ridgmount Gardens, Bloomsbury, by then.
From 1972 to 1974:
Marley moved to London and toured with Johnny Nash who was also a singer. After the tour, he returned to Jamaica to record some songs which resulted in the Catch a fire album. Chris Blackwell was now his manager and helped Bob to reconstruct his music further.
The Catch a fire album was released worldwide in April of 1973, which was received positively. Later in that year another album Burning was released. Many Jamaicans did not give the album much interest, but in other parts of the world it was gaining much attention.
In 1974, Blackwell gifted his residence to Bob. The band was subsequently fired because they were becoming popular than their managers had planned. The split left everyone the ability to pursue their solo careers.
Between 1974 and 1976 Bob Marley continued to record as Bob Marley and The Wailers even though they had split. Bob’s wife was also one of the backing singers, known as the I-threes.
In 1975, Bob had his international breakthrough with his first hit outside of Jamaica, with a live version of No Woman, No Cry, from the album live. This was followed by his breakthrough album in the United States, Rastaman Vibration in 1976, which reached the Top 50 of the Billboard Charts.
On 3 December 1976, Bob, his wife and his manager were injured in a shoot out because of the attempts made to ease tension between the political parties which they thought Bob was rallying for one, but they soon recovered.
Bob soon left for England in 1976, while there he recorded two albums.
Whilst in England he was also arrested and convicted in London for marijuana possession.
In July 1977, Bob was diagnosed with cancer, which was triggered by an earlier untreated toe injury whilst playing football.
In 1978, Bob returned to Jamaica and performed at another political concert, to calm the unrest created by the two political parties. Later In 1978, an album which contained 13 tracks were released which Bob performed for the Jamaican people.
Bob’s songs were his memories. He sang on the reflection of Africa.
Even though he was ill, he continued touring and was in the process of scheduling a world tour in 1980.
From July 1979 to 1980 he continued to tour countries.
In 1980, Bob Marley made his final studio album which was released in 1983, which was only played in Jamaica back then.
The album Uprising was released in May 1980. The band then played it’s biggest concert in Italy in that same year. He collapsed while jogging in the Park and was taken to the hospital, where they found that his cancer had spread to his brain, lungs, and liver. The rest of the tour was then cancelled. After not getting the right treatment for 8 months, Bob wanted to go back to Jamaica. On their way, his health condition worsened. He was then taken to Miami for treatment where he died on 11 May 1981. He died at the age of 36. His final words to his son Ziggy before he died were “Money can’t buy life.”
Bob Marley was given a state funeral in Jamaica on 21 May 1981, which included both Ethiopian Orthodox and Rastafarian tradition. He was buried in a chapel near where he was born with his guitar alongside him. He left behind eleven children: Ziggy Marley, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Cedella Marley, Rohan Marley, Julian Marley, Ky-Mani Marley,Sharon Marley, Makeda Jahnesta, Stephanie Marley, Karen Marley, Robert Marley.
Fun fact: Bob Marley’s wife, Rita Anderson, took a bullet to the head that was aimed at Marley in an attempted assassination in Kingston. Despite being shot in the head, she survived, due to her thick dreadlocks minimizing the impact of the bullet.