Bob Marley - Reggae Legend, Rasta Prophet.

by zteve

My tribute to Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Breaking Barriers


Bob Marley has been acclaimed as “the first Third World superstar,” and “Rasta Prophet.”  To many people around the world he was a true visionary and revolutionary artist who through his reggae music expressed greater spiritual truths.  His music was indeed revolutionary and the messages of many of his lyrics broke through barriers and established him as one of the leading personalities in the growth of reggae and the Rastafarian religion that was essentially the heart of his music.


Ska Music


In Jamaica the popular style of dance music was known as ska.  It fused Jamaican African influences with the rhythm and blues that were picked up by Jamaican radio from the U.S.A., in particular from New Orleans.  The music of black Americans such as Fats Domino, Curtis Mayfield, Brook Benton and the great Ray Charles were highly influential in Jamaica.

Bob Marley Poster
Bob Marley
The Wailing Wailers

His first two record releases as a solo artist were insignificant commercially.  In 1963 he helped to found a group called the “Wailing Wailers.”


The core of the group consisted of Bob Marley, Neville O'Riley Livingston, who was one of Marley’s friends and went on to be known as Bunny Wailer and another friend, Peter McIntosh.  They were joined by Junior Braithewaite and backing vocalists Cherry Smith and Beverly Kelso. 


Importantly they also had  a friend and mentor in Rastafarian hand drummer, Alvin Patterson.  It was Patterson who introduced the group to the Kingston record producer, Clement Dodd.


In 1964 they had their first hit in the Jamaican charts with a song called "Simmer Down," that reached and stayed at the top of the charts for two months.  Over the next few years they developed a hard association with the Rude Boys of Kingston’s slums recording around 30 songs and becoming the top Jamaican group.


Even with their success the financial resources of the group were not enough to keep them going and the band split. and Marley went  to Americato stay with his mother.  On February 10, 1966 he had married Rita Anderson before he left Jamaica.


The Wailers


He did not stay long and returned to Jamaica to join Bunny and McIntosh to form the ‘Wailers.’  Joining up with reggae producer Lee Perry, the Wailers became the foremost Jamaican reggae group with classics such as ‘400 Years,’ ‘Duppy Conquerer,’ ‘Soul Rebel,’ and ‘Small Axe.'


Although the Wailers became very well known throughout the Caribbean region in the 1970s they were still relatively unheard of on the international music scene.


Aston Barrett (bass) and his brother Carlton (drums) were highly regarded throughout the Caribbean music scene and were recognised as the best rhythm musicians in Jamaica and in 1970 joined up with the Wailers.   


Recording Success

‘Catch A Fire’ with Island Records

 Their big break came when Chris Blackwell of Island Records signed them in 1972.  Island had a reputation for signing progressive artists and groups such Free, Jethro Tull, Traffic, Cat Stevens, King Crimson, and Fairport Convention. 

 Previously most reggae music was found on singles or cut-price compilation albums, so this was a massive act of faith by Blackwell.  Even so, putting his money where his mouth was, he also gave them a £4,000 advance and access to state of the art recording studios to make their first album.  

The finished album was called ‘Catch A Fire.’  Island did an excellent job packaging and promoting the album beginning their rise to international recognition and stardom.

 ‘Burnin,’’ their second album

 The following year they made their second album, “Burnin,’” mixing new songs  ‘Get Up Stand Up’ and ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ (Eric Clapton’s cover version topped the U.S . charts) with some of their older material, including  ‘Duppy Conqueror,’ ‘Put In On,’ and ‘Small Axe.’

 The ‘Natty Dread’ Album

 The ‘Natty Dread’ Album, released in 1975, comprised of recording of the Wailer’s performance on a European tour.  They also released the classic single ‘No Woman No Cry,’ with both making the British charts.  Despite the success both Bunny and Peter McIntosh left the Wailers to pursue solo careers.  The I-Threes, a female backing trio consisting of his wife Rita, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt now provided backing vocals for the group.

 The ‘Rastaman Vibration’ Album

  In 1976, the ‘Rastaman Vibration’ was released making theU.S.charts. Included were such tracks as ‘Johnny Was,’ ‘Who The Cap Fit’ and ’Crazy Baldhead,’ and possibly more importantly the song ‘War,’ whose lyrics had been adapted from an address the Emperor Haile Selassie gave before the United Nations General Assembly in 1963 and went right to the heart of Marley’s beliefs.

Assassination Attempt

For Marley growing international success gave him increasing political significance in his home country with his strong Rastafarian beliefs striking a chord with many people in the Jamaican ghettoes.  The ghettoes of Kingston were a breeding ground for gangs causing crime, violence and murder.   Marley wanted to reach these people so decided to give a free concert in the Kingston National Heroes Park, on 5 December, 1976.

 At the same time the government announced elections were to be held on 20 December, causing an increase in the ghetto wars.    Gunmen broke into Marley’s house, shooting, him but only wounding him, though not seriously.  He escaped and was taken to a place of safety.  Despite this he went on stage at the concert and gave a brief performance as an act of defiance and rejection of the gunmen.

International Success

‘Exodus’ the Album

 The release of the album ‘Exodus’ in 1977, saw Bob Marley as the front man for the Wailers rise to international stardom.  The album spent 56 weeks in the British charts and providing the threeUK hit singles, ‘Exodus,’ ‘Jamming,’ and ‘Waiting in Vain.’

 ‘Kaya’ the Album

 Marley and the Wailers changed the mood and followed with ‘Kaya’   in 1978 which was renowned for its love songs and for praising the attributes of ganga.

From this album came two singles, ‘Satisfy My Soul’ ‘Is This Love.’.

The One Love Peace Concert, 1978

In April, 1978, Marley returned home to Jamaicato play the One Love Peace Concert.  Jamaican Prime Minister, Michael Manley and his political opponent, Edward Seaga, Leader of the Opposition were present at the concert.  At Marley’s behest the two came on stage and shook hand with each other.

He was also honoured by the United Nations who awarded him their Medal of peace.

At the end of 1978 he made his first visit to Africa, starting in Kenya and then travelling on to Ethiopia, the spiritual centre of his religion.

He also returned to Africa in 1980 for the inauguration of the new independent black African Government of Zimbabwe and to play at the Independence Ceremony. This was widely seen as a hugely significant honour for Bob Marley and the Wailers and actively demonstrated their growing significance in theThird World.

The ‘Survival’ album, 1979

The ’Survival’ album was more than a celebration of Africa; it was a call for Africans to unite and free themselves.   Songs included ‘Zimbabwe,’ ‘Ambush In The Night,’ ‘‘Africa Unite,’ and ‘Much Trouble In The world.”  The front cover of the album displayed the flags of 47 African nations and a flag of Papua New Guinea which was included to demonstrate Marley’s regard for oppressed tribe’s people of the world.  The album was partially censored in South Africa which was still under the apartheid regime at the time.

Bob Marley on Kindle

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The Marley surname perpetuates Jamaican royalty, resonates from worldwide recognition and represents the pioneer of a cultural, political and social revolution.In the near ...

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Bob marley and the Wailers on YouTube

Third World superstar

.1980 – Rising fame

 In 1980, Marley and the Wailers embarked on a highly successful European tour attracting huge crowds where ever they played and in Milan played to a capacity crowd of 100,000 people.  They were the most popular touring band of the year and the ‘Uprising’ album was a success in all the European charts.

 After their successful European tour Marley and the Wailers went to the U.S. giving two performances at the Madison Square Gardens.

 Illness Strikes

After the shows Marley suffered serious illness which was diagnosed as a form of cancer.  Although he fought the disease he finally succumbed to the disease after eight months, finally passing away on 11 May, 1981 in Miami Hospital at the age of 36.

One month before he died in acknowledgement of his exceptional contribution to Jamaican culture he was given the Order of Merit by his country.  He was given an official funeral with both the Prime Minster and the Leader of the Opposition in attendance.

 His legacy

 Bob Marley and the Wailers were highly influential in the rise of reggae from a small third World country to huge international popularity worldwide.  At the heart of the music was Marley’s spiritual and philosophical beliefs which gave him huge respect worldwide and though Bob Marley is gone his music and message lives on.


Books by Cedella Marley

Cedella Marley is the oldest of Bob Marley’s children and a talented writer and musician in her own right.
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 Bob Marley, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia


Other articles by this author

Updated: 02/08/2012, zteve
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zteve on 09/10/2013

One of my all time favorites! Thanks for commenting.

cmoneyspinner on 09/10/2013

Great bio snapshot. Indeed. Bob Marley put reggae on the music map!
(Of course, as far as my husband thinks, it was always on the map. He's not from America.)

zteve on 03/14/2012

Thanks, very much appreciated!

Mladen on 03/14/2012

Great article about great musician! Well done!

zteve on 03/06/2012

Yes indeed, I believe he was a great visionary who lived his beliefs to the full. He put his message in his music which is still very much alive in Jamaica and with many people all around the world today. Thanks for commenting!

JeanBakula on 03/05/2012

Thanks for the great Wizzle on one of my all time fave musicians, Bob Marley. He was more than a musician though, more of a prophet or visionary. I have been to Jamaica 4X, and the island still loves him so much. I was unaware of the psalms and sayings, I thought I had everything he recorded. Thanks for keeping his message alive!

zteve on 12/12/2011

Thanks Ethel, greatly appreciated!

ethelsmith on 12/11/2011

Comprehensive Bio and great tribute. Hubby remains a Marley fan

zteve on 12/01/2011

Thank you very much!

Snurre on 12/01/2011

This is a really well-written article. I like Bob Marley!

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