People live their lives not just for themselves but for others. Some give up the little possessions they have in life to help those in need within their communities. Others go out to sweat and tire not because they are after personal accomplishments but for the welfare of the society. Another group observes the injustices and malpractices of the mighty in their communities and speaks against such misgivings without fear of bitter consequences. These are people who were born with a calling to stand up for humanity. They are only a few, but they help the society realize the direction that this life needs to take. Bob Marley, and his entire life, reflects the natural gift of a man who, despite all odds, rose to the occasion and had his impact felt by the entire world in a positive way. To summarize Bob Marley’s life story, one needs to think Martin Luther King’s wise words that “We must use time creatively and forever realize that time is always hope to do great things”(Greg 1998).
There are activists, scientists, researchers, writers, singers and many other people who work tirelessly for the well-being of everyone inside their society. Environmentalists advocate for protection of the environment from senseless destruction. Activists spent time fighting for the rights of their fellow human beings. Others give up their high profile jobs to join community service initiatives that serve to improve the state of societies.
Many people have dedicated their lives to community service. Some of them risked dying yet they never cared about such consequences. Their passion to make the world a better place for all could never dwindle. They have passion, but unlike many people in different societies, they strive not only for their personal fulfillment but also for the improvement of everything around them, including people.
Mother Teresa, in her entire lifetime, chose to work for God as a Catholic Christian who dedicated her time and efforts towards helping the destitute in society. Mahatma Gandhi, through use of non-violent means, mobilized and influenced Indians to fight against oppressive colonial rule till liberation of his country and people. Nelson, Africa’s most respected man, and the world’s most admired person, spent a whooping twenty seven years in jail while fighting for the independence of his country and against the racially, abusive apartheid rule. Booker T. Washington together with other famous American writers used their literary works to sensitize their people on their rights and potential for communal prosperity, as well individual accomplishment. Music, hugely an entertainment and leisure activity, has also served many other purposes including education, sensitization and even inspiration of others.
Bob Marley came out as an extraordinary person in community at his time. People, right from his tender age, believed that Bob had a gift that could help them. That is why some of his closest friends and relatives believed that he had psychic powers. They strongly had faith in Bob Marley’s ability to foretell their future by simply looking at their palms. That could have been a mistake. However, it still showed that there was something in him that others, especially children of his age group, lacked. He was not an ordinary young man, because the things people expected of him were way beyond the capacity of an eleven year old child. At just sixteen, Bob released his first album, the lyrics and message of which were so strong that no one believed it was a composition of just a small boy in Kingston town (Farley 2007).
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In spite of the difficult life of living without a biological father, Bob ventured into the scene of music. He had the intent of changing the world through his music. There is an explanation of why and how he chose to sing the way he did. This is because even when he released his first song, his listeners got a rare message that they did not expect from such a young man. This was purely a talent which was meant to transform the world (Middleton 2000).
In his music, Bob Marley talked about real life situations and experiences. He talked about the injustice and oppression. He also emphasized on the need for harmonious living among folks through his constant calls for love. For instance, his song titled “One Love” is a plea for people to love one another despite their different backgrounds and status.
Bob Marley’s Life Story
Bob Marley, actually known as Robert Nesta Marley, was born on February 16, 1945 in the small village of Nine Miles, located in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica. His father, Norval Marley, was a white naval Officer. Bob’s mother name was Cedella Malcolm Marley. As a family, the three never had a chance to be together. Norval Marley abandoned his son and mother as he found his own life elsewhere. In spite of having her son in wedlock, she held the burden of responsibility in bringing up Bob by herself. The sole reason for this bitter life was a result of Norval parents’ disapproval of his marriage with Cedella.
At one time, Bob’s father took him to Kingston, supposedly to get him a school there. Unfortunately, that marked the last time of a relationship between father and his son. Bob never got to see his father ever again. One and a half years later, Cedilla discovered that her dear son was in Kingston, living with an elderly couple. He was not in school as she had expected. She then decided hastily to return her boy to St. Ann (Marley & Jones 2004).
In St. Ann, people believed that Bob had psychic powers. They had strong faith in Bob’s ability to tell their future when he looked into the palms of their hands. Those eighteen months in Kingston had profound effect in defining who Bob really was. It is during his time with the elderly couple that Bob got his engagement with music. No one would have imagined, at that time, this introduction to music would had such prominent impact on his entire life and the entire world.
After his return from Kingston, there was a shocking turn of events for people in St. Ann. When Cedella’s friends asked Bob to display his psychic powers, he denied having any of such powers. He, in turn, told them that he was a singer. This came as a huge shock to people who never expected such a response from a young man. They all believed he could tell their future by simply reading their hands. His life had taken a sharp turn and no one could change the direction Bob had chosen.
At the age of eleven, Bob met Bunny Wailer in Nine Miles. As their friendship grew, so did their parents’; that is, Bob’s mother and Bunny’s father. They later moved together to Kingston and begun their new life as a united family. Cedella had decided to move in with Bunny’s father as wife and husband. In Kingston, two boys, then living as two brothers, started their venture into music in the Kingston music arena (Middleton 2000).
At the age of just sixteen years, Bob recorded his first tracks called “Do You still Love Me” and “Judge Not”. At such a tender age, Bob’s songs were full of messages for the listeners, proving that this was an extraordinary sixteen year old boy. Despite his efforts as a young man, his first songs never got full success. He had to put in some extra energy and wait a little longer for his singing to capture the attention of the Jamaican population and the world’s music lovers at large. The Trench Town Singer, Joe Higgs, was Bob’s most valuable asset in the development of his music career. With his persistent and unyielding desire to succeed, Bob Marley attended lessons that Joe willingly offered him. While getting their music tidbits at Joe’s, Bob and Bunny got to meet their new friends with whom they formed the Wailers group.
The Wailers group was formed in 1963. This was when Joe Higgs introduced Bob and Bunny to Junior Braithwaite and Peter Tosh. A short later, Joe organized an audition with one of Jamaica’s most renowned producer of Studio One named Clement “Sir” Coxson Dodd. Clement loved the group and helped them make a number of recordings of their songs with Studio One. Their first track, “Simmer Down”, was an instant success selling about 80,000 copies. Other hit songs at the Music power house included “One Love”, “Cry to Me”, “Rude Boy”, “I am Gonna Put It On”, and “I'm Still Waiting”. This experience with producer Clement “Sir” was just the beginning of Marley’s long, successful journey that could change hearts and souls of music lovers all across the world (Farley 2007).
Bob Marley was an ardent follower of the Rastafari movement. As most people would bear witness, this movement has, till today, a very crucial role in the development of reggae music. Bob used his strong belief in the Rastafari movement, taking it upon himself to sell reggae from the remote areas of Kingston, Jamaica, to the international scene.
Being a strong believer, Bob Marley observed one of the movement’s practices with full commitment, Ital, which banned members from eating meat. Consequently, he ended up a vegetarian by faith. Besides, autobiographers claim that Marley affiliated himself with the Twelve Tribes Mansion. In this group, Bob Marley became a member of the denomination known as “Tribe of Joseph” since February was his birthday month. Each of other denominations had its own month of the year, starting from January to December (Middleton 2000).
Bob is well known for the famous dreadlocks, signature voice and Rastafari ethic. These are the things that all people want to associate with the great musician. Very few are aware that Bob Marley converted into Christianity a short while before his demise. In fact, some of his songs do talk badly about Christian faith, making it even more difficult for those who really love his songs to believe that he could attempt such a move. But truth be told, Bob Marley died a Christian, and not Rasta man.
He had a wife, Rita, and a number of children from his marriage with Rita, others from other women and the rest were adopted. He had three children with Rita: Cedella, David “Ziggy” and Stephen. He also adopted two more children that Rita came with from her previous relationships. The two are Sharon and Stephanie. Bob had several other children from other women (Marley & Jones 2004). There are some who are claimed to be his sons and daughters though they are not found anywhere on Bob Marley’s official website, bobmarley.com.
Bob Marley was a staunch Rastafari follower. In fact, he is highly acknowledged for his tremendous efforts to sell the movement’s beliefs and values. He practiced what this religion held dear and considered vital for human well-being. He followed strongly the practices as outlined in the movement and taught others the spirit of loyalty to whatever they believed in. He became the main agent of the movement through his salient efforts and total commitment that made him travel far and wide just to spread the message that he believed everyone in the entire world needed. He wanted others to believe in what he believed. To do that, he never relented in his quest to reach out to the world and display his natural character as well as his beliefs as a Rastafari follower.
In one way or another, Bob Marley proved to be a largely controversial figure throughout his life. At some moment, he criticized Christianity in some of his song lyrics. This did put him at cross purpose with those who are radical Jesuits and sometimes made him unpopular in some sections of the community. Besides that, some people found it quite doubtful to believe in the messages of love and unity that Bob Marley preached owing to the fact that he was an undisputed user of marijuana, weed that is quite unpopular among other believers that Bob Marley indiscriminately reached out to with his usual calls for peace, love, unity, and the praise for Emperor Selassie. As if that was not enough, Marley’s family life portrayed an image of man who lived freely, without any strong purpose and respect of matrimony. He had many children, a few with his wife Rita, while a lot more came from other women.
Inasmuch as he preached morality and advocated for social justice and fairness, his actions and general way of life triggered many questions in the minds of those who were trying to understand him. His open use of marijuana, readiness to fight for whichever course he chose, and his unclear family issues in respect of his own children and women provide reasonable grounds for people to raise eye-brows. These were his major aspects of controversy that followed him till the end of his life on earth and still follows him to date.
Legacy, Awards and Honors
Nesta Robert Marley held and still holds a number of international as well as local recognitions due to his music and compelling efforts to spread messages of love and unity for all people. He scooped many awards and honors during his life and even after his death.
In historical records, Bob Marley is documented as the Third World’s number one pop super stocker. Jann Wenner (1994) said that Bob Marley was a rocker at heart who, as a songwriter, brought the lyrical power of Bob Dylan, the lovely vocal styling of Smokey Robinson and the charisma of John Lennon, into a single voice. This came during the posthumous introduction at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Goldman 2006).
Times Magazine (1999) voted “The Exodus”, Bob Marley & the Wailers’ album as the album of the 20th century. He also got the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 besides other several accolades. They include a feature-length documentary about Marley’s life, Rebel music, which won a number of awards at the Grammys. As a proof that Bob Marley is one of Jamaica’s heroes, his statue stands next to the national stadium on Arthur Wint Drive in Kingston.
In 2006, a portion of Church Avenue in the state of New York, United States, was renamed as “Bob Marley Boulevard”. In countries like Australia and United States of America, there are communities which perform some rituals in remembrance and respect for Bob Marley. These show that Marley’s impact was left in each corner of the world and his legacy will live forever.
In his career as a singer/songwriter and musician, Bob Marley and his group, The Wailers, won many awards and honors. Some of them included the 1976 Band of the Year (Rolling Stone); BBC poll places “One Love” as the song of the Millennium, and the 1999 Album of the Century (Exodus). There were others like Peace Medal of the Third World by the UN, and the induction of Catch a Fire into the Grammy Hall of Fame (White 2006).
He is accredited with introduction of the mystical reggae music to the international community. He used his rare talent to impact the society positively with his messages of love and unity. He wrote the music for humanity’s sake, not for personal accomplishment, although he attained it, ultimately.
The last album that Bob Marley released is known as “Legend”. It was released three years after his death. It is still the highest selling album of reggae music even to the present times, many years after he passed on. Other great musicians have come and gone but none of them has ever earned the recognition and respect that Bob Marley enjoyed during his life on earth and still enjoys wherever he may be right now (Moskowtz 2007).
Bob Marley was found to have a kind of malignant cancer in July, 1977. A sort of injury could have been mistaken for an accidental lesion during a match earlier that year. On the contrary, that revealed the sad news of the superstar’s terrible condition that could cut short his life. Citing his belief, Marley ignored doctor’s recommendation to have the affected toe amputated. He went on with performances and world tours with his reggae music and gospel of his Rastafari movement despite his hurting condition.
Chris Blackwell produced Bob Marley’s last album, Uprising, in May 1980. This album contains the song “Redemption Song” which indicates Marley’s coming to terms with reality of losing his life, as a mortal soul. He staged several performances in Europe and America. His final concert rocked on 23 September, 1980. After his health condition deteriorated, Bob Marley was forced to get hospitalization at the Bavarian Clinic, Germany. The strong musician battled with cancer at the health care institution under some kind of cancer therapy called Issels treatment for about eight months.
When his health status went from bad to worse, Marley boarded a plane to his homeland, Jamaica. His body weakened further on the way. He landed in Miami, Florida and received hospitalization at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital where he passed away, on May11th, 1981. Bob Marley received a state funeral in Kingston, Jamaica, on May 21st, 1981. Melonama had spread to his brain and lungs, bringing about the untimely death of one of the most influential figures in not only the small town of Kingston, Jamaica, but also the world at large.
His Nature, Course and Influence
Bob Marley was a rare kind of musician who used his reggae music specialty to impact the entire world with positive messages of love and unity. He had a very powerful talent which he used for humanity’s sake.
Unlike other artists, Bob Marley did not get all the fame due to the fancy lifestyle that comes with music career. His name soared to the highest levels because of the influence his music had on the people`s lives. He didn`t require any effort to make people love him or respect him. His music, his life and his course for humanity did all that. He earned the respect he had and even in the present times, Bob Marley remains to be many people’s highly revered idol.
Marley believed in people’s freedom. He sang about this courageously and was always ready to fight for his course whenever circumstances necessitated it. He based most of his singing to the experiences and environment around him. The Jamaican culture, especially, Kingston town, had a major influence on his music.
Despite his controversial living as a serious lover of marijuana, a husband and father of many children, Bob Marley lived a fulfilling life that impacted differently many people around the world. His voice alone was compelling enough to change one’s attitude towards a neighbor in a positive way. His lyrics said all that any sober mind would want to hear. He touched many people’s hearts and acted as a major agent of change for humanity through the lovely music of reggae. He remained a true agent of advocating for appreciation of African persons and used his lyrics to cement his position on this. His songs demonstrated an aspect of social consciousness and uprightness of individuals in societies around the world.
Bob Marley died as symbol of nationalism to his Jamaican folks. To the international community, this was a real symbol of brotherhood and a true agent of humanity. His socially conscious mind presented a man that cared for his people and despised injustice. His love for his fellow men demonstrated a kind person worth the admiration of all people around the globe. The course he chose and the direction he took gives all people someone with a heart to live a life for others and fight for the freedom of all without fear or feeling of intimidation. His strong faith depicts a God-loving soul that believed in the existence of a superpower beyond the feeble understanding of man.
People from all walks of life pay tribute to Bob Marley. Many celebrate the life he lived, and many others still enjoy his magical singing to date. Even those who never laid an eye on him can still bear true witness of his greatness by citing from the powerful messages that lie in the music he left behind. The recognitions and memoirs in honor of Bob Marley are a true indication of a single man’s inevitable potential to leave a mark in the lives of many others. His legacy is evidence of his devotion to life and commitment to humanity are revelations of powerful, extraordinary power that Bob Marley possessed. Though every human is mortal, Bob Marley is still alive (Henke 2006).
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