Bob Marley

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Bob Marley on May 30, 1980 in the Zurich Hallenstadion

Bob Marley [ bɒb ˈmɑː (ɹ) li ] (born February 6, 1945 in Nine Miles , Saint Ann Parish ; † May 11, 1981 in Miami , Florida ; actually Robert Nesta Marley, from March 1981 Berhane Selassie ) was a Jamaican reggae - Singer , guitarist , songwriter and activist and is considered to be the most important representative and co-founder of reggae music, brought about by him and his band The Wailers became internationally known from the mid-1970s.

His best-known songs include Buffalo Soldier , Get Up, Stand Up , I Shot the Sheriff , No Woman, No Cry , Could You Be Loved? , Redemption Song and Stir It Up . In addition to his musical work, Marley spread the message of the Rastafarian movement. For their followers and for many people in the Third World , Marley was and is an important figure to identify with.

Private life and family

Childhood and adolescence

The house in Nine Miles where Bob Marley grew up

Robert Nesta Marley was on February 6, 1945 at 2:30 am in the village of Nine Miles in the Parish (municipality) Saint Ann was born in the British colony of Jamaica in the house of his grandfather. According to other sources, April 6th is Marley's date of birth; some claim, however, that he was born in Rhoden Hall in the north of the Caribbean island in 1944 .

His dark-skinned mother, the singer Cedella Marley Booker , was 18 years old when he was born, while his white father Norval Sinclair Marley (1885–1955), a captain in the British Army , was around 60 years old. The marriage of the two was a scandal and led to the departure of Captain Marley from the army.

Bob Marley hardly commented on his English father afterwards . According to several reports, his relationship with his mother was short-lived. According to other reports, he is said to have struggled to make ends meet with a grocery store and only left years later.

Robert's childhood was shaped by the culture of the black majority population, by magical ideas, by goblins , the idea of ghosts and countless stories, but also by the specific form of Christianity cultivated in the British colony of Jamaica at the time .

Marley grew up in the rural town of Rhoden Hall. At the age of twelve he followed his mother to Trenchtown , a district of the Jamaican capital Kingston , where they hoped to find work.

He dropped out of school at the age of 16 and became a mechanic at the request of his mother. After a few years, however, he gave up working in a bicycle repair shop and realized his dream of becoming a musician . In his youth he spent a lot of time in the soup kitchen of his close friend Vincent Ford , who inspired him to write several of his songs and is listed as the author of No Woman, No Cry , among others .

Marriage, family and children

On February 11, 1966, Marley married his Cuban childhood friend Rita Anderson . The very next day he left for the USA to visit his mother, who lived in Delaware . He also worked there for some time in order to be able to finance his music career. But soon he was drawn back to his homeland Jamaica. He and his wife Rita had four biological children and a stepchild whom he adopted after the wedding: Cedella (* 1967), David ( Ziggy ) (* 1968), Stephen (* 1972), Stephanie (* 1974) and Sharon ( * 1964, adopted). Ziggy, Cedella, Stephen and Sharon appeared together as the reggae band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers .

Marley has officially recognized twelve children, eleven births and one adopted. According to various information from his hometown and his immediate environment, however, he is said to have had 22 to 46 biological children. Seven of his illegitimate children were born when he was already married to Rita.

Illegitimate children

Just like the children they shared with his wife, Ky-Mani, Julian and Damian also successfully started solo careers as reggae musicians.


From the mid-1960s onwards, Bob Marley identified more and more with the Rastafarian religion . In 1967 he converted from Christianity to Rasta. The Rastafari refer to the Bible , fight against the oppression of blacks and hope to return home to Africa in the future . They wear twisted, matted hair, the dreadlocks , which give them a lion-like appearance. Religion, with its spiritual and mystical elements, also had a great influence on Marley's music. Religious rhetoric determined his songs and gave them a hypnotic aura. He liked to quote from the Old Testament in interviews .

Eight months before his death, on November 4, 1980 , he was baptized in Miami according to the Christian Orthodox rite at the insistence of his mother and also in view of his advanced illness in the church of the Ethiopian congregation .

Marley and the Politics / Assassination and Peace Initiative

In December 1976, on the initiative of the Social Democratic People's National Party (PNP), a peace concert entitled Smile Jamaica was to be held in Jamaica, which was intended to send a signal against the dramatic increase in political violence on the island. Marley, who had always expressly distanced himself from Jamaican politics, but tended to be a PNP sympathizer, agreed to appear. On December 3, 1976, two days before the concert, strangers broke into his house and wounded him, his wife Rita and his manager Don Taylor several times. Taylor and Marley's wife were seriously injured but later made a full recovery. Bob Marley suffered only minor injuries to his chest and arm and was able to perform at the 90-minute concert.

The background of the crime and the perpetrator could never be fully clarified. There is a lot of speculation about the event. Many observers believe there is a connection with Marley's participation in the peace concert and suspect that the perpetrators of the attack were in the vicinity of the right-wing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) or even the American CIA .

In 2014, the Jamaican writer Marlon James processed the assassination attempt on Marley in his award-winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.

After a civil war-like clash between the supporters of the PNP and the JLP, Bob Marley asked the Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley (PNP) and the opposition leader Edward Seaga (JLP) to take the stage at the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston in 1978 and prompted them gently Emphasis on the initially reluctant opponents to the high-profile handshake. The supporters of both parties then largely stopped the violent clashes.


Bob Marley Memorial in Kingston

In the fall of 1980, Marley should make the final breakthrough in the USA as part of a tour with the group The Commodores and Lionel Richie . After a foot injury which the football fan sustained while playing in 1977 and which he did not receive treatment due to his Rastafarian ideology, his physical condition deteriorated. He was later diagnosed with metastatic melanoma ("black skin cancer ") on one of his big toes . After the first US concerts in Boston , Providence and Madison Square Garden in September 1980 , he collapsed while jogging in Central Park in New York . The diagnosis was: tumor involvement of the liver , lungs and brain . He gave his last concert on September 23, 1980 at the Benedum Center in the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania .

After the specialists at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York had predicted that he would only be alive a few weeks, Marley turned to the German doctor Josef Issels , who ran a clinic for hopeless cancer patients in Rottach-Egern am Tegernsee in Bavaria and used methods that have not been recognized by the professional world. Marley moved there for treatment and lost his dreadlocks from chemotherapy , which was a disaster for him as a religious Rastafarian. The climate, especially the unusually low temperatures for Marley, were an additional burden.

During the therapy, Marley was baptized as a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the name of Berhane Selassie ("Light of the Trinity") - in reference to the last Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie , who returned from the Rastafarians as the one announced in the Bible Messiah is considered. On May 8th, he decided to return to Jamaica to die. During the stopover in Florida in the early morning hours of May 11th, however, he was already too weak for the onward flight. He was taken to what is now Jackson Memorial Hospital , where he died around 11:30 a.m. His coffin was transferred to his home village of Nine Miles, Jamaica. As part of a national memorial service he received a Bible, his red Gibson - guitar , a marijuana branch , and a ring that was allegedly given to him by Haile Selassie in person at a private audience in a mausoleum buried.

Marley's widow Rita still manages the estate, the market value of which is estimated at $ 600 million. On his 60th birthday, there was confusion over an alleged statement by the widow that his body would be exhumed from the mausoleum in Nine Miles and buried in a memorial in Shashemene , Ethiopia . These reports sparked excitement and indignation in Jamaica and were later denied.


Early years

Life in the slums of Kingston was one of hopelessness and violence. For many young people, music was often the only way to escape the dreary everyday world. One of these youngsters was Jimmy Cliff , who had already recorded some songs at the age of 14. Jimmy introduced Marley to Leslie Kong , a local music producer . With Kong he recorded his first single Judge Not . Neither Judge Not nor his 1962 single One More Cup Of Coffee sold particularly well, so Marley split from Kong.

Marley was fascinated by the music of American radio stations, soul , country , pop and rock . He especially loved Fats Domino and Ray Charles . Through his fondness for this music he met Neville O'Reilly Livingston , better known as Bunny Wailer , know and befriended him. Together they attended a music class given by the famous Jamaican singer Joe Higgs . In this course they met Winston Hubert McIntosh, later known as Peter Tosh , and became friends.

Bob Marley & The Wailers

Bob Marley & The Wailers on June 7, 1980 at the Summer of '80 Garden Party at the Crystal Palace Concert Bowl
His 2001 posthumously received star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Together with Beverley Kelso, Junior Braithwaite and Cherry Smith, the three founded the group The Teenagers in 1963 (later known as The Wailing Rudeboys, then The Wailing Wailers and finally The Wailers ). Kelso, Braithwaite and Smith were only involved in the first hit single Simmer Down (1964) as well as It Hurts To Be Alone (1964), Habits (1964), Straight And Narrow Way (1964) and How Many Times (1964) before all three left the group in 1965.

The band's early pieces were characterized by the popular, fast and danceable Ska that was popular at the time . By the end of the 1960s, elements of the African-influenced Jamaican folk music had also been recorded by the Wailers. After meeting the musician and producer Lee Perry , the beat was also slowed down and a new style of music emerged: reggae . The audience was fascinated by the unusual music. The band was so successful that Marley was even able to buy a car and renovate a house for his family - he now had two children. Small tours in Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as the USA followed, together with the then completely unknown Bruce Springsteen .

With Eric Clapton's cover version of I Shot The Sheriff , Marley became known to wider circles. After disputes between Marley and McIntosh, he and Livingston left the group in 1974 to start a solo career under the pseudonyms Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, respectively . However, Tosh remained on friendly terms with Marley. Marley's wife Rita Marley , Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt formed the vocal trio for the vocal accompaniment under the name I-Threes , further musicians were hired. At the same time, Marley also started a solo career.

Many of Marley's songs are about spiritual content. The songs contain a message that is difficult to understand without knowledge of the Rastafarian religion. Sometimes in his songs political (such as in Zimbabwe ) or socially critical (such as in Concrete Jungle ) statements are interwoven with spiritual thoughts, so that it is often not possible to separate the spiritual from the profane. In addition, however, Bob Marley also wrote love songs and decidedly political songs such as the anti-racism song War . He began to enrich the English-language texts with the vernacular . In his song “Them Belly Full” (1975) he quoted two Jamaican proverbs : “Rien a faal bot di doti tof” (The rain falls, but the earth is hard) and “Pat a bwail bot di fuud no nof” (The Pot boils, but the food is not enough). With Marley as a model, the use of Creole began to spread among Jamaican musicians.

In 1980 he was invited by the Zimbabwean government . He performed at the country's official independence celebrations, which Marley considered the greatest honor of his life.

Musical heritage

Peter Tosh was murdered in Kingston , as was the Wailers' drummer Carlton Barrett . Because of the continued violence, the Wailers eventually left Jamaica. Bob Marley's musical legacy lives on as an immortal part of musical history. The important Brazilian singer and songwriter Gilberto Gil dedicated his album Kaya N'Gan Daya to him. Marley's song Get Up, Stand Up has become an unofficial anthem for Amnesty International . In 1994, Bob Marley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . To mark his 60th birthday, commemorative concerts and large anniversary concerts were held in Addis Ababa and Kingston in 2005 .

So far, his records have sold over 75 million times. In addition, the Marley brand generates considerable sums of money through music sales, merchandising and the trade in devotional objects , resulting in sales of over 20 million US dollars in 2014 alone.

The Rolling Stone listed Marley eleventh of the 100 greatest musicians and the best 100 songwriter and ranked 19th of the 100 best singers of all time .


  • United Nations' Peace Medal of the Third World (1978)
  • Order of Merit (1981)

For an overview of all gold and platinum awards, see Bob Marley / Awards for Music Sales .


In 2017, the Australian species of spider Desis bobmarleyi was named after him. The authors associated the lifestyle of the spider, which lives on corals and stones in the surf zone, with the song High Tide or Low Tide .


Studio albums

year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placementsTemplate: chart table / maintenance / without sources
(Year, title, rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
1965 The wailing wailers - - - - -
First published: 1965
1970 Soul Rebels - - - - -
First published: December 1970
1971 Soul Revolution - - - - -
First published: July 1971
1972 African Herbsman - - - - -
First published: July 27, 1972
1973 Catch a Fire - - - UK-
US171 (5 weeks)
First published: April 13, 1973
Sales: + 200,000
Burnin ' - - - UK-

(6 weeks)US
First published: October 19, 1973
Sales: + 660,000
1974 Natty Dread - - - UK43

(5 weeks)UK
US92 (28 weeks)
First published: October 25, 1974
Sales: + 200,000
1976 Rastaman vibration - - - UK15th

(13 weeks)UK

(22 weeks)US
First published: April 30, 1976
Sales: + 707,500
1977 Exodus DE-
AT21 (4 weeks)
- UK8th

(58 weeks)UK

(24 weeks)US
First published: June 3, 1977
Sales: + 1,500,000
1978 Kaya DE-
- - UK4th

(24 weeks)UK

(17 weeks)US
First published: March 23, 1978
Sales: + 1,450,000
1979 Survival DE40 (23 weeks)
- - UK20th

(6 weeks)UK
US70 (14 weeks)
First published: October 2, 1979
Sales: + 510,000
1980 Uprising DE5

(66 weeks)DE
AT6 (6 weeks)
- UK6th

(17 weeks)UK

(23 weeks)US
First published: June 10, 1980
Sales: + 1,515,000
1983 Confrontation DE31 (16 weeks)
AT18 (4 weeks)
- UK5 (19 weeks)

(15 weeks)US
First published: May 23, 1983
Sales: + 607,500

hatched gray : no chart data available for this year

Marley's music in the movie

Marley's music is often used as a soundtrack or background music in films. For example, the song Three Little Birds was used as the soundtrack for the film I Am Legend and as background music in the film Strange Days . The song Burning and Looting was used in the film La Haine . In the US series The Simpsons , the episode The Greatest Dog in the World (1997), the song Jammin 'is played. Jammin was also used in the film How High .

In 1982 the film Countryman , dedicated to Bob Marley , appeared in German cinemas under Countryman - Lost in the Jungle. Marley's words and music provided the inspiration for this film, which was produced by Chris Blackwell , founder of the music label Island Records . The director and screenwriter was Dickie Jobson , and from 1973 to 1974 manager of Bob Marley & The Wailers. In addition to Marley, other well-known reggae artists provided the music for films, including Aswad , Lee Perry and Steel Pulse .

International tours

  • April to July 1973: Catch a Fire Tour - England, USA
  • October and November 1973: Burnin Tour - USA, Jamaica, England
  • June and July 1975: Natty Dread Tour - USA, Canada, England
  • April to June 1976: Rastaman Vibration Tour - USA, Canada, Germany (Hamburg, Düsseldorf), Netherlands, France, England, Wales
  • May and June 1977: Exodus Tour - France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany (Munich, Heidelberg, Hamburg, West Berlin), Sweden, Denmark, England
  • May to August 1978: Kaya Tour - USA, Canada, England, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium
  • April and May 1979: Babylon by Bus Tour - Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii
  • October 1979 to January 1980: Survival Tour - USA, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Gabon
  • May to September 1980: Uprising Tour - Switzerland (Zurich), Germany (Munich, Cologne, Kaiserslautern, appearance at WDR - Rockpalast in Dortmund on June 13th, Hamburg, West Berlin, Kassel), France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium , Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, USA



  • Timothy White: Catch a fire. The life of Bob Marley. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York 1983 (German translation: Bob Marley, Reggae, Rastafari. A short, fast life. Heyne, Munich 1984. ISBN 3-453-35036-7 ).
  • René Wynands: Do the Reggae. Reggae from Pocomania to Ragga and the legend of Bob Marley. Pieper Verlag and Schott 1995, ISBN 3-492-18409-X (Pieper), ISBN 3-7957-8409-3 (Schott).
    PDF version can be freely downloaded from [1]
  • Bruce W. Talamon: Bob Marley, Spirit Dancer. Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-88814-781-6 .
  • Kwame Dawes: Bob Marley, the exceptional poet (biography). PPVMEDIEN, Bergkirchen 2004, ISBN 3-932275-88-8 .
  • Adrian Boot and Chris Salewicz: Bob Marley, Songs of Freedom. The pictorial biography authorized by Rita Marley, Heyne, ISBN 3-453-08705-4 .
  • Robert Kopp: Bob Marley König des Reggae (translation of some of his most explosive songs into German). Raymond Martin Verlag, 1996, ISBN 3-88631-227-5 .
  • Alex Constantine: Kill Rock and Roll. Strange Verlag, Erkrath 2002, ISBN 3-89064-813-4 .
  • John Masouri: Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley's "Wailers". Wise Publications, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84609-689-1 .
  • Ian McCann, Harry Hawke: Bob Marley, story and songs compact. Bosworth Music GmbH, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-936026-92-0 .
  • Rita Marley: No Woman No Cry. My life with Bob Marley. Rockbuch Verlag, Schlüchtern 2005, ISBN 3-927638-07-2 .
  • Frank Laufenberg: Hit Lexicon of Rock & Pop. MR. Ullstein, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-548-36920-4 . P. 1387 ff.

Web links

Commons : Bob Marley  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. According to other information on April 6; see Munzinger:
  2. a b c d Bob Marley. Munzinger people., accessed on October 17, 2018 .
  3. ^ Rob Kenner: Vincent Ford Dies at 68; Inspired Classic Bob Marley Songs. The New York Times , January 3, 2009, accessed April 19, 2021 .
  4. O Μπομπ Μάρλεϊ βαπτίστηκε Χριστιανός Ορθόδοξος 8 μήνες πριν τον θάνατο τoυ ... In: of September 17, 2019, accessed September 18, 2019 (Greek).
  5. Michael Werner: From pop star to politician. A voice of hope. In: Stuttgarter Zeitung of December 13, 2012.
  6. Skin color: No hiding in the dark. In: Nature . Volume 515, 2014, S121-S123, 2014, doi: 10.1038 / 515S121a
  7. a b On the 70th birthday of Bob Marley ( Memento from May 15, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), Noe Noack , BR-Online, February 6, 2015, accessed on July 20, 2015
  8. Bob Marley's coffin is supposed to be sent to Ethiopia , Spiegel Online , January 12, 2005
  9. ^ Marley widow denies exhumation ( memento of March 15, 2012 in the Internet Archive ), Netzeitung , January 17, 2005
  10. ^ S. King, RJ Jensen, RJ (1995): Bob Marley's “Redemption Song”: The Rhetoric of Reggae and Rastafari. The Journal of Popular Culture, 29: pp. 17-36. doi: 10.1111 / j.0022-3840.1995.00017.x
  11. Hubert Devonish: The national language of Jamaica . In: D + Z Development and Cooperation , 2017, issue 11, p. 33 ( online ).
  12. a b Marley's legend undiminished , BBC News, May 10, 2001 (accessed January 26, 2013)
  13. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Bob Marley in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  14. Patricia Meschino: The Music and Marketing Genius of Bob Marley, 34 Years After His Passing . In: Billboard , May 11, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015. 
  15. 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 2, 2010, accessed August 8, 2017 .
  16. The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. Rolling Stone , August 2015, accessed August 8, 2017 .
  17. 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 2, 2010, accessed August 8, 2017 .
  18. Jamaican honor for Marley home , BBC News, February 8, 2006 (accessed January 26, 2013)
  19. New species of spider named after Bob Marley: Research: University of Hamburg. In: January 26, 2018, accessed January 31, 2018 .
  20. Jean-Martin Büttner: The singer who became a saint. In: Tages-Anzeiger of May 7, 2012