Ask anyone to name just one reggae artist and most will say Bob Marley – he’s an icon for Jamaica and the music he helped make so popular. His talent for writing deceptively simple songs that had great depth as well as universal themes helped make him not just a reggae great, but a true musical superstar.
In 1962, Robert Nesta Marley released his debut single, “Judge Not”, on Beverley’s Records in Jamaica, under the name Robert Marley & Beverley’s All-Stars. An upbeat ska number with a boyish vocal, few could have predicted the massive impact that Robert would come to have – not only on ska and reggae in his homeland but in the entire world. Today, Bob Marley is not only considered to be one of the most influential reggae artists of all time, but also an international superstar and symbol of Jamaican cultural identity.
Throughout the 60s, Bob Marley and his backing band The Wailers (featuring prominent members Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer) learned their trade in Jamaican recording studios, working with producers such as Leslie Kong, Coxsone Dodd and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Their big breakthrough came in 1972 when the band were on a UK tour supporting soul singer Johnny Nash. They met Island Records head Chris Blackwell in London, and he immediately offered the group a record deal. The result was the Catch A Fire album, widely regarded as Bob Marley’s first international success.
After their follow-up, Burnin’, the original Wailers split, but Marley continued using the name Bob Marley & The Wailers, despite the absence of Wailer and Tosh. Hit albums Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration quickly followed before a politically motivated attempt on his life saw Marley leave Jamaica for several years. During these years and whilst living in the UK, he recorded the albums Exodus and Kaya which gave him hits such as “One Love”, “Jamming” and “Is This Love”, confirming him as a global success and one of Jamaica’s national heroes.
Bob Marley returned to Jamaica in 1978, where he recorded his final two studio albums, Survival and Uprising, before his death, on 11 May 1981, at the age of 36. He received a state funeral in Kingston ten days later, when he was buried in a chapel with his guitar.
Bob Marley… One Love, One Heart, One Legend.