Influential reggae star and trailblazer Robert Nesta Marley – widely known as Bob Marley – died today (May 11) at the young age of 36 in 1981. His death, due to an advanced form of melanoma, sent shock waves throughout the global music community where Bob Marley’s iconic and revolutionary sound still resonates heavily today.
Marley released 13 albums over the course of his career alongside his band the Wailers, with Confrontation released in 1983 posthumously.
Bob Marley was born in the largest parish in the island of Jamaica, Saint Ann, which is also home to reggae stars Shabba Ranks, Burning Spear and black nationalist Marcus Garvey, also a hero of Marley.
Marley’s early musical entries were born of Ska, often known as the precursor to the subgenres of rock steady and reggae. As reggae become his country’s musical hallmark, Marley and the Wailers – which featured legends such as Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer – began to embrace the new sound and released their first album The Wailing Wailers in 1965.
After a short time living in Wilmington, Delaware, in the States and marrying Rita Anderson, Marley would return to Jamaica and fully invest himself in the Rastafarian religion thus spawning his signature long locks that are a centerpiece and ritualistic homage in the Rastafarian faith.
Marley would have three children with his first wife Rita, adopting her two children as his own. Their three children Cedella, Ziggy and Stephen have all gone on to have musical careers, with Ziggy and Cedella working together in the group the Melody Makers. Stephen Marley has produced and written songs for the youngest of the Marley siblings Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, who also is enjoying a robust career himself. Kymani Marley is also working on an album due this year, his sixth named New Heights.
Bob Marley’s influence in hip-hop culture is widespread. In 1999, Island Records released a compilation of Marley’s master vocal tracks with some updated performances featuring the likes of the late Guru of Gang Starr fame, Public Enemy’s Chuck D and others. Bob Marley’s music also had an impact on New Jersey trio the Fugees. (Former Fugee member Lauryn Hill has five children with one of Marley’s sons, Rohan.) Pot-loving rappers such as Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg also owe Marley a nod as the green leaf was a common fixture in the reggae singer’s life.
Marley’s Caribbean pride and influence is still felt to this day, even 30 years after his untimely death. Because of Bob Marley, dancehall reggae eventually earned global acceptance and popularity. Marley also inspired many artists to depict and offer social commentary within their lyrics and songs.
Rest In Peace to Bob Marley. Your music will live forever.