In the 36 short years of Bob Marley’s life, his iconic music evolved from ska to reggae to rocksteady, and eventually into a blend of all three that, along with his wild dreadlocks, became his signature style. On his birthday, February 6th, join us for a look at his band’s worldwide tours, as well as his personal life in Europe, the U.S., and (of course) his native Jamaica.
February 6, 1945
May 11, 1981 (age 36)
Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945, in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica, and was given the birth name Nesta Robert Marley. His father – Norval Sinclair Marley, was a white British naval captain and nearly 60 years old. Bob’s mother – Cedella, was a black 19-year-old country villager. Due to this racial duality, Marley was bullied and given the nickname ‘White Boy’ in a derogatory context by his neighbors. He said in his later interviews that the experience actually helped him adopt the philosophy: “I’m not on the white man’s side, or the Black man’s side. I’m on God’s side.”
His career took off when he founded a music group with his friends Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, called ‘The Wailers.’ In February 1966, Bob married Rita Marley and it was she who introduced him to the concept of Rastafariansim. This heavily influenced Marley’s musical style, especially on the reggae front. In collaboration with Lee Scratch Perry, The Wailers went on to produce some of their best tracks like ‘400 Years,’ ‘Duppy Conqueror,’ ‘Small Axe,’ and ‘Soul Rebel.’
In the 1960s, The Wailers soared to popularity in Jamaica, and in 1972 they signed a contract with ‘Label Island Records.’ The band became an international sensation with the release of their album ‘Catch a Fire’ in 1973. Their next album ‘Burnin’ featured the songs ‘I Shot The Sheriff,’ and ‘Get Up, Stand Up,’ which gathered cult followings. In 1974, The Wailers decided to pursue solo careers and disbanded.
Bob continued to hone and create his personal artistry, but also spent much of the 1970s advocating cultural understanding in Jamaica. In 1976, during one of his peace concerts, an assassination attempt was made on his life, along with his wife and manager. All of them survived and Marley showed up two days later for his next gig.
In 1977, following a wound on his toe which wouldn’t heal, Bob Marley consulted a doctor and was diagnosed with cancer. The physician suggested the removal of his toe, which Bob declined as it went against his Rastafarian beliefs. The next few years were a time of massive success for him; Marley was the only international artist to be part of the independence ceremony of Zimbabwe. He also planned an American tour to reach blacks living within the U.S. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread to other vital organs of his body. On May 11, 1981, Bob Marley died at the age of 36 in Miami Hospital. His legacy, philosophy, and music live on, with Marley himself revered as a cultural icon around the world.
Bob Marley formed the band ‘The Wailing Wailers’ with his friends.
Marley married Rita Anderson, and the two remained married till his death.
The Wailers sign a record contract with Island Records.
During his performance in Jamaica, someone from the crowd shot both Marley and his wife.
Bob Marley was diagnosed with cancer in his toe which he refused to treat because of his religious beliefs.
Bob Marley’s cancer damaged his vital organs, leading to his death.
Bob Marley is inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame
18 years after his death, Time Magazine awards Bob Marley with its ‘Album of the Century’ Award.
Why We Love Bob Marley
Music with a message
Bob Marley’s music continues to live on today. His tracks are used for activism work and spread the message of peace and love everywhere.
Bob Marley is a legend
Bob Marley is simply iconic! His name is synonymous with reggae and was the face of several genres of music. He was a Rastafarian devotee, an advocate for cannabis use, and to this day is a prominent pop-culture symbol.
Who doesn’t like singing and dancing?
We just love singing and dancing and with such great soulful music such as ‘One Love,’ ‘Jamming,’ and ‘No Woman No Cry,’ how can we resist?
5 Things You Never Knew About Dreadlocks
The Rastafarian way with hair
Marley adopted the dreadlock style after converting to Rastafari, which drew its hair inspiration from the Bible's Nazarites.
Dreads go way back, mon
Dreadlocks date back thousands of years, including depictions on artifacts of the Minoans, who lived on what is now Crete.
Is it "dreadlocks" or "dredlocks"? Does it matter?
"Dreadlocks" seems to be the most common spelling, including the diminutive "dreads," but to the world's dread fans, how it looks is far more important than how it's spelled.
Marley's influence lives on
Today, close to 40 years after Marley's passing, dreadlocks are more popular than ever, showing up on celebrities everywhere.
Dreadlocks DIY (proceed with caution)
The traditional method for forming dreadlocks is to simply stop brushing and combing your hair, and it will gradually grow matted and clump together on its own. However, whether you do it yourself or go to a salon, avoid the use of beeswax, as it's been known to contribute to hair damage.
Bob Marley’s birthday dates