(Feb 6th 1945 – May 11th 1981)
A musical mastermind and Rastafarian legend, Bob Marley’s enduring influence on music and culture is undeniable. Combining songs of rebellion and determination, with protest-reggae and pop, Marley created a movement born from the strongest form of faith. He took an expression of religion – a strong spiritual belief – and created music with a lyrical message of rare power. Thirty years after his death, his legend still breathes on.
Born February 6th, 1945, Marley stepped out of the shadows as one of the first major rock stars to come out of a third world country. He grew up in a poor household in Jamaica and eventually led the way in breaking the stigmatisation of the Rastafarian culture. His need to make dreadlocks acceptable, and the use of marijuana an extremely spiritual and religious act become the foundation of his music.
Without a doubt, Marley is recognised today as the most important, most powerful figure in 20th century music. Worshipped by millions, the Rastafarian superstar has captivated and positively changed audiences worldwide. If he were alive today – he’d be 70, but on May 11th, 1981 he wretchedly lost his battle with cancer, which had developed in his brain, lung and liver.
Ironically, Marley’s birthday (February 6th) coincides with Waitangi day – a significant day in the history of New Zealand. After just starting on Chris Salewicz’s book “Bob Marley – The Untold Story”, Salewicz admits Marley’s music is particularly prevalent with the Maori culture, making his reggae soulful vibes especially popular on this day, and a major part of the Waitangi day celebrations. “Bob’s apocalyptic truths prove inspirational and life-changing; in the Third World, his impact is similar, except that it goes further. Not just amongst the Jamaicans, but also amongst the Hopi people of New Mexico and the Maoris of New Zealand…Bob Marley is seen as the Redeemer figure returning to lead this plant out of confusion”.
His attitude towards music and the world around him showed a socially observed rhythm that all reggae music will forever be measured against. As a passionate innovator, Marley told his story through a timeless myth that represented magic in his music like no other.
There are stories out there of people who swear black and blue that Marley’s music changed their lives. To me, that’s truly saying something. His use of music and ganja seamlessly infused was – and still is – healing to the soul, a spiritual attainment Marley himself just oozed. Marley’s music is about something real. It has value that’s irreplaceable.
Thirty years on, it’s the perfect time to reflect on exactly what legacy he has left behind. With a few of my favourite song picks, let’s remember Bob Marley as the music legend he’ll always be.
Turn Your Lights Down Low:
The version featuring Lauryn Hill is my favourite with the song first being released on the 1977 album Exodus. Written for Cindy Breakspeare – a Jamaican jazz musician and model, the song is about rekindling lost love filled with sexy, smooth synthesizes and bluesy guitar riffs.
The final track on the Bob Marley and the Wailer’s ninth album,Redemption Song is undoubtedly one of Marley’s most famous tracks. It’s also the last single Marley wrote before his death on May 11th, 1981. The song is one of the greatest of all time, summing up Marley’s life perfectly. It talks about what he stood for – freedom and redemption, with brilliant phrasing and powerful influences.
Is This Love:
A beautifully written love song that delves deep into the uncertainty of falling in love, Is This Love is a smooth, easy listening track that perfectly captures the feelings of caring so much for someone.
Released from the Kaya album, Easy Skanking is renowned in Jamaica as a form of dancing. The track is super chilled, with Marley’s familiar reggae beats and irresistible rhythm rolling in creating the most relaxed atmosphere.
Waiting in Vain:
Easily one of Marley’s most vulnerable songs, Waiting in Vain is an absolute classic. It’s a tender classic love song, renowned as one of his most personal tracks. Lyrically, the song is almost like a mantra – emotionally direct and simple, with a slow tempo and stunning guitar solo.
Stir it Up:
Another one of Marley’s finer love songs, Stir it Up is a little dirtier oozing fire and sexiness. Written for his wife Rita, the track is seductive, raunchy and satisfying.