At this time of year our thoughts are spent dreaming about the warm weather. The winter can seem very long. The short days and cold dark nights add to an often depressing state of mind. Spring arrives in just a few weeks and with it brings new life, warmth and sunshine. The days get longer and the nights are much more delightful. There is a certain buzz that accompanies. There are also various things that are synonymous with this season; the winding down of the school year, children playing at the playground, riding around with your window down, and my favorite springtime music. But not just any type of music, reggae music. Now if I were to ask you to name one person associated with this type of music I am sure many would be able to give one name. That name is Bob Marley. The goal is this speech will be to inform you about both the life and music of one music’s greatest figures.
Bob Marley born Robert Nesta Marley on February 6, 1945 in the town of Nine Miles in the parish of St Ann, Jamaica. His father, Norval Sinclair Marley, was an English marine officer and his mother, Cedella Malcom, was a native Jamaican from the town of Rhoden Hall. Soon after Bob was born his father left his mother but remained a part of Bob’s life. When Bob was five he moved with his father to Kingston. One year later Bob reunited with his mother and soon moved to West-Kingston also known as Trench Town so his mother could find work.. Growing up in Trench Town was rough. There was extreme poverty as many people struggled to find jobs. In order to escape the harsh reality of life Bob looked to music. He enjoyed the music of Ray Charles and Fats Domino and a new type of music ska, which was invented by Jamaican musicians. By the time he was 16 he longed to record an album. Jimmy Cliff, a local musician who was only 14 yo at the time, had already made a few hit singles and introduced Bob Marley to producer Lesley Kong. He made his first single Judge Not in 1961. He follwed this song with the song One More Cup of Coffee but neither did well and he never received a paycheck for his work..
In 1964 Bob Marley, along with Peter Tosh and several other individuals, formed the Wailers. Bob acted as the leader of the band as he wrote most of the material. By 1965 the Wailers had become very popular as they played to full houses and recorded several hit songs. Their success continued and soon the Wailers started the own label known as Wailing Souls. The label lasted only a year but in 1970 after recording several songs for the record company JAD records the band formed a new label Tuff Gong, named after Bob’s childhood nickname. They made hit after hit. By 1971 the group was growing in popularity. The Wailers were becoming popular not just in Jamiaca and throughout the Caribbean. By Decemeber of that year the group received a record deal from Island records. It was a revolutionary move as for the first time a reggae band had access to the best recording facilities and were treated much in the same way as say a rock band. Before the Wailers, it was considered that reggae music only sold singles and cheap compilation albums. It was obvious time were changing.
The Wailers first album Catch A Fire, broke all the rules, it was beautifully arranged and promoted heavily. This was the start of a long climb to international fame and recognition for Bob Marley. The second album Burnin, a collection that included some of the bands early songs found great success when Eric Clapton covered the song I Shot The Sheriff, his version went to number one on the charts. The year 1975 found the Wailers at a crossroads, several members had left the group to pursue solo careers. Still with the release of Natty Dread under Bob Marley and the Wailers reggae mania in the US boomed. Rolling Stone named Bob Marley and the Wailers ‘Band of the Year.’ By the end of the 70’s the group was the most important band on the road, selling out stadiums and breaking festival records.
Kaya, an album that hit #4 in the UK charts, spoke greatly about the Rastafarian religion. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Rastas believed smoking marijuana brings them closer to Jah, or God. It is used personally as an aid to meditation and communally from chalice pipes as an incense pleasing to the Lord. The argument is that the marijuana is the green herd discussed in the King James Bible used as in religious ceremonies.
On May 11, 1981 Robert Nesta Marley died after succumbing to cancer. His music stretched back nearly two decades and still to this day remains timeless and universal. He worked his way into the fabric of many people’s lives with brilliant and evocative music. He has been called by many the first third world superstar, a visionary and a revolutionary artist. His impact was not only felt in the music but in the political world as well. He tried to solve political unrest in Jamaica by bringing two opposition leaders on stage together for a meeting. He received the Peace Medal of the third world from the United Nations and before his death, Jamaica’s Merit of Honor, the nations third highest honor. He was just 36 yo when he died. So I leave you with this quote from Bob Marley, ” Life is one big road with lost of signs. So when you are riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake up and Live.