When you picture the island of Jamaica, what do you see? Maybe you imagine gorgeous beaches and palm trees, swaying to the mellow beats of Bob Marley. Ever since he rose to fame in the 60s and 70s, the reggae legend crowned with epic dreadlocks has become a music icon for Jamaica and across the world. You can probably sing along to his famous anthems, “One Love” and “No Woman No Cry.” But, did you know that Marley was once shot in his home, only to perform on stage two days later? Find out more surprising facts about the father of reggae.
Bob Marley is considered one of the most successful artists of all time. He’s sold over 75 million records and his album, “Exodus” was on the British album charts for 56 consecutive weeks. Time Magazine also named “Exodus” the best album of the century in 1999. However, Marley was never nominated or won a Grammy while he was alive. He did win a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2001, 20 years after his death.
Many of Marley’s songs center on political themes such as freedom, peace, and revolution. While he openly sang in support for the people of Africa and against apartheid in his album, “Survival,” he never identified loyalty to either of the two warring political parties of Jamaica – the democratic socialist party or Jamaica Labor Party.
Michael Manley, the democratic socialist Prime Minister of Jamaica, invited Marley to sing at a concert promoting peace between the two parties in conflict. Once it was known that Marley would sing, a gunman shot and injured Marley, his wife Rita and his manager inside Marley’s home. It was believed that the gunman was retaliating against Marley’s participation in the concert. When asked why he chose to still sing, Marley responded: “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren't taking a day off. How can I?"
In addition to being musically gifted, Marley was also said to be quite the football player (aka soccer for all you Americans). It was said that Marley (who was a midfielder) played football regularly throughout his life, whether outdoors or in his recording studio. Marley loved the sport so much, he made Allan “Skill” Cole, a professional Jamaican footballer, his tour manager in the 1970s. The singer was once quoted, "If you want to get to know me, you will have to play football against me and the Wailers."
Marley’s birthday is also a national holiday in New Zealand and in Toronto, Canada – showing that Marley’s fame stretches across the globe.
From the end of 1976 to 1979, Bob Marley lived in England. In addition to writing and recording “Kaya” and one of his most successful albums “Exodus,” Marley was also arrested and spent a month in jail while living in England for possession of marijuana.
During 1966, when Bob was 21 years old, he moved to Delaware for 10 months where he lived with his mom. Newly married and achieving limited early success as a musician, Marley wanted to save money for his new family and worked in a Chrysler plant.
Marley’s mom was Jamaican and his dad was a British naval captain. However, Marley’s dad did not play a central role in his son’s life and lived overseas – although it was said his father financially supported Marley and his mother. Marley was also father to 11 children with his wife Rita and multiple other women. However, it is still disputed whether or not he actually fathered 13 children.
The singer grew up poor and lived with his mother in a low-income squatter community in the city of Trenchtown. After achieving enormous success, Marley bought homes for many of his friends. The royalties for “No Women No Cry” also funded a soup kitchen in Kingston. Marley accredited songwriting credits to his friend Vincent Ford, so he could keep the food kitchen operational.
After converting to the Rastafari religion in his later adult years, Marley practiced an Ital diet, which derives from many biblical practices and is focused on natural foods from the earth that are as unprocessed as possible. The diet also follows vegetarianism and a stricter basis, veganism.
After being diagnosed with Melanoma in his big toe, Marley traveled to Germany to receive treatment. Despite receiving instruction to amputate his toe, Marley refused to have the surgery done due to his religious views. With his health quickly deteriorating, Marley decided he wanted to pass away back home in Jamaica. The Reggae legend made it as far as Miami before he succumbed to the disease in a hospital there – at the age of 36. His body is buried in St. Ann, Jamaica.
Bob Marley has sold millions of records. However, his life inspired so much more. His music helped encourage peace during a tumultuous time in Jamaica. Use S Hotel Jamaica as a basecamp to explore the country and connect with Marley’s rich legacy on a deeper level.