For many people, Bob Marley is reggae music. More than any other artist, Marley embodied the political justice and defiant joy inherent in the genre. The dreaded troubadour rose from the slums of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1970s and became a global superstar and an eternal ambassador for Jamaican culture. Almost 40 years after his death in 1981, Marley remains one of the most famous musicians in the world. In honor of his 75th birthday (February 6, 2020), here are 10 things you may not know about the reggae deity.
. 1 Bob Marley was biracial.
Given Marley's anti-colonial lyrics and his strong Rastafarianism, many people believe that the singer is black. In fact, he was the child of an Afro-Jamaican mother, Cedella Booker, and a white father, Norval Marley. The details of Norval's life are sketchy. According to the BBC, he listed his birthplace as Sussex, England when he joined the army in 1
. 2 Bob Marley started as a ska musician.
No, not like Reel Big Fish. When Marley started singing in the early 1960s, Jamaica played on Ska, the island's first indigenous form of pop music. (Ska later developed into Rocksteady, which in turn became reggae.) Marley made his debut with a series of Ska recordings for the Beverly label by producer Leslie Kong, including "One Cup of Coffee" and "Jude Not".
. 3 Bob Marley lived in America for a while.
In 1966, after starting to record Wailers, Marley made a name for himself before visiting his mother in America before making a name for himself outside of Jamaica. She had emigrated to Wilmington, Delaware, where Bob stayed for about eight months. During this time, he worked as a laboratory assistant for DuPont and worked on a Chrysler assembly line. According to some, he lived in Delaware until 1977, and an annual festival 4 is held in the city of Wilmington in honor of its former inhabitant.
. 4 A Texas hit maker helped introduce BOB Marley to the world.
Johnny Nash, the Texas singer-songwriter behind the 1972 hit, "I Can See Clearly Now," played an important role in spreading Marley's music to the masses. In 1965 Nash moved to Jamaica with his manager Danny Sims. In 1966 or 1967 Nash heard Marley sing at a Rasta celebration and convinced Sims to sign the young Jamaican. Marley traveled to London in February 1972 to record Nash's I Can See Clearly Now album. Nash recorded three Marley originals on the LP and a song he wrote with Bob. When Nash left London to promote the album, Marley and The Wailers found themselves stranded in the UK. During this time they met Chris Blackwell, the head of Island Records, who signed them for a career-making (and world-changing) deal.
. 5 Bob Marley wasn't the first reggae to give hope on Island Records.
When Marley first appeared on Chris Blackwell's radar, Island Records had recently separated from singer Jimmy Cliff, the star of the 1972 reggae film. The Harder They Come . Cliff was not happy with his progress on the island and jumped on the ship for EMI. Blackwell was reportedly "devastated" by Cliff's departure, but when he met Marley, he found another rebellious character that he could sell to a white audience.
"I was dealing with rock music that was really rebellious, and I felt that would really be the way to break Jamaican music," said Blackwell. "But you need someone who could be this picture. When Bob came in, he was really that picture. "
. 6 Bob Marley once opened for Bruce Springsteen – and stole the show.
In July 1973, Bob Marley and The Wailers played 14 shows at the famous New York hipster hangout Max in Kansas City. The headliner was a jerky New Jersey guitar lover named Bruce Springsteen. It sounds like a strange pairing, but apparently Marley and the gang had no problem adapting to their surroundings. When author Sam Sutherland reviewed the show for Billboard he ascribed to The Wailers that they had "well outshone" the future rock superstar.
. 7 Bob Marley survived an assassination attempt and played a show two days later.
On December 3, 1976, seven armed men stormed Marley's house in Kingston and started shooting. Marley's wife and manager were wounded and the singer was shot in the chest and upper arm. The attack occurred two days before the Smile Jamaica Concert, which Marley had organized to ease political tensions in Jamaica. Marley did not want to support a candidate, but the ruling People's Party rescheduled the national elections to benefit from the event. As a result, Marley appeared to support the PNP, and this was likely to lead to the filming. Nevertheless, an injured Marley took the stage on December 5 – just two days after his attack – and played a now legendary 90-minute set. Due to the risks associated with surgery, a bullet got stuck in Marley's arm until his death in 1981.
. 8 Bob Marley never had a real hit in America.
You'd think someone was as popular and influential as Bob Marley would have achieved at least a couple of top 40 pop hits. Unfortunately, the 1976 single "Roots, Rock, Reggae" was the closest. She reached number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not that Marley was unable to write hits: The aforementioned Johnny Nash reached number 12 with the Marley- The British rocker Eric Clapton was awarded "I Shot the Sheriff" in 1974 the first place. It should be noted that Marley's posthumous 1984 collection Legend is the best-selling title of all time reggae album with over 15 million copies sold in the United States alone.
. 9 Bob Marley had a lot of children.
Bob Marley had many virtues, but loyalty was not one of them. He regularly cheated on his wife Rita during their marriage, which lasted from 1966 until Bob's death in 1981 and produced three children: Cedella, David a.k.a. Ziggy and Stephen. Bob also adopted two children that Rita had with other men (Sharon and Stephanie). Officially, Marley is said to have had six other children outside of his marriage to Rita (Robert, Rohan, Karen, Julian, Ky-Mani and Damian), all with different women. However, many sources say that he had at least two other children, Imani and Madeka, who were not mentioned on Marley's website.
10th Marley's premature death has sparked conspiracy theories.
Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981 of lung and brain cancer. The disease had spread from a malignant melanoma in his toe, which was first discovered in 1977. The doctors advised Marley to have the toe amputated, but apparently he refused because of his Rastafarian beliefs. It is a sad but medically plausible story that not everyone accepts.
According to conspiracy theorists, the CIA injected Marley's toes with cancer by giving him a shoe trapped with explosives. This dubious story gained momentum in November 2017 when the Your News Wire website published an article about a 79-year-old CIA agent named Bill Oxley who allegedly admitted to killing Marley. Snopes dug a bit and it turned out that nothing confirms the story – or even the existence of Oxley. But the theory lives on and in 2018 the rappers Busta Rhymes and T.I. posted about the exposed story on Instagram.