Blog Post#3: Bob Marley and the Wailers

Bob Marley is a Jamaican singer, musician, and songwriter who introduced reggae music to the world. He was the biggest contributor who made reggae music popular among the world. He sold more than 20 million records throughout his life and became a global artist who influenced a lot of people’s musical taste.

Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley was born on February 6th, 1945 in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica. St. Ann is a rural village called Nine Mile. Marley was born in a broken family. His father, Norval Marley was a white Jamaican originally from Sussex, England. Norval married Cedella Booker who was an Afro-Jamaican. Booker was 18 years old back then and Norval was a captain in the Royal marines. His job was to oversee plantation so he would be away all the time. He would financially support his family, but he couldn’t stay with them. When Bob Marley became 10 years old, Norval Marley passed away due to a heart attack at the age of 70. And, his mother had a second marriage with Edward Booker, an American civil servant.

Bob Marley had a friend who influenced him to play music. His name is Neville “Bunny” Livingston. Bunny taught him how to play guitar and they both shared their favorite music together. They started to play music together since primary school. Marley’s mom and Neville’s dad was engaged in a relationship and had a daughter. Therefore, their family began to live together in the same house in Trenchtown in the 1950s.

Trenchtown was known as one of the city’s poorest towns. When Bob Marley was struggling with poverty, music was the inspiration to survive in his life. There were a lot of talented local performers at Trenchtown. The neighborhood was considered as the “Motown” in Jamaica. When American radio stations’ frequency was able to reach Jamaica, Marley and his friends would listen to Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Fats Dominos, and the Drifters. Marley and his friends including Bunny Wailer formed a vocal group. One of his vocal group members, Joe Higgs was part of a successful vocal act “Higgs and Wilson.” Higgs helped Marley to develop their vocal harmonies and his guitar skills.

In 1962, Bob Marley started to record his own songs. A local music producer, Leslie Kong liked Marley’s vocal so Kong had him to record a few singles, “Judge Not”, “One Cup of Coffee”, “Do You Still Love Me?”, and “Terror” at Federal studio. And, Marley brought Bunny Wailer Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith to form a vocal group called, “Wailing Wailers.” The group wasn’t succeeding so they fell apart. Then he moved to the U.S where his mom was living.

After that, he got reunited with his friends and reunited the Wailers. At this time, Marley was deeply into Rastafarian movement. According to, rastafari is a young, Africa-centred religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in 1930. His music was inspired mostly by his spiritual belief. In the 1960s, Bob Marley had a chance to work with pop singer Johnny Nash. Johnny Nash helped the Wailers to advance their musical career. Nash became interested in Jamaican popular music more seriously and got to know Rastafarian. At Rastafarian meeting, Nash was introduced to Bob and Rita Marley. And, Nash and his friend Danny Sims got to know the Wailers. Sims wanted to promote them with JAD records in London. And, the Wailers also worked with Lee Perry who is a sound engineer and musician. They worked in the back room of Perry’s Upsetter Record shop. They held their first session at Studio 17, Perry’s record store at the end to 1969. In 1971, the Wailers were working as the backing band for Nash’s upcoming album, which contained “I Can See Clearly Now.” Marley also composed songs: “Stir It Up,” “Comma Comma,” “Guava Jelly,” and “You Poured Sugar on Me.” His songs were climbing up the British charts. Marley also composed “Reggae on Broadway” and Sims wanted to sign Bob Marley to CBS so that they could release this song. Therefore, they stayed in London and worked on music.

In 1972, the Wailers made a contract with Island Record. They released “I shot the Sheriff” and Eric Clapton later covered this song. This song hit No.1 hit in Billboard Chart.

In 1974, Bob Marley break up with his band. Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh decided to proceed their music career as solo artists. Marley recruited new band members for the Wailers and the band became “Bob Marley & the Wailers.” Bob Marley’s first song as a solo artist was “No Woman No Cry.” And, it became his first top 40 hit in Britain. The live recording of “No Woman No Cry” was more danceable and energized. The energy expressed by Bob and the heavy reggae rhythms of the Wailers was readily apparent on the album. Several of the songs performed that night were taken at a speed just slightly faster than their studio versions. Their energy and reggae rhythm lured many fans and this song made Bob Marley & the Wailers known to the public.

Bob Marley became a pioneer who made Jamaican reggae music popular to the world. He became and international music icon. Rastaman Vibration album made the U.S music charts in 1976. This album means special to him because it represents his spiritual belief. One of his songs, “War” was inspired by a speech by Haile Selassie. Haile Selassie was the 20th-century Ethiopian emperor who is seen as a type of a spiritual leader in the Rastafarian movement. The song was about freedom from oppression and a hope for New Africa without racial hierarchy.

Bob Marley was an artist who wanted to share his culture and religious belief to people throughout his music career. in 1978, he also visited Kenya and Ethiopia and released an album called “Survival”  for Africans to end oppression in Africa continent. He was not only a talented musician, but also an ambassador who fight for the African countries to be free in their lives.