Born Nesta Robert Marley, Bob Marley is considered to be the greatest all-time Reggae musician.
He was born on 6 February 1945 at the farm of his maternal grandfather in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, to Norval Sinclair Marley and Cedella Malcolm. In 1955, when Bob Marley was 10 years old, his father died of a heart attack at the age of 70. Marley’s mother went on later to marry Edward Booker, a civil servant from the United States, giving Marley two half-brothers: Richard and Anthony.
In 1963, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith were called the Teenagers. They later changed the name to the Wailing Rudeboys, then to the Wailing Wailers, at which point they were discovered by record producer Coxsone Dodd, and finally to the Wailers. Their single “Simmer Down” for the Coxsone label became a Jamaican No. 1 in February 1964 selling an estimated 70,000 copies.
By 1966, Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith had left The Wailers, leaving the core trio of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh. In the same year, Marley married Rita Anderson, and moved near his mother’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware in the United States for a short time, during which he worked as a DuPont lab assistant and on the assembly line at a Chrysler plant in nearby Newark, under the alias Donald Marley.
Though raised as a Catholic, Marley became interested in Rastafari beliefs in the 1960s, when away from his mother’s influence. After returning to Jamaica, Marley formally converted to Rastafari and began to grow dreadlocks.
In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe. Contrary to urban legend, this lesion was not primarily caused by an injury during a football match that year but was instead a symptom of already-existing cancer. Marley turned down his doctors’ advice to have his toe amputated.
Marley’s last concert occurred at the Stanley Theater (now called The Benedum Center For The Performing Arts) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 23 September 1980. Just two days earlier he had collapsed during a jogging tour in Central Park and was brought to the hospital where he learned that his cancer had spread to his brain.
While Marley was flying home from Germany to Jamaica, his vital functions worsened. After landing in Miami, Florida, he was taken to the hospital for immediate medical attention. Marley died on 11 May 1981 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami (now University of Miami Hospital), aged 36. The spread of melanoma to his lungs and brain caused his death. His final words to his son Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life”.
Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica on 21 May 1981, which combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafari tradition. He was buried in a chapel near his birthplace with his guitar.