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Tribute: Bob Marley, the freedom fighter

‘As we remember Bob Marley’s death today (May 11, 2024), we pray that what he stood for – Love, peace, unity and equality – will reign in the world. One Love’

By Valentine Amanze


Bob Marley | File Image

The late Robert Nesta Marley aka Bob Marley signifies different things to many of his admirers.

Born in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica on February 6, 1945, Bob Marley died in May 11, 1981, at the University of Miami Hospital, Miami, Florida, U.S., aged 36.

His father, Norval Sinclair Marley, a retired soldier, and mother, Cedella Booker, lived happily in Jamaica.

While the world mark his 43 years of passing away in May 11, 2024, it reminded me of my first employment letter as a clerical officer at the old Imo State University, which is now Abia State University.

It was a day to remember. I  was happy for being employed as a clerical officer and at the sametime sad that my musical idol, Bob Marley, died the same day I was employed – a situation akin to sadness and joy.

Considered one of the pioneers of the genre, Marley fused elements of reggae, ska, and rocksteady in his music and was renowned for his distinctive vocal and songwriting style.

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But the irony was that he became more popular after his death than while alive.

I could remember the then Imo Broadcasting Service (IBS) Owerri, the state-owned radio station, blastering Bob Marley’s music throughout the day to the amazement of all. All the popular joints in Owerri were agog with the reggae music of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

In fact, the late Marley was a symbol of Pan-Africanism and and social justice worldwide.

He preached unity and equality using his music which contributed to the independence of countries like Zimbabwe in 1980 and increased the pressure on Apathied leadership in South Africa to pack their load.

Bob Marley’s tracks like ‘Africa Unite’ and “One Love” captured what the world needed then.

And the period of the release of such tracks coincided with reign of imperialism and military dictatorship in Africa – 1970s and 80s.

Over the course of his career, Marley became known as a Rastafarian icon, and he infused his music with a sense of spirituality.

He is also considered a global symbol of Jamaican music and culture and identity, and was controversial in his outspoken support for democratic social reforms.

He also supported legalisation of cannabis.

His messages were clear and hated by the Western powers, who tried to eliminate him in his country, Jamaica.

After fleeing to London in the 1976, he identified his African roots as he embraced Rastafarianism, a religion that preaches peace and equality, with roots in Ethiopia.

Marley was a lover of the late Ethiopian leader, Haile Selassie I, who died in August 27, 1975.

He drew inspiration from the powerful speech made by the Ethiopian leader in the League of Nations challenging Italian invasion of the African country.

Bob Marley sang: “Until the philosophy that holds one nation superior and the other inferior is eliminated and abandoned… there will be war…”

The song was part of Selassie’s presentation at the world body in 1945.

Marley began his professional musical career in 1963, after forming the group, Teenagers, with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, which, after several name changes, would become the Wailers.

In 1965, the group released its debut studio album, The Wailing Wailers, which included the single “One Love”, a reworking of “People Get Ready”; the song was popular worldwide, and established the group as a rising figure in reggae.

 The Wailers released an additional 11 studio albums, and after signing to Island Records, the band’s name became Bob Marley and the Wailers.

While initially employing louder instrumentation and singing, the group began engaging in rhythmic-based song construction in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which coincided with Marley’s conversion to Rastafari.

Marley was posthumously honoured by Jamaica soon after his death with a designated Order of Merit by his nation.

In 1994, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone ranked him No. 11 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

As we remember Bob Marley’s death today (May 11, 2024), we pray that what he stood for – Love, peace, unity and equality – will reign in the world. One Love.

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