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Happy Birthday Bob Marley! Wisdom and Music from The King of Reggae

Posted by on February 6, 2014


Bob Marley was the first reggae star to become world famous.  His music set the standard for all those who came after him.

Bob influenced countless top artists in many genres including: The Rolling Stones, Sade, K’Naan, The Clash, Lauryn Hill, The Police, Burning Spear and Tricky.

He would have been 69 years old today.

Reggae’s great wise man believed in the unification of mankind.

He understood deeply the hearts of all men and women. He played to the common higher ground.

Bob Marley’s landmark collection Legend brings me back to college life at U.C. Berkeley.

Waking up with coffee and the doors open to sunshine as Bob sings out his philosophy of union over a simple, mindblowingly sophisticated groove.

Even on the simplest song “Three Little Birds” Bob Marley exudes mastery.

Listen to the stream of Legend here.

From the humble, activist “Buffalo Soldier” to the incredibly sensitive “No Woman, No Cry”, Bob brings in taboo subjects on Legend with the grace of a diplomat and the words of a poet.

The simmering “Satisfy My Soul” and the sexy “Stir It Up” are unparalleled not only in reggae but in all music.

Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” calls out.

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.

None but ourselves can free our minds.”

You can accurately say Legend is overplayed, but its charm never eludes.

If you’re looking for a studio album of Bob Marley’s that’s almost as good give Natty Dread or Exodus a spin.

“Lively Up Yourself” brings Natty Dread in with a bang. Here’s video of Bob Marley and the Wailers recording it in the studio – 1974.

Born in 1945, to an African-Jamaican mother and and Anglo father, Bob Marley was only 14 when he left his home in Kingston, Jamaica.

Three years later he recorded his first singles with Leslie Kong. At 18, back in Jamaica Bob Marley put together a 5-man vocal group called the Wailers. Reggae legend Peter Tosh was on this original team.

The Wailers were Rastas, they grew their hair in dreadlocks and smoked the plant ganga (marijuana). The herb was believed to be sacred. A tool for bringing enlightenment.

The band’s first single “Simmer Down” was one of the biggest Jamaican hits in 1964. This song and the next one “Love and Affection” still sound fresh.

The Wailers ended up a trio in 66, their members leaving even though they were hitting with songs like “Rude Boy.” Like many Jamaican artists they were paid merely a few dollars for their brilliant, melodies and rhythms.

Pop bands lifted liberally from Jamaican music. Reggae groups could rarely afford legal representation.

The Wailers and Bob Marley continued on. Taking day jobs to survive at times. They also worked with Lee “Scratch” Perry and his Upsetters.

In 1972 the Wailers signed to a label Island records and got an advance to record in Jamaica.

Bob Marley now had the money to construct the perfect band. His backup singers were called the “I-Threes” and one of the trio was his wife. These women are arguably the best backup singers in music history.

The band, now with the I-Threes and live horns was dubbed “Bob Marley and The Wailers.” They would hit repeatedly in the U.S. and Britain through the 70s, not only on reggae stations but also on airwaves that played mostly pop and rock.

Bob Marley passed away from cancer in 1981 after an amazing run of top-charting work.  Those hits are still played on radio today.

Whether the song was about love or politics, Bob Marley’s word and groove came from the heart.

This medley of Bob Marley’s anthem “One Love” and The Impressions’ soul classic “People Get Ready” says it all.

Bob Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

In 1999 Time magazine voted Bob Marley’s record Exodus the album of the century.

Bob Marley was given a star on Hollywood Boulevard in 2001, the same year that the Grammys chose him for a lifetime achievement award.

Find out more about Bob Marley’s music and legacy at

Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, Music historian & producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s written scripts, lesson plans & features for the Smithsonian, Experience Music Project, the University of Washington & NPR.

One Response to Happy Birthday Bob Marley! Wisdom and Music from The King of Reggae

  1. Jeremy Shatan

    Nicely done. Happy birthday, Bob!

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