The first reggae superstar and the first Third World superstar, Bob Marley was a songwriter of remarkable depth and grace.
From “No Woman No Cry” to “Duppy Conqueror” to “Wake Up and Live,” Bob Marley’s songs continue to have universal appeal, reverberating through popular culture and consciousness. In the 30 years since his death, his legend and stature have only grown.
No matter where you may travel in Africa, Asia, Eruope or the Americas, Bob Marley is known and loved throughout the world, and revered as a songwriting giant. A familiarity and appreciation for Bob Marley can be the first step in crossing barriers of culture and communication, or a source of common ground.
Coming of age in early 1960s Kingston, Bob Marley and his generation grew up in a brutal environment of crushing poverty, aggravated by an oppressive regime and an inescapable class system.
Often detailing despair, corruption and hardship many of his fans today can barely comprehend, Bob Marley’s lyrics poetically went for the jugular in songs like “Babylon System,” “Them Belly Full” or the shot-on-sight curfew nightmare of “Burning and Looting.”
While Marley’s songwriting tackled spiritual matters and matters of the heart, Marley also spoke forthrightly on the political strife in his native Jamaica, often putting himself in danger in the process. Marley survived an assassination attempt at his home in 1976, and later brought opposition political candidates together onstage in 1978.
Shortly thereafter, Marley detailed the rise of Zimbabwe out of the oppression of Rhodesia, and continued to draw needed and necessary attention to the lingering repercussions of colonialism and slavery.
Grim realities gave birth to the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers, but despite the hardships and struggles he so expertly detailed and brought attention to, Marley’s songs were also defiantly buoyant – sunny, even danceable statements of hope.
Few occasions in popular music have seen tougher lyrics married to such uplifting music.