The worldwide icon of reggae, Bob Marley was the first artist to bring the music and stories of Jamaica to the outside world. His music tells the tales of poverty, hardship, and spirituality that is an integral part of Jamaican culture.
He and his friends were fascinated by the sounds they heard on American radio, as well as the music of local black vocal groups. In 1962, the 17 year old Marley auditioned for a local music entrepreneur by the name of Leslie Kong. This audition led to a studio session and, a year later, to the formation of a group known as the Teenagers, a five-part vocal ensemble which evolved into the Wailers.
When two members left the group in 1964, Marley became the lead vocalist, and quickly steered the group's next album to #1 on the Jamaican pop charts. In 1974, after a string of successes, two of the three Wailers left the group to pursue solo careers. This prompted Marley to bring in his wife's group, a vocal trio called the I-Threes, bringing the new lineup on an international tour in 1975. They sold out shows all over the world, and found their names on the top of the charts in both England and the US.
Marley's fame was considerable outside of Jamaica, but in his home country he was viewed with even greater admiration. He attained a larger-than-life persona as a poet and prophet, a heroic individual whom the nation adored and followed. In 1981, Marley succumbed to cancer at the age of 36. The fame he managed to amass in his comparatively short musical career demonstrates the extraordinary power of his music.
* The cancer that killed Bob Marley started in his right big toe. Doctors advised him to have the toe amputated, but he refused, saying "Rasta no abide amputation. I and I don't allow a mon ta be dismantled." The cancer proceeded to spread to the rest of his body and he was dead within four years.
* In 1976, gunmen broke into Marley's home and shot him and his wife, although both survived. The assasination attempt was assumed to be politically motivated, as he had recently demonstrated support for the progressive prime minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley.
* Bob Marley had a long connection to Africa and especially to Ethiopia, the country that is the spiritual homeland of Rastafari. Later in his career he picked up the cause of pan-African unity and wrote several songs on the subject for his ninth album "Survival." In January 2005, in fact, it was announced that his wife plans to have his remains exhumed and moved to Ethiopia. Rita Marley explained the decision by saying: "Bob's life is about Africa, it is not Jamaica."