There is much to be said about Robert Nesta Marley and his musical calling. As an accomplished musician in Jamaica, Nesta (as his mother preferred to call him), had moved from the country hills of St. Ann, to the ghettos of Kingston, to America to live with his mother, and then to 56 Hope road in Kingston. He played at the Zimbabwe independence concert "ending British rule in Africa" (White 113) and helped clothe half of Trench Town's youth in soccer gear. Bob Marley was the first black musician from a third world county to become internationally known. Early on February 6, 1945, a Tuesday at approximately 2: 30 AM Robert Nesta Marley was "born with thin lips and a slender pointed nose he greatly resembled his white father Captain Norval Marley" (50).
At four months old Nesta became very ill one day when his mother left him for 10 minuets to go to the store. When she came back he was "lying on his stomach quivering, water dripping from his nose, and was making short coughing noises" (50-51). His grandfather, Omeriah, who was an accomplished "myalman" (one who possesses the knowledge and power to deflect or defuse the machinations of obeah and to heal with folk medicine), whose house Marley was born in (called big house because was this biggest building in Nine Miles St. Ann) and lived in until he was sent to Kingston in his teens. He announced that Nesta had been touched by a great obeah. His great-grandmother, who was also educated in the ways of the obeah, made a potion and gave him an amulet to ward off the evil duppy.
Through out Nesta's childhood, Ciddy, his mother, had heard of many accounts of his "fortune telling powers" (73) and believed they were either a gift from The Almighty or curse from Satan. Bob had the uncanny ability to see things far in the past and future with great detail. Nesta's father, who was a captain in the British naval fleet on the island, lived in Kingston and scarcely got to see Robert. Although Ciddy father disagreed of the co-racial marriage, Norval family demoted him to the lowest possible rank in the navy.
After his demotion, Norval had trouble even earning enough money to keep himself feed, let alone his wife and a child. He then moved to Kingston where his family lived. Ciddy sent many letters to him but never got a reply, so she started a produce shop selling the food grown on her fathers farm land to support herself and child. When Bob was ready for schooling, which was a year early because his teacher said he was as smart as some boys twice his age, his father sent a letter from Kingston requesting that he be schooled in the Kingston Public School System that is superior to the country schools of Nine Miles. With the blessing of Omeriah Bob was sent to Kingston on a bus. To Bob, having never seen an automobile, this was a rather terrifying experience.
That was the last time his mother saw him that year. After several months she became worried that her young "pinckney baw i" had gotten lost and there was nothing she could do to find him. After this realization she became very sad and could do nothing but cry and wait. Then one day one of her aunts informed her that she had seen the boy in Kingston during a business trip to sell produce. Ciddy was very excited when she said that he had told her that he was staying with a Miss. Grey on Haywood St.
In the excitement she had forgotten the address of the home. The next day she took a bus to Kingston, found him playing with his new Kingston friends and brought him home the next day. When he got home was the first time his mother ever heard him speak of music. When Mrs. Hanson (a customer at his mothers produce shop) asked him to read her palm he said, "I don't do that any more in a singer now" (103) and sang this song he learned in Kingston.
"Please, mister, won't ya touch me to mata! Touch me yam, me pumpkin an' potato! All ya do is feel up, feel up! Ain't ya tired of squeeze up, squeeze up?" (Bob) Delighted, she gave him a tuppence as a reward and he continued to sing his new songs. When Nesta was 14 years of him and his mother moved into his uncles house on Second Street of Kingston's Trench Town. Trench Town is a suburb of Kingston, from 1-10 th Street are concrete dwellings made by the government after the hurricane of 1951 had "remolded" half the city. This is where Bob spent his most of his time throughout his teens.
When they moved to Kingston, Ciddy was making 2. 10 pounds a week as a waitress and spent all her extra cash towards Bob's education. She worked six days a week and spent most all day Sunday at church or visiting relatives. After living in Kingston a while Ciddy learned where Mr.
Marley was living and stopped by to find that he had married again. After a brief talk with him she stormed home, but thought that Nesta deserved to see his father so she took him there the next day. Nesta went to a lesser-known private school named the Mabel Private School, off Hanover Street in Kingston. After the age of ten most Jamaican youth fall prey to discrimination of color and parental perturbations, often giving them acute anxiety problems and even ulcers. Most of these youths where considered "rude boys" (Taylor 57) which were stereotyped as Rastafarians and considered bad news.
Marley was no different and neither were Peter McIntosh, who later named himself Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer, who he had met in Trench Town. Now late in his teens Marley had earned the title "tuff gong, which later became the name of his recording company" (Morris 47). At this time in his life his mother wanted him to become a welding professional but he convinced his mother music was an acceptable and much safer trait after he got a few small shards of metal in his eye one day. He had to go to the poorly equipped hospitals in Kingston and it's a miracle that he was got blinded in his right eye. Shortly after Marley, Tosh, and Wailer hooked up they met Joe Higgs, "the godfather of reggae" (Sheridan 10) who helped the Wailers perfect there sound as a trio of vocalists.
Not only did Higgs couch the early Wailers, he gave Marley his first "spliff, a hand-rolled cigar sized marijuana filter less cigarette " (Taylor 27). Bob's first recording was a solo that he recorded at Beverley's, a production company/ Chinese restaurant in Kingston run by Leslie Kong. Bob didn't like Leslie Kong much, there was even a rumor that he killed him at the age of 38 with a obeah curse. Peter Tosh said that this was untrue and inappropriate in a later interview. As Bob got older he became interested in the Rasta philosophy introduced to him by Higgs, and soon became a heavy Rasta follower praising "Ras Tafari Haile Selassie I emperor of Ethiopia, king of kings, conqueror of the lion tribe of Judah" (Bob 47). As Bob's spiritual beliefs became more entrenched his music switched from love songs to more seriously lyrical ballads.
Bob started growing his dreads at the age of 21 during his acceptation of the Rastafarians religion. Around this time the group switched from the Wailing Wailers to Bob Marley and the Wailers. The Wailers didn't think of it was a take over but more of just the natural progression of the group. The Wailers would give the same energy in a performance to 50 people as they would to a crowd of 5, 000. In 1978 Bob Marley was shot through the chest and into his arm over the political battles in Jamaica during the seventies. Bob Marley and the Wailers preformed the One Love concert where he got the leaders of the to political parties in Jamaica to shake hands.
Altogether he made about ten albums worth of material in the some time he lived. Bob loved football (American soccer) and him and the wailers play every chance they got. It is slightly ironic that in the end it would be his down fall. He badly injured his right foot one day playing soccer and didn't get it checked. After a while it got infected and after five years he went to get it checked, it was the every stages of cancer. He died at the age of s 6 in 1981 and buried in his hometown of Nine Miles St.
Ann. His funeral was held on the 21 st of May 1981. There is an old Rasta saying, that Rasta's have no funerals and yet Bob's was the biggest in Jamaican History. Joe Higgs was a very large part of what the Wailers became because of the early couching he did and how he helped them in vocal harmonies.
He tough many of the kids in Trench Town to sing but took particularly to Marley and Tosh. Higgs helped them get record deals with the companies that of groups from Trench Town got. More then anything he helped them find backup singers, bass player, and percussion experts who would record and tour with the group. Chris Blackwell was one of the Wailers agents and gave them a contract when no one else would. He helped them produce their first hit album Burnin'. He produced their first three albums.
Ras Tafari was the emperor of Ethiopia and was believed by some to be the reincarnation of Christ in the black form that King George I deleted from the Bible back during his reign. Bob was considered his personal ambassador and had backdrops with his face of them during all of their tours. The One Love concert that they played helped cool the fiery hot political wars in the ghetto streets of Kingston. He helped calm down the city and its activists. He played at the Free Zimbabwe concert when Zimbabwe became its own country and ended British rule in Africa. He succeeded at dominating the musical market in Jamaica and then all over the world.
He became the first world-renowned musical artist from a third-world county. He failed to recognize he was going to die unless he got radiation treatment for his cancerous foot and died much earlier then he had to. He succeeded at moving up from the ghetto streets on Trench Town to Hope St. a very exclusive and expensive neighborhood. Many people have thought of Bob Marley as a spiritual guru for the black ghettos and a musical voice to legalize marijuana and to end police brutality in Jamaica at roadblocks. He has touched the lives of millions around to globe from Canada to Japan, Australia to Iceland, and Africa to Europe.
His music offers many different things to different people, some people like his message, some the smooth chugging island beat, and others just the way it will relax you. Works Cited Morris, Dennis. Bob Marley A Rebel Life. London: Plexus publishing Limited, 1999.
Sheridan, Maureen. Soul Rebel. California: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999. Taylor, Don. Marley and Me. New York: Barricade Books, 1995.
The Bob Marley Story Caribbean Knights. Video Cassette. Dir. Ja M endell and Charles Cabot. BBC Video, 1986. White, Timothy.
Catch a Fire. New York: Henry Holt and company, 1998.