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The Man and the Legend

Greg M. Dorsey

April 1998

They say the sun, shines for all but in some people world, it never shine at all. They
say love is a stream, that will find its course some think life is a dream so they
making matter worse. -from Crisis, by Bob Marley

Martin Luther King was not speaking about Bob Marley when he said"We must use time creatively and forever realize that the time is always hope to do great things,"but those words do describe how Robert Nesta Marley spent his life time. Bob Marley's life and involvement with the Rastafarian movement spanned the course of thirty-six years and left an impact on the world that is still felt. Marley's music was a result of what he saw in his life, what he felt, and what he saw as the treatment of his people.

On February 6, 1945, Bob Marley was born in the northern half of Jamaica just outside of a small town named St. Ann, in an area named Nine Miles. His father, Norval Marley, was a white Naval Officer. Marley's mother's name was Cedella Malcolm Marley. Although she did have her son in wedlock, she rarely saw her husband because his parents disapproved of the marriage. The towns people of St. Ann reportedly thought Bob Marley had psychic powers, which allowed him to read hands and tell the person's future. The last time Marley saw his father was when he brought young Bob to Kingston, supposedly to enroll him in school. Eighteen months later Cedella learned that her son was not in school and rather he was living with an elderly couple. She immediately returned her son to St. Ann. (The History of Bob Marley).

Bob Marley's move to Kingston was a milestone in his life. Norval Marley told his wife Cedella that he was bringing their son to Kingston to educate him. Instead he brought Bob to an elderly couple's home and it was the last time that Bob would ever see his father. During Bob's eighteen months in Kingston he was introduced to music. This was an introduction that would have a profound effect on the rest of his life, the Jamaican community, and the world. The first sign that Bob Marley was impacted by music in Kingston was discovered when Cedella's friends asked Bob to display his psychic powers once again and in denial, Bob replied"I am a singer now."(hftp-//

His friendship to Bunny Wailer blossomed along with his love of music. Bob Marley met Bunny Wailer in Nine Miles, when he was eleven years old. As the boys' relationship grew so did Bob's mother and Bunny's father's relationship. A short time later the families united and moved together to Kingston. Bob and his new"brother"Bunny began to try and establish themselves in the Kingston music scene. At the age of sixteen Bob recorded his first single with tracks called"Judge Not"and"Do you still Love Me."The title and lyrics indicated that these are songs filled with a message to listeners, and this shows that Bob Marley was not an ordinary sixteen-year-old when he began his recording career. His first recordings were not successful with the public, but the teenager did not give up. He continued to receive music lessons from Joe Higgs, a successful Trench Town singer. While studying with Joe Higgs, Bob and Bunny were introduced to future members of the Wailers. (The History of Bob Marley).

Joe Higgs had a large influence on Marley and his new friends. In 1963, Higgs introduced Bob and Bunny to Peter Tosh and Junior Braithwaite and established a band named the Wailers. Shortly thereafter he arranged an audition with Jamaica's most revered producer, Clement"Sir' Coxson Dodd, of Studio One. The Wailers impressed Mr. Dodd, and this led to a stream of recordings. The first recording the band produced together was named,"Simmer Down."The success of the Wailers was almost instantaneous. The first track went on to sell over 80,000 copies. The success continued as the legendary Skatelites were used to sing backup for the Wailers. Each passing week brought on greater success for the Wailers. Over the course of the next three years the band had a series of hits,"One Love,""Rude Boy,""I'm Still Waiting,""I am Gonna Put It On,"and"Cry to Me."The band was recording chart topping hits and making money. Although their producer Coxson, chose to give the band a bonus of only ninety-nine pounds for their labor, the band was worth much more (http-//

Coxson led the band to success, but the Wailers felt he did not compensate them for their constant string of hits. As a result, the Wailers dissolved their relationship with Coxson and started their own music label named Wail 'n Soul. Bob Marley realized the band needed money to finance their new label. Marley's plan was to work in American until he saved enough money to finance the band's new record label. Before leaving for Wilmington, Delaware, Marley married Rita Anderson, who had been a backup singer for the Wailers. In Delaware, Marley began working the night shift at a Chrysler automobile factory. One year later Bob returned with enough money to support Wail 'n Soul. (The History of Bob Marley)

Bob's ideology changed during the year he spent in America. Haile Selassie visited Jamaica and as a result influenced Marley's life. Haile Salassie was the Ethiopian Emperor, who was cherished as a savior by Africans in Jamaica. While working for a major corporation Marley was introduced to capitalism and the evils of the free market society. Upon returning to Jamaica, Marley began practicing the religion of Rastafarianism and wore his hair in dreadlocks. (The History of Bob Marley)

The influence of Rastafarianism was apparent in the Wailers music. Marley and the band wrote about how Africans have been suppressed by the oppression (downpression of the white race. This influence can be scene in lyrics of two of Marley's songs, Buffalo Soldier and Could You Be Loved.

Could You Be Loved


Could you be loved ... and be loved Could you be loved ... and be loved
(Can we as a group of people finally receive the respect that we deserve, treat each other like brothers)

Don't let them fool you
(Them are referring to the leaders of the community and Babylon. Do not listen to their rhetoric, because it is false)
Or even try to school you, oh! No
(In its simplest form this is saying do not allow them to fool you, similar to the previous analysis, however the message is larger; the lines may be speaking about the deplorable treatment Rasta children receive in Jamaican Schools. Children are not allowed in the schools without shoes. For a country whose average weekly income is less than fifty dollars, many are unable to afford shoes. The lyrics may also be speaking about the validity of what is taught in Jamaican schools. Schools in Jamaica use outdated books and teach predominantly of white explorers as heroes and Great Britain as the light at the turn of the century that helped the Jamaican people. The history books do not speak about slavery, and do not mention where many of the children descended from, and instead the books refer to Great Britain as a savior, instead of an oppressor. Bob Marley wanted the world to know about the educational injustice that is taking place in The Jamaican school system.)

We've got a mind of our own
(This sentence is one of my favorites, because it says you can speak for yourself Instead of simply complaining, this sentence is leading to action.)

So go to hell if what you 're thinking is not right
(Do not put up with this injustice any longer)
Love would never leave us alone
(They will always have each other, which will get them through)
In the darkness there must come out to light
(Eventually, we will receive the respect we deserve)

Could you be loved ... and be loved
Could you be loved.... and be loved
(Are we cable of giving love to everyone)

The road of life is rocky
And you may stumble too
(Very important sentences. They tell it like it is. Bob Marley does not sugar coatlife. It will be rocky. Be prepared for the good and the bad.)
So while you point your fingers
Someone else is judging you
Love you brotherman
(If you judge someone, you are no better than the person judging you. Instead listen and love your neighbor and learn from them)

Could you be, could you be, could you be loved
Could you be, could you be loved
Could you be, could you be, could you loved
Could you be, could you be loved
(Can you be loved and give love in return, to all)

Don't let them change you
Or even rearrange you, oh! No
We've got a life to live
(Stick to your beliefs. It will be hard. We have a life to live. It is our life, and no oneelse's.)
They say only, only
Only the fittest of the fittest shall survive
Stay alive
(Many will be tying their hardest to hold us down. Do not let them. Another interpretation of these lyrics maybe.- the journey from Africa is harsh and only the fittest will survive on the slave ships. Fight We have been fighting for centuries. Keep fighting. We will survive)

Could you be loved ... and be loved
Could you be loved ... and be loved

You ain't gonna miss your water
Until you're well runs dry
No matter how you treat him
Them will never be satisfied
Say something
(You will never loose, until you give up fighting! Babylon will never be satisfied. Speak up and speak out against downpression!)

Could you, be, could you be, could you be loved
Could you be, could you beloved
Could you be, could you be, could you bed loved
Could you be, Gould you bed loved

Say something, say something
Say something
Say something, say something

Say something
Say something
Say something, say something
(Do not take it anymore, speak up and speak out, through the music with a
message, reggae music)

Reggae, reggae
Say something
Rockers, rockers
Say something
Reggae, reggae
Say something
Reggae, reggae
Say something
Rockers, rockers
Say something could you be loved
Say something could you be loved
Say something
Say something could you be, could you be, could you be loved
Say something

Could You Be Loved was written by Bob Marley as a result of him witnessing the terrible Jamaican school system, people living in poverty, and a multitude of circumstances which caused the oppression of both the Jamaican and African people. In the line,"Don't let them fool you or even try to school you"Marley is writing about how the Jamaican school systems have a policy that says shoes must be worn in school. Many families in Jamaica cannot afford shoes, which prohibits the children from attending school and receiving an education. In the next line the song says don't let them fool you. This section maybe speaking about the lessons taught in school. Outdated history books teach Jamaican children a biased history that neglects to teach about slavery and fails to show where Jamaicans are from. Teaching practices such as these take away the peoples identity and their pride.

Marley's view of education by the public schools was very negative. He says,"Don't let them School You"because he believes this type of education shouldn't continue. Marley's education was unofficial so he learned about his people's history from music and by seeing life all around him. Marley always thought of himself as an ordinary person, but as the popularity of his music grew he had to acknowledge that he was a leader.

Buffalo Soldier

Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta There was a Buffalo Soldier
In the heart of America
Stolen from Africa, brought to America
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
(Buffalo Soldier is a symbol of a strong free animal, but in this context it refers to Africans who were brought to America, and forced to fight against the Native American Indians- The Native American Indians called the Black men Buffalo Soldiers because their hair was tightly woven and to them, resembled that of the curly and matted Buffalo's coat. It is ironic, that the Africans who were being oppressed, fought for the American Cavalry, who was fighting against the Native American, which were another oppressed race. The Dreadlock Rasta, signifies Bob Marley and the Rastafarian movement. Today, the war of downpression is being fought by Rastafarians, wearing their hair long in dreadlocks. They have been fighting for their freedom for centuries. Africans were fighting for their freedom when they were in Africa. They kept resisting the best they could upon being captured in Africa- The resistance continued when they were put on ships for Jamaica and America, although the resistance was survival because of the misery on the ships. The Africans were forced from their homes, families, and forced to live a life without freedom. They continued to fight after their arrival)

I mean it, when I analyze the stench
To me, it makes a lot of sense
How the Dreadlock Rasta was the Buffalo Soldier
And he was taken from Africa, brought to America
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
(In Jamaica the Dreadlock Rasta is treated poorly. The Dreadlock Rasta is fighting for Rastafarian values and survival, similar to how the Africans were fighting to keep their dignity)

Said he was a Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta
Buffalo Soldier, in the heart of America
(Dreadlock Rastas grew from Africans who are the Buffalo Soldier)

If you know your history Then you would know where you coming from Then you wouldn't have to ask me Who the heck do I think I am
(Bob is angry that history is not taught inaccurately.)

I am just a Buffalo Soldier
(Bob is saying he is just another descendant of an African)

In the heart of America
Stolen from Africa, brought to America
Said he was fighting on arrival
Fighting for survival
Said he was a Buffalo Soldier
Win the war for America
(The last line is the most powerful. America means power Power is money. Power is control or markets and education. Use the slaves to win the economic battle for America.)

Dreadie, woe yoe yoe, woe woe yoe yoe
Woe yoe yoe yo, yo yo woe yo, woe yoe yoe

Trodding through San Juan
In the arms of America
Trodding through Jamaica, a Buffalo Soldier
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta
(San Juan was a pathway to America and Jamaica)

Singing, woe yoe yoe, woe woe yoe yoe
Woe yoe yoe yo, yo yo woe yo woe yo yoe
Trodding through San Juan
In the arms of America
Trodding through Jamaica, a Buffalo Soldier
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta

Singing, woe yoe yoe, woe woe yoe yoe
Woe yoe yeo yo, yo yo woe yo woe yo yoe

Both in America and in Jamaica the Buffalo Soldiers have been in a perpetual struggle against the dominant society to establish their rights and to insure their dignity. Timothy White speaks about how Bob became interested in conveying the message of the Buffalo Soldier through his music in his book Catch a Fire"Always a history buff, Bob had begun working on 'Buffalo Soldier' in 1978 after reading about the black American soldiers decorated in the late 1800s. He cut an explosive demo version of the song with a band led by co-writer N.G. Williams, aka King Sporty, before settling on the more thoughtful treatment done with the Wailers"(333). The song helps many learn the way history truly happened. Jamaicans are still affected by past injustices. Abrigail Bakan summarizes in her book Ideology of Class and Conflict in Jamaica, why many on the Island of Jamaica still remember the injustices of the past vividly."The majority of this population arethe descendants of African slaves, forced to leave their villages some two hundred years ago to labor on Jamaican plantations for white masters. In contemporary Jamaica, the legacy of slavery is still very much a part of popular consciousness"(1)

Buffalo Soldier is a clear reflection of Marley's life and the class division he witnessed growing up in Kingston, Jamaica. A short ways up the road from the slums of Kingston were the Cross Roads. The area was named this because it divided the poor neighborhoods from the affluent. Throughout his life Bob Marley was deeply troubled when his people were not judged by their character, but rather their skin color and amount of their finances. Through songs like"Buffalo Soldier", Marley was able to voice his message of freedom and allow his voice to be heard world wide, creating an audience for reggae music that is increasing in popularity each year.

Reggae music is music with a message- Reggae music is described accurately in the Journal of Popular Culture,

Reggae music is important in spreading the Rastafari movement against oppression, exploitation and racism. It isbest expressed in the protest music of Bob Marley, who used metaphors to communicate a universal message to listeners. 'Jah' represents goodness and love, and Babylon is a destructive force. The theme of war is used to stress human rights problems. Metaphors of oppression and freedom, such as chains and birds, depict social problems and ways of liberation. Music is an effective form of communication in regions of illiteracy and poverty.

"Could you be Loved"and"Buffalo Soldier' are two of my favorite songs written by Bob Marley because the lyrics tell the listeners to speak out and speak up for their rights. The songs use action verbs to motivate the listeners. Other reggae songs speak about the oppression of black people and descendants from Africa and voice opinions about Babylon, which are a calamity of references and not just one specific area of concern. Babylon is the notion of people motivated to better themselves and not working for the good of all. These two songs are special because they tell of the injustice in the past and tell the people being oppressed to keep fighting for their survival.

As Bob Marley and the Wailers became internationally known, their popularity increased the Rastafarian Movement."The Jamaican Rastafarian cult is the largest, most identifiable, indigenous movement in Jamaica"(The Rastafarians, viii). The movement is about three hundred thousand strong today and has expanded from Jamaica to several countries around the world, such as America, Great Britain, Canada, Africa, and the West Indian Islands. (The Rastafarians, ix).

Rastafari view ganja as the weed of wisdom. In the book Working Men and Ganja, Melanie Creagan Dreher, expresses why ganja is very popular among Rastas in Jamaica,"ganja selling can be viewed as another supplementary economic enterprise available to the poor. Occasional and part-time entry is particularly widespread where economic life is unstable and cash flow is subject to great fluctuations. Ganja vending requires only minimal, sometimes no, initial investment and can yield relatively high profits in a comparatively short period of time"(64). Dreher speaks about the relationship between ganja and working men. She reports on the amount of ganja smoked on average by Jamaican men as"consumption among rural Jamaican males ranges from one to twenty-four spliffs per day, the average number consumed per day being seven"(65). In the web page under the section beliefs, practices and sacraments, the author writes about his interpretation of why Rastafari smoke ganja."Religions always reflect the social and geographical environment out of which they emerge, and Jamaican Rastafarianism is no exception- for example, the use of marijuana as a sacrament and aid to mediation is logical in a country where a particularly potent strain of 'herb' grows freely."Rastafari also cite the bible to justify the use of ganja. Psalms 104-14 says-"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and the herb for the service of man, that he may bring food out of the earth"

Was Bob Marley a Rastafarian? Bob Marley used marijuana throughout his life, but began to use it more often following the assassination attempt before the Smile Jamaica Concert."The following year the band capitalized their chart success with the release of 'Kaya,' an album which hit number four in the UK Chart the week of release. The album showed Bob in a different mood, love songs and homages to the power of ganja"(The Unofficial Home Page, Marley's Story). In the earlier years of Bob's life he may have used ganja less as a ritual and more to simply change what he saw around him, but as he grew older he began using ganja as way to become closer to 'Jah'.

Rastafari have a set of dietary laws in their doctrine."They urged their flocks to shun the ingestion of alcohol, tobacco, all meat (especially pork), as well as shellfish, scaleless fish, snails, predatory and scavenger species of marine life, and many common seasonings like salt. In short, anything that was not 'ital,' a Rasta term meaning pure, natural or clean"(

Marley set aside dietary laws while touring, because touring was more important than his dietary concerns. The lack of a proper diet was a contributing factor as to why Bunny Wailer stopped touring with Bob in 1974."He was simply not prepared to make the sacrifices that life on the road had to offer"( Although Bob Marley considered himself a devout Rastafarian he made sacrifices to continue his touring. On the other hand Bunny Wailer was unable to make the sacrifice that touring demanded. Bob made the decision that touring and giving his message against oppression was more important than his dietary concerns.

Rastafarians are people who have mentally divorced themselves from a socially oppressive system. Rasta's devote their lives to 'Jah' or peace and love. Through 'Jah' Rasta's feel that someday Babylon (the oppressive system in the world) will be overthrown. Haile Selassie is the spiritual leader of Rastafarians."To the Rastafarians he was the living God of Abraham and Isaac, he whose name should not be spoken"(www.won.nI/dsp/usr/svketel).

Marley devoted his life to Reggae Music. He used his music to project the message of 'Jah' to his people in hopes that someday Babylon would fall. Bob believed that Haile Selassie was the Ethiopian King and Ethiopia was where his people should look for the crowning of a Black King. Throughout his life Bob would end songs with the words 'Jah Rastafari,' further showing his belief in the word Jah and its association to Rastafarianism. Bob Marley dedicated his life to Jah (love and peace) so he was clearly a Rastafarian.

Bob Marley was a popular musician who influenced people in positive ways. The April 13, 1996 issue of Billboard Magazine describes Bob Marley and the Wailers record sales as one of the best of all time,"Legend arrived at the 8 million mark in March, maintaining its solid hold on the title of the best-selling reggae album of all time. Six other Island Marley sets 'Confrontation,' 'Exodus,' 'Kaya,' 'Live!,' 'Rastaman Vibration,' and 'Uprising'-reached gold status during the month."Bob Marley and the Wailers music were and are still extremely popular today. The May 6, 1996 issue of Billboard magazine says that Island Records will be re-issuing the 1984 Legend album and the company expects to surpass the five million in sales the album did in 1984. Marley and the Wailers are one of the most famous bands of all time. The Legend album was multiplatinum with eight million records sold. Confrontation, Exodus, Kaya, Live!, Rastaman Vibrations and Uprising all sold enough to classify them as Gold Albums.

The popularity of Bob Marley and the Wailers spread Rastafarianism to other countries."The last Bob Marley and the Wailers tour in 1980 attracted the largest audiences at that time for any musical act in Europe"( Peggy Quattro of the Reqqae Report credits Bob Marley's international 70's tours for the success of reggae music in new international markets. She reports that her magazine receives e-mail from reggae listeners all over the world. The popularity of reggae music is increasing and is seen as popular in Richmond, Virginia as it is Rome, Italy."People from forty-five countries subscribe to Reggae Report. 'It's not a huge market, but they are there, Quattro says. 'They're very supportive"' (Billboard, Dec.20, 97), Rolling Stone Magazine in the Rolling Stone Rock Review describes Marley as a leader who made an everlasting impact on the world. When they wrote,"Marley was pioneer not only because he single-handedly brought reggae to the world, but because his passionate socially observant music has become a yardstick against which all reggae will forever be measured"(627).

As a result of his commitment to peace and love, Marley was honored with the United Nations, Medal of Peace. During the One Love Peace Concert in 1978, Marley had Prime Minister Michael Manley and the leader of the political opposition, Edward Seaga, shake hands in front of the audience. This effort on Marley's behalf is a result of a life long commitment to peace and love.

In a similar manner to the assassination attempt before The Smile Jamaica Concert, his cancer didn't slow Marley down. After deliberating whether or not to play at the concert Marley"murmured that he would sing 'one song.' He then launched into what became a ninety-minute tour de force opening with"War"' ( At the conclusion of his ninety-minute set, Marley launched into a ritualistic dance, which illustrated the attack on his life the night before. The reenactment was similar to what was performed in front of Ethiopian Kings after a hunt, in King Solomon's era.

Swaying slowly and half-steppin to the beat, Bob opened his shirt and rolled up his left sleeve to show his wounds to the crowd. The last thing they saw before the reigning King of Reggae disappeared back into the hills was the image of the man mimicking the two-pistoled fast draw of a frontier gunslinger, his locks thrown back in triumphant laughter (

Marley left the ninety minute performance by showing the crowd he could not be kept quiet. Marley continued to play music until he physically couldn't. Even then Bob wanted to continue and only wise voice of his wife Rita made him realize it was time to seek treatment. An assassin's bullet could not stop him and cancer only slowed him down, but his message is just as strong today as it was then.

The power of Bob Marley's inspirational prose coupled with a mesmerizing beat will lead further generations in the struggle for the Jamaican people's independence and the formulation of their unique identity. The tradition of the perpetually oppressed Jamaican people has found its voice through Bob Marley, his music and the legend he will continue. This tradition and Bob Marley's commitment has surpassed the small Caribbean Island by enticing the world interests in the struggles of the Jamaican people. Marley voiced the Jamaican people's interest through his music. The ability of Marley to spread the message of the Jamaican people across the globe is one of his unique contributions to the movement.

"Until the philosophy which hold one race Superior and another inferior
Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war, me say war"

-Bob Marley,"War"
Quoting from H.I.M. Haile Selassie I

Works Cited

Austin, Diane J. Urban Life in Kingston Jamaica: The Culture and Class Ideology of Two Neighborhoods New York: Gordon And Breach Science Publishers, 1984.

Anderson, Patrick. High In Jamaica New York: Bridgeport National, 1996.

Auld, John. Marijuana Use and Social Control New York: Academic Press, 1981.

Bakan, Abigail B. Ideology and Class Conflict in Jamaica: The Politics of Rebellion Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990.

Bayer, Marcel. Jamaica: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture UK: Latin American Bureau, 1993.

Barrett, Leonard E. SR. The Rastafarians Boston, Beacon Press Books, 1977.

Bennett, Hazel and Sherlock, Philip. The Story of the Jamaican People Kingston: [an Randle Publishers, 1998.

Brown, Aggrey. Color, Class, and Politics in Jamaica New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1979.

Brathwaite, Edward Kamau. Reqqae Bloodlines Notes on Reserve.

Carley, Mary Manning. Jamaica: The Old and the New New York: Frederick A. Praeger, -1963.

Dreher, Melanie Creagan. Working Men And Ganja Philadelphia: Institute for The Study of Human Issues, 1982.

Goode, Erich. Marijuana New York: Atherton Press, 1969.

Heuman, Gad. The Killing Time: The Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1994.

Foner, Nancy. Status and Power in Rural Jamaica New York: Teachers College Press, 1973.
Kerr, Madeline. Personality And Conflict In Jamaica London: Sangster's Book Stores, Jamaica, 1963.

Monroe, Trevor. Jamaican Politics: A Marxist Perspective in Transition Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 1990.

Prepared by Geography Department. Jamaica: in Pictures Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company.

Stephens, Evelyne Huber and Stephens, John D. Democratic Socialism in Jamaica Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986.

White, Timothy. Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marie New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1994.

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