“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” – Bob Marley. Bob Marley was one of the most inspirational people to ever exist on this earth. Most people, however, have no idea what he did for the world and have no idea who he even is. He is known as a singer to most, and a druggie to others, but nobody truly takes the time to discover who he was, what he did, and what he believed in. Bob Marley is the human embodiment of freedom; the societal representation of peace. He went up face-to-face against political wars, the police of Jamaica, the government Trenchtown where he lived, and the worst violence that Jamaica had ever seen. He used his music to reach the people of Jamaica and of the world to spread his message of peace, love, and unity. His influence is one that reaches worldwide without even trying. Bob Marley used 56 Hope Street, the One Love Concert, Rastafarian beliefs, and his music to influence the world. Section I: 56 Hope Street Unknown to many, 56 Hope Street is the house that Bob Marley, the Wailers, and other Rasta men lived in. It was known to be a place of gathering as a neutral zone of peace amongst the worst violence that Jamaica had ever seen – children being armed and dying, gangster rivals being protected by politicians while amassing weapons from the U.S. and Russia. They had been declared to be in a state of public emergency. “All you had to do was watch out for the police because the police could always get you, frame you. You go to prison because you live in Trenchtown” (Bob Marley.) ‘Trenchtown’ was a government settlement that contained Jamaican people, usually unwillingly. Marley grew up in a horrific environment of violence, drugs, and weapons, which he grew to be affronted by. The people who lived in Trenchtown were seen as the lowest of the low in the middle-to-upper-classes eyes – so when 56 Hope Street became a place for bringing people together in peace, the upper and middle classes were terrified by it. In Bob Marley’s words, “We bringing the ghetto uptown.” As much as 56 Hope Street was a symbol of peace, it was also a place of silent contempt. “[There were] murderous rivals in the same place at the same time, so I asked Bob about it and he said, “Them love it so much that them kill yuh. Yea. Yea, man. Them love you so much that them kill you.
Love you plenty, and will kill you.” I was so naive at the time; I didn’t realize that he was literally saying ‘they’re coming to kill me'” (Vivien Goldman, Davidson.) As time went on, occupants of the house woke up at 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. and witnessed shadows of Bob and other men who were arguing. These tense confrontations in the early hours of morning contributed to the consistent tension among the people of the house, and the events following thereafter. The night of December 3rd, 1976 at 9:00 p.m., Bob Marley, his wife Rita Marley, and his best friend Don Taylor were shot in an assassination attempt at 56 Hope Street. The entire house was sprayed with bullets in the aftermath, but the rehearsal room in the back of the house, where they were, was really what got the brunt of it all. “He decided to have a charity concert that was free for all of the people. ‘Smile Jamaica’. It was meant just to bring a short moment of peace, but the politicians who were fighting to be elected as Prime Minister wrapped their election around his concert, so it was assumed that Bob was supporting politics falsely. Upon that, death threats and the assassination attempt came” (Nancy Burke, Davidson.) Don Taylor had been delivered most of the bullets to the back, as he was standing between the shooters and Marley. Bob was standing sideways, so the bullets just grazed his chest while one ended up lodged in his arm. They were all taken to the hospital and the concert was thought to surely be canceled. ‘Smile Jamaica’ was scheduled for two days after the attempt on Marley’s life. After the shooting, Bob Marley and about 100 other people went up to Strawberry Hill for his protection, and the meeting that they held was for the entire purpose of canceling the concert. But after promises made by both the politicians, the press, and the police that Bob would be safe, he decided to go. “You can no stop music” (Davidson.) People had lined the road for miles up to the concert venue, and as he didn’t start until 5 hours after the original start time – so it grew from 5000 to 90000 people over the course of the day. He announced and assured that the concert was not political, and ended up giving one of the greatest concerts of his life (Davidson.) Section II: One Love Peace Concert After the ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert, Bob decided that staying in Jamaica was too dangerous for him, and he left. He went on a world tour for two years with The Wailers to spread peace and love to the people of the world, and finally, after the two One Love Peace Concert
most powerful gang leaders of Jamaica, Claudie Massop and Bucky Marshall, met and made peace in prison, Bob was asked to come back. After Claudie Massop had been released from prison, he flew to London where Bob was and pitched his unified peace concert to him, which then convinced him to go back to Jamaica. Like the ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert, there were thousands of people who came to see Bob Marley, but unlike the ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert, the goal of bringing peace was so determined that there was a ‘Love’ section, a ‘Togetherness’ section, and a ‘Peace’ section – each one more expensive than the last. Bob was ready to start “proselytizing the faith to a worldwide audience on the brink of embracing a brand-new philosophy of equal rights and justice and – above all else – One Love” (Steffens.) Unbeknownst to most people, Bob’s greatest moments came during the One Love Peace Concert. After several hours of performing, Bob Marley called up Claudie Massop and Bucky Marshall and honored the peace that was made between them, “Peace treaty is going on, hoorah, hoorah, peace treaty is going on, hoorah, hoorah, Buckie Marshall and Claudie, say I to my brethren again!” (The Wailers, Davidson.) To top it all off, at about 2:00 a.m. Bob called up the two opposing political leaders, Michael Manley, and Edward Seaga, to show the people that they were trying to unite. “Could we have… Could we have up here onstage here, the presence of Mr. Michael Manley and Mr. Edward Seaga [howls], I just want to shake hands and show the people that we’re gonna meet them right. We are gonna unite, We gonna meet them right, We gots to unite! [scat singing], [thunder crashes]” (Bob Marley, Davidson.) At that moment, lightning struck from the sky into the stadium as he went into his spiritual dance. It could’ve only been God himself who was looking down on them and saying “Well Done!” (Davidson.) Bob held their hands together and raised them in the air, telling the audience that they were one people, and at that point, went from showman to shaman (Davidson.) Despite the positivity and bonding that was created from the One Love Peace Concert, there was a tragic irony of the concert that Bob never knew about. “Is not peace we dealin’ with here, is pieces.” Meaning, firearms. There were guns that were snuck in with some of the sound equipment from the United States and then distributed to the gangs. Every person who had participated in making peace, like Bucky and Claudie, were shot and killed shortly thereafter (Davidson.) Bob’s plea for peace and unity had gone mostly ignored once the concert was over. Section III: Rastafari The entire shaping of Bob into the musician he was, was due mostly to his Rasta beliefs. “Rasta is the belief [that] Haile Selassie is God and that he will return to Africa members of the black community who are living in exile as the result of Rastafari Marley Tribute
colonisation and the slave trade” (Davidson.) There was a considerable amount of violence in the inner city communities that evolved into the genres of reggae and rasta – the feelings of oppressed black people in Jamaica. They were outcasts – the police would trim their hair, beat them up, and lock them up for smoking. Bob, however, had a black mother and a white father. He was neither black nor white so he felt that it was his calling to bring unity (Davidson.) Above all, Rasta never supported politics, which is why Bob was so appalled by the notion that his ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert was political in any way, shape or form. The Wailers’ and Bob Marley’s resonant final album was created partially in Harry J’s studio in Kingston and partially in Island Records’ Basing Street Studios in London during the spring of 1973. It was called “Burnin'”. Bob used this album and his influence to establish his worldwide profile of Rastafarian culture and reggae music in 1976. By this time, everyone knew Bob, Reggae, and Rasta (Steffens.) Rasta was extremely important to Bob and the men that accompanied him. They used his music to spread the message of Rastafari and worked to ensure that the world would come to learn and hear of Rastafari – this is what made it into “a global phenomenon; they helped shape the Rasta philosophy to the extent that it can no longer be attuned solely to the needs of believers in Jamaica” (Maganga.) Despite the positivity that Rastafari helped radiate, there was still the extremely negative connotations and treatments that the poor of Jamaica were given. “If the people beholden to soup kitchens, food stamps, etc., ever get fed up, anyone in power would be wise to remember that, as Marley sang, “A hungry mob is a angry mob'” (Reilly.) He laid calls to arms that invoked fire, blood, lightning, thunder, and brimstone – he predicted that the Rastas will end up ‘pon top’ (Reilly.) He believed in Rastafari so passionately that he took the religion to the entire world and spread positivity with it. Section IV: Reggae Music Bob Marley’s music is entirely known as Reggae music. The entire purpose of his music was to encourage people to keep fighting and keep trying no matter what, and the Reggae genre was the only one that he felt would portray his message. “[He] wanted the poor to have the courage to continue, to fight, from his music” (Davidson.) Bob Marley’s Reggae
And unusually enough, it worked. “He was unusually flamboyant; his marijuana use was probably heavier than other pop stars’ and, per the Rasta sacrament of spliff-fueled Bible reading, certainly more sanctimonious” (Salewicz.) He gave insights into the rough Jamaican surroundings that gave his music its edgy desperation and millennial fervor – to this day, people everywhere gush faithfully about the music, calling it “tantalizingly world-shaking in its scintillating essence” (Salewicz.) His musical influence is astonishingly wide and incredible to this day. “You know, they played Bob’s music when the Berlin Wall was being torn down. They play Bob’s music during any world crisis, any problem. Bob Marley is the world’s symbol of Freedom” (Davidson.) It’s not merely the music, but the life experiences that played a part in shaping the individual known as Bob Marley, and ultimately, the music that the world would come to know (Maganga.) Bob Marley used 56 Hope Street, the One Love Peace Concert, his Rastafarian beliefs, and his music to influence the world in incredible ways that most people don’t even know of. In the end, Bob Marley was and still is known as a magnificent artist, a symbol of world-wide peace, the universal representation of freedom, and the preacher of Rastafari. He was widely loved, but never truly known. “Bob had been diagnosed years earlier, but had ignored it. And on May 11th, 1981, he died of cancer” (Davidson.) Bob’s death sent a huge shockwave of heartbreak through the world. He had done so much and yet was gone by the age of 36 – far too young for someone of his impact. He truly was the same shaman of the world as he was of the One Love Peace Concert – a being of a higher place, a being of love.
- Davidson, Kief, director. “ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff.” Netflix, 2018.
- Maganga, Stewart. “Under the Influence of … Bob Marley, the Timeless Music Man.” The Conversation, 20 Sept. 2018.
- Reilly, Dan. “Bob Marley’s 10 Greatest Protest Songs That Still Ring True Today.” Billboard, Prometheus Global Media, 6 Feb. 2015.
- Salewicz, Chris. Bob Marley: the Untold Story. 2nd ed., Faber And Faber, 2011.
- Steffens, Roger. “‘Burnin'” – The Wailers (1973).
- ” Library of Congress, USA.gov, 2006, LOC.gov. “History.” Bob Marley, Forefathers Group, 2013.