Dismissing Stereotypes Through Reggae

What Bob Marley brought to the world stage was something unique for its time. Although at times his message was diluted and overseen by the public, Rastafaris have come a long way to overcome the negative prejudices of the larger society and integrate into the mainstream. Bob Marley’s influence was not limited to entertainment, he used his music to spread the message of Rastafari, spreading positivity to his community and bringing light to the misconceptions of the rastaman lifestyle thorough his lyrics to dismiss the negative point of view of his audience.

Robert Nesta Marley was a Jamaican singer-songwriter born on February 6, 1945, in Nine Mile, Jamaica. Marley began to develop an interest in music at an early age. He started out his musical career in 1963 with a group known as the wailers. Marley pursued a solo career after the Wailers disbanded in 1974. Marley was diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma in 1977. In the same year, his album Exodus established his worldwide reputation and elevated his status as one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. At the age of 36, Marley died on May 11, 1981. Marley was a committed Rastafari who infused his music with a sense of spirituality. Through his music many people across the world came to embrace Rastafari.

Rastafari took root in Jamaica following the coronation of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1930. It was spiritual movement, built on the belief of Selassie’s divinity, In 1940 Leonard Howell founded the first leading Rastafari community. Within only two decades this spiritual and social movement had earned global attention thanks to the music of Rastafari Bob Marley. Rastafaris believe, Rastafarians believe that God is a spirit and that this spirit was manifested in Emperor Haile Selassie I. Marcus Garvey was an afro-centric, political & religious ideology activist.

Marley touched many through his music bringing many different cultures, and races together to embrace and explore Rastafari. He would sing about political issues that many artists at the time would not, he gave back to those in need and only spread positivity. This is what removed many of the negative stereotypes people relate to Rastafari, by seeing Marley make this impact while maintaining such a big platform is what humanized Rastafari to outsiders. Marley’s impact is still visible in our present day. “”In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Bob Marley number 11 in its list of the “”100 Greatest Artists of All Time””. In the Rolling Stone article, Wyclef Jean states “”. . . [Marley] brought the idea that through music, empowerment and words, you can really come up with world peace”” (Burke 2014)

Although Marley is not the only reggae musician who impacted the musical world, he is one of the most known. Many of his songs talk about peace and love to one another, which our modern society is lacking. People come together and sing his songs reflecting on the lyrics. “”He reminds the people to be strong and informs them that this is nothing more than another tribulation that is bringing them closer to Jah. In singing this song, Marley is being positive and taking on the role of a helpful big brother to those oppressed. He is soothing their sadness and weakness through his song, which gave their misery company and also gave them a way to temporarily relieve their pain and suffering”” (Haner 2007). His musical platform was very well known and his music was very much popularized that at times his spiritual message became diluted. But those who really listened accepted his message positively which is why his music is still relevant.

Reggae berings me to a new world, different view yet the same. It reflects positivity on myself, and in shorter words, provides a sense of happiness from the multitude of songs from the various artists. Marley’s music always had a spiritual and political message at times that message may have been diluted but it is never forgotten or ignored.

Bob Marley’s influence was more than just entertainment, he spread the spiritual and political message of Rastafari to the world through his music, his lyrics spoke equality, revolution, justice and change, dismissing many misconceptions of the Rastafari culture. Marley was not the only reggae artists to educate the people and to dismiss the negative stereotypes but he was one of the widely known.

Work Cited

Burke, Juleen S., “”The Bob Marley Effect: More Than Just Words”” (2014). Seton Hall University Dissertations and Theses (ETDs). 1923. http://scholarship.shu.edu/dissertations/1923

Haner, Mark. “”Bob Marley’s Spiritual Rhetoric, the Spread of Jamaican Culture and Rastafarianism”” (2007) Western Oregon University http://www.wou.edu/history/files/2015/08/Mark-Haner.pdf

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