Were he still alive Reggae Legend Bob Marley would have celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday, February 6, 2015. Nearly 34 years after the musician died of cancer, the message in his music is still resonating with fans all over the world. Bob Marley’s appeal stretches across races, cultures and social barriers with many extracting personal meaning from the calls to demand change from leaders and within themselves. Today, his family and fans are making sure that his legacy is not forgotten, and have teamed up with several partners for a series of planned activities to celebrate his special day.
Bob Marley was born Robert Nesta Marley on February 6, 1945 in Nine Miles in the northeast parish of St. Ann in Jamaica. The singer started his career in 1963 performing as Bob Marley and the Wailers band. With his group, he recorded some of his earliest hits with producer Lee Scratch Perry, and it was during this time that Marley’s reputation began to grow internationally.
The Wailing Wailers released in 1965 by Studio One was the debut album for The Wailers. Photo Credit: ©BobMarley.com.
In the ensuing years, a devoted following clung to his skillful songwriting and unique vocal ability. In 1974, the Wailers disbanded and Marley began a solo career. He went on to release Exodus in 1977, which sold more than 75 million copies and in 1999 was voted Album of the Century by TIME Magazine. Marley’s music continued to climb the charts even after his death on May 11, 1981, and his 1984 “Legend” compilation continues to sell over 250,000 copies according to Nielsen Sound Scan. It is only the 17th album to exceed sales of 10 million copies since 1991 when SoundScan began to keep track of album sales.
As more songs were released posthumously from his extensive collection, Marley received The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 for “creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.” That same year, Bob Marley was accorded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, joining other musical legends including Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations.
This year, the life and work of the indomitable musical legend will be celebrated as fans in his home country and around the world remember the singer on his birthday. On February 6, the activities begin at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica, which is the artist’s former home and personal studio. These include an advanced screening of the never-before-seen ‘Easy Skanking In Boston ’78 concert which is scheduled for official release on February 17.
Natty Dread released in 1974 was the first album released as Bob Marley & the Wailers and the first recorded without former bandmates Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Photo Credit: ©BobMarley.com.
Reggae artists Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid and Nomaddz are among the performers at a Reggae Jam Session where the late singer’s 1976 111 Series Land Rover will be unveiled. Other activities include a symposium to discuss the Evolution of Marley, Reggae Music and Film, Reggae Music and Fashion and Marijuana and the Economy facilitated by lecturers from the University of the West Indies.
At Marley’s famed Kingston studio, Tuff Gong International, the celebrations will involve students from surrounding schools who will be treated to storytelling from books written by the singer’s daughter Cedella Marley. The celebration will culminate with the Redemption Live Concert at Kingston’s Waterfront on February 7, 2015. The concert will feature a special Marley Tribute by the Marley Brothers and performances by Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths, both former backup singers for the late singer as member of the I-Threes. Other top Reggae acts like Tarrus Riley, Capleton, Richie Spice, and Freddie McGregor are also scheduled to perform. The concert will be free of charge to the public and streamed live online to the delight of fans around the globe.
Throughout the year, the Marley estate will also release a series of stories surrounding the life and legacy of the late singer on the official website. Each month will feature a different episode of a poignant event in Bob Marley’s life. The first episode features his inaugural performance in Africa in 1980 on the invitation of the royal family of Gabon. During the visit, Bob Marley and the Wailers played two concerts at the Gymnase Omnisport Bongo in the capital city of Libreville on January 4th and 6th.
Legend was the twelfth album by Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the second posthumous album, released in 1984 by Island Records. Photo Credit: ©BobMarley.com.
Marley’s fan following and deep-rooted appreciation for his music continues to grow as listeners around the globe identify with his poignant lyrics which hit out against oppressors and agitate for social change. Devotees not only look forward to the annual birthday celebrations, but also pay homage at his birthplace in St. Ann and the Museum in Kingston when visiting Jamaica.