Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
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You know a musician is iconic if they’re not only able to achieve mainstream success in a non-pop music genre, but are still quoted, inspiring and remembered decades after they’ve passed. One of those iconic musicians is Bob Marley, a reggae pioneer that you’ll still see on t-shirts and posters while people jam out to his music. His life was cut far too short because of cancer in the early 1980s, but many remember not just his music, but the message of peace and love that he spread throughout the world.Advertisements:
Marley was born in the Nine Mile district of what was then known as British Jamaica on February 6, 1945 to a father was part of the Royal Marines while his mother was a Jamaican native. Marley didn’t see his father much while growing up, and after he had passed away, Marley’s mother married a man from the United States. Marley spent much of his youth in Kingston, Jamaica where he became interested in music for the first time after listening to the radio.
Marley made his way to Trenchtown where he had hopes of becoming a vocalist, and quickly became a local success. Marley became the frontman for a group that originally consisted of himself, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer called Bob Marley and the Wailers. The lineup changed significantly throughout the years, and with Marley at just 20 years old, the group released their first album called “The Wailing Wailers”.
That initial album followed a few years of recording singles, though they wouldn’t find mainstream success outside of their island nation. After releasing a handful of albums with Upsetter and Trojan Records, Marley and the Wailers signed on with Island Records while establishing their own Tuff Gong label. The breakout proved to come in 1973 when the group released the album “Catch a Fire thanks to the song “Stir It Up”.
The follow up album “Burnin’” released in later that year became their second Billboard 200 album of 1973 with the protest song “Get Up, Stand Up” and the hit song “I Shot the Sheriff”. Marley’s music became a mainstream success in the United Kingdom throughout the rest of the 1970s thanks to songs like “Waiting in Vain”, “Jamming” and “One Love/People Get Ready”, while also starting to find radio play in the United States.
Marley had moved to the United Kingdom, which helped his popularity there. The reason behind it, though, left a lot to be desired. After a political uprising in Jamaica, Marley performed a concert in hopes of stopping the violence on both sides. This led to an attempt at taking his life in December 1976, with multiple men raiding his home and shooting Marley. Thankfully, nobody that was fired at passed away from the gunshots.
Nancy Burke claims to have been in the home at the time, saying that “You could hear this gunfire going on and on and all these shots being fired. And it was so shocking because we couldn’t see it, but it was just a few feet away. I sank to my knees, I just didn’t know what to do...The silence (that followed) seemed like forever, which was even more terrifying.” She added that when it came to the assailants, “It’s hard to know what the reality is...Nobody had been caught, nobody knew how or why.”
Marley’s albums were seeing some impressive record sales across the world, earning gold status in the United States multiple times and at one point had become multi-platinum in Canada. Even if you had never heard Marley’s songs being played on the radio, there was a good chance that you knew who he was. Many younger people had bought his albums or went to go see his live performances which became celebrations of peace and love. Unfortunately, health problems started during the height of Marley’s career.
Marley’s body had already been subject to cancer in the middle of the 1970s, but it wasn’t found until he had an examination that found cancer underneath one of his toenails. It was suggested that Marley had the toe amputated, but he declined and went through an alternate treatment so that he could keep touring. Over the next few years, Marley had some of his most memorable performances, but when the 1980s started, his health got worse.
While he was out for a jog, Marley collapsed and was taken to a hospital, where an examination found that the cancer had spread to his brain and that his time was short. In a last hope effort, Marley continued his alternative treatment, but it was to no avail. Knowing that he only had a few days left, Marley attempted to go to his native Jamaica hoping that it would be his final resting place, but his plane had to stop in Miami as the days were only hours.
On May 11, 1981, Marley passed away at just 36 years old, leaving the music world and people in general all in mourning. Jamaica gave him a funeral on behalf of the state, with many of the country’s residents in attendance. You can see many tributes in Jamaica, including statues of the late performer.
Many of his famous sayings also resonate with people all these years later. “Life is one big road with lots of signs,” Marley said. “So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake up and live.”