For this biography assignment I chose the book ‘So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley’ by Roger Steffens. Roger Steffens goes on a unique approach to the book by interviewing 75 people Bob Marley knew. These such people included lovers, friends, and relatives.
Born on February 6th, 1945, Marley was the child of Norval Marley and Cedella Marley. Abandoned by his father, a white government overseer who raped a young girl, Marley was often called white boy or other names he didn’t find amusing. When he was just born, he lived in Saint Ann, then moved to the ghetto of Jamaica, more known as Trenchtown. Marley was an outcast and bullied mainly because of his different blood. Both his mom and dad treated him terribly, leaving him to sleep beneath the bottom of the house. Though Marley expressed and devoted his life to the black community, he did not have hate feelings against white people, even though back then slavery and segregation were big issues. While Marley was in Trechtown, a sense of purpose, even while living in one of the most dangerous and dirty slums in Jamaica. Marley grew up near gangs, including ‘The Rude Boys’ or teens who knew how to dress and knew how to fight.
In this period of time, new music from America was coming, like the blues and urban music that Jamaica never heard before. Jamaica made a new type of music called ‘ska’, music like American R&B. Marley didn’t want to grow up and be bad, he wanted to describe life there and to speak for the locals of how harsh life was through music. In 1963 Marley assembled a vocal group with an old friend Neville Livingston and Peter McIntosh. They spent a lot of time working on their music with a singer named Joe Higgs, who ran Studio One, the most successful recording house in the scene. One of the first songs they had written was called ‘Simmer Down’, a song on the local gangs to stop the violence before they would get into trouble, and it became a sensation. Voices from the ghettos were showing their life in a song and that quickly made an effect on their group. The groups new name was called ‘The Wailers’. After Dodd or Clement Coxsone Dodd saw Bob Marley’s ethic, a quick sense of trust was formed between them two.
Bob Marley got to rehearse with other music groups from Studio One, often including the Soulettes, which were a single teenage mother and a nursing student named Rita Anderson. Rita liked Marley and she always wanted to give Marley a feel of protection. Although Marley was looking at other women, he liked Rita because of her devotion. Later they both married in 1966 after his mother moved to Delware because she was tired of the Jamaica lifestyle. Marley did visit America, but he strongly disliked it and became homesick.
Then, in 1966 and 1967, the Wailers started to record music again. When they started to make new music, there became a decline for ska, and a slower rhythm type of music called ‘reggae’ began to become popular. Soon enough Marley got to reggae. After multiple setbacks and breakthroughs, the Wailers met Chris Blackwell, the man in charge of Island Records, who gave them an advance and out of that ‘Catch a Fire’ was made. Even though this record brought Marley up into the big leagues, it sold marginally. Only after Eric Clapton’s ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ was when Bob Marley was getting more noticed the fame he appreciated.
By the 70’s, Bob Marley’s influence was reflected by Stevie Wonder and even Elvis. By 1976, both strongly disliked Marley and his Rastafarian identities. Violence broke out and Marley made a song called ‘Smile Jamaica’ and more perceptions came out about how Marley wanted a leftist leader by the name of Michael Manley. Marley also received warnings from the CIA and many threats. Then, at about 9:00, two white cars drove up to his house and a dozen men came out with rifles. Rita, Marley’s wife, was hit in the head, Marley’s manager, Don Taylor, got hit 5 times, and Marley got hit in the chest. After this incident, Marley left the island for a long time, visiting Delaware and Miami and then England. Marley didn’t like his countrymen had guns up against him. Marley did go back to Jamaica in 1978 for a concert to keep Jamaica from exploding into war. After time went by, Michael Manley won, but there was still lots of political violence.
Marley said he survived that night when he got shot because of Haile Selassie. Haile was a living God for Rastafarians and died. When Haile died, Marley told multiple of his friends that he was not going to live past 36. After this, a horrific injury came to Marley when he was playing soccer with his friends. His foot was smashed and doctors said he can’t do anything on that foot, but he didn’t believe them and kept on playing soccer and doing activities that was making his foot worse. Then again, in 1977, he injured his right toe and this time was far worse. His toe wouldn’t heal. Doctors said to him the toe could turn cancerous and needs to be amputated. But Marley didn’t listen them, he thought they were lying. Then, in Miami he got a skin graft, and the treatment was successful.
When Marley finished recording tracks like ‘Confrontation’ and ‘Uprising’ in 1979, he didn’t know he could die any day. Without knowing that Marley took a long tour in 1980 and nearly passed during a concert. The next morning, he goes for a jog with a friend in central park his whole body freezes and he can’t move. Later, tests said that he had a brain tumor and it had spread into his lungs and brain. Marley had an estimated 10 weeks to live. Rita soon found out and wanted to cancel the show, but they wanted to continue, so Marley played his next show and then said no and stopped the whole tour. Marley was seen visiting multiple cancer clinics in New York and Mexico. Marley found out that he would have only 8 months left of his life till he died. Rita sang till she cried. Then Marley died on May 11th, 1981, at 36 years old.
This was the life of a famous musician, which is successfully covered in the book ‘So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley’ by Roger Steffens.