40 years later, Bob Marley’s rich legacy thrives
On December 8, 2020, men walk past the wall of a closed bar in Rio de Janeiro with the poster of the late Jamaican singer Bob Marley and former Brazilian footballer Pele hugging each other. Photo: AFP
Four decades have passed since the death of Bob Marley, a time longer than the brief but powerful life of the reggae icon as skin cancer ended at the age of 36.
Yet Marley lives as the voice of the dispossessed, the palpable dynamism, spirit of protest and moral zeal of his songs including “One Love”, “Redemption Song” and “I Shot The Sheriff” enduring somehow little music. popular have never done.
His rich hymns of peace and struggle, of hope and discontent, still resonate around the world and especially in his native Jamaica, a small nation whose rich culture that his most famous son popularized around the world.
“They say the brightest stars sometimes don’t burn that long and in many ways Bob Marley was our brightest star; he accomplished a lot in a short period of time,” said Judy Mowatt, member of origin of the influential I -Three trio whose voice supported Marley.
“Looking back now, I believe in many ways it was before its time,” Mowatt told AFP.
“His words were prophetic. He was a man who believed everything he sang.”
Marley was diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma in 1977, which was first discovered under a toenail when he suffered a foot injury while playing soccer.
He opted against doctors’ recommendations to amputate his toe, a procedure that allegedly violated his staunch Rastafarian faith.
While in New York City in 1980 performing two shows at Madison Square Garden, Marley collapsed while jogging in Central Park. He was rushed to hospital, where doctors found cancer had entered his brain, lungs and liver.
Marley performed what would be his last show in Pittsburgh on September 23, 1980. Shortly after, he interrupted his tour and underwent months of alternative cancer treatment in Germany.
On his way back to Jamaica to receive one of his country’s highest honors, the Order of Merit, Marley’s condition worsened. He landed in Miami to seek emergency treatment.
“Money cannot buy life,” he reportedly told his son Ziggy from his hospital bed before his death on May 11, 1981, 40 to the day on Tuesday.
Hearing of Marley’s death is a moment etched in Mowatt’s consciousness.
“It was a Monday morning, sitting on the porch like I am now, and I got the phone call Bob made,” she said. “It was very painful. All the years we worked together came to an end and it hit me.
“Bob was gone forever.”
Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica on May 21, 1981, combining elements of the Ethiopian Orthodox and Rastafarian tradition. He was lauded by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga and buried in a chapel near his birthplace, along with his guitar.
The 40th anniversary of Marley’s death in 2021 is particularly moving, as 2021 marked the death of the last surviving member of the original Wailers, Bunny.
“This is the first year that we commemorate Bob’s transition anniversary from 1981 in the context of the departure of the three Wailers, Peter [Tosh] having left in 1987, and Bunny survived them for 40 years and 33 years respectively, making the transition here in 2021, “said Maxine Stowe, longtime director of Bunny Wailer.
The Wailers “are now reunited in another plane of existence,” Stowe said.