RIP Robert Nesta Marley: May 11, 1981

Bob Marley: Feb. 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981. Conductor of Jah’s Heavenly Choir


A sad milestone in the history of Reggae music. On this day in 1981 Bob Marley lost his brutal fight with cancer.

How does as black man die of melanoma? Ah, but remember, Bob’s father was a white man. Cruelest of ironies.

Bob’s father: Capt. Norval Marley

There has been a lot of second guessing with Bob’s disease. He supposedly had an infected toe from accidentally being spiked while playing soccer. As the wound festered, somehow it turned to cancer.

The Secret History of Reggae would suggest that Bob needed to have half of his foot amputated.

One of the theories is that Bob would not abide amputation because it went against his Rasta/Nazirite beliefs that you neither cut nor crease your flesh.

Wikipedia on Nazirite vows blended with Rasta belief by Bob and his fellow Rastas:

  • Abstain from wine, wine vinegargrapesraisins;
  • Refrain from cutting the hair on one’s head;
  • Avoid corpses and graves, even those of family members, and any structure which contains such.
  • Leviticus 19:28: “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.”

Here is a great Wikipedia entry devoted to the diversity of belief within the Rastafari Movement in Jamaica and the Diaspora

Mansions of Rastafari

Iyesus Kristos an Emperor Haile Selassie I is 1

Surgery of that magnitude  would have made Bob’s phenomenally successful “Babylon By Bus” tours promoting Exodus and Kaya impossible. Bob was conquering Europe, Japan and America during those crucial years.  100,000 in Milan, Jah-taly.

And to validate his rebel spirit, Bob was the musical act to celebrate the liberation of African Zimbabwe ousting white minority Rhodesia. Bob Marley the Real Revolutionary.


By Survival and his last album, Uprising. Bob was starting to gain the support of the last holdouts to his musical charisma. That would be the important American black music consumer coming out of the decadence of Disco.

Kevin MacDonald’s superb biography of Bob’s life Marley went as far to suggest that doctors would have preferred to have Bob’s leg disarticulated entirely.

Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives Grade: A+

Disarticulation is the clinical term for radical amputation.

In the wake of Bob’s passing, at least a score of his bredrin & sistren took to the recording studios to rush tribute songs to the airwaves.


Over the decades, I have devoted Smile Jamaica editions to his legacy entitled Memorial Roots: Livicated to the life works of Bob Marley.

Livicated never dead-icated. One of the Nazirite vows is to not be around death or houses of death. As The Wailers, Peter Tosh and Bunny have sang: No Funeral. No Burial.

Yet, for me, the tragedy becomes the mechanism to recognize the dramatic legacy of Bob who died as he was just about to shoot off into superstardom. With MTV, the breakdown of barriers to black music sold to white kids, his exotic charisma, Bob Marley would have had an 80s musical discography to rival Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, U2 and Madonna.

Imagine Bob Marley at the vanguard against Reaganism and  Thatcherism in the 80s. How he would have celebrated the end of the Cold War, the liberation of South Africa. So for me I can’t resist the tragic irony.

Saturday May 11, 2013, the calendar synched for Smile Jamaica to feature 3 hours of Bob Tributes, bootleg live, covers and rarities. Worth a listen to hear the love Bob’s contemporaries had for him and his legacy.

I think in 500 years they will be talking about three artists of the 20th century like we all know Bach, Mozart and Beethoven: The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Bob Marley

bless, robt


Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives Presents: Memorial Roots – Tribute to Bob Marley; May 11, 2013


Tribute to Bob Marley who joined Jah’s Heavenly Choir on this date, 32 years ago.

Cedella Marley Booker – Mother Don’t Cry; Awake Zion (Rykodisc) ‘84; tribute from Bob’s Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Roots Rock Reggae in Dub vol. 1 (Tuff Gong); Dub Album of the Week; dub cuts to Marley vox

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Wake Up and Live; Brisbane, Australia ‘79

Ronnie Davis – Kaya; Jah Love (Music Club);  4:20 Cannabis Service Announcement; version galore(1); Bob cover vox

Shorty the President – Kaya; Fire Fire (Charmers); ‘78 Canadian vinyl; version galore(2): Bob cover deejay; ***End of Set 1

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Kaya; Milan, Italy ‘80; herb tune

Sister Carol – Dedicated to Bob Marley; Black Cinderella (Jah Life/Heartbeat) ‘84 singjay tribute

Jimmy Cliff – No Woman No Cry; Follow My Mind (Wounded Bird) ‘75 cover

Johnny Clarke – Crazy Baldhead; Authorized Rockers (Virgin Front Line) ‘76 UK vinyl ‘76; ***End of Set 2

Stevie Wonder – Master Blaster (Jammin’); Hotter Than July (Motown) ‘80

Jah Pelikaho & the Wailers – Jammin’; 21st Century Dub (ROIR)  ’80 Wailers go a Jah-pon

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Heathen; Live at the Sunplaza; Tokyo, Jah-pon Apr. 10, 1979; ***End of Set 3

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Africans Unite; Libreville Gabon West Africa; Libreville Jan. 6, 1980

Rita Marley – I’m Still Waiting; Who Feels It Knows It (Shanachie) ‘80

Culture – Double Tribute to the O.M.; Lion Rock (Heartbeat) ‘87 Order of Merit Jamaica’s highest honor; ***End of Set 4

Heptones – Natural Mystic; Good Life (Greensleeves) UK vinyl ‘79

Ziggy Marley – Pass It On; Hawaii 5-0 Soundtrack (CBS)

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Positive Vibration; Kaya Deluxe Edition (Tuff Gong) ‘78; bonus disk: Live at the Ahoy, Rotterdam Netherlands July 17, 1978

Judy Mowatt – Joseph; Black Woman (Shanachie) ‘76; comparing Bob to the Biblical Prophet

Bob Marley & the Wailers – War/No More Trouble – Portland July 14, 1978; Request. Lyrics from speech HIM gave at the UN

Gregory Isaacs – Slave Driver; Sly & Robbie Present (RAS)  ’87

Prince Far I – Tribute to Bob Marley; Voice of Thunder (Trojna) ‘80; ***End of Set 6

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Conquering Lion; One Love Peace Concert; Kingston, JA; 4/22/78; Bob plays political peacemaker

Ijahman Levi – Bob and Friends Over There; Inside Out (Jahmani); ‘89; ***End of Set 7

Mikey Dread – In Memory (Jacob, Marcus, Marley); S.W.A.L.K. (Heartbeat)

Bob Marley & the Wailers- Slave Driver; Boston ‘75; June 25 @ Paul’s Mall

Tinga Stewart – Key to Your Heart (Calabash) ‘83’ Florida vinyl

Jennifer Lara – Natural Mystic; Studio One Rub a Dub (Studio One/s/Soul Jazz)

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Get Up Stand Up; Live Forever; Live at the Stanel Theater 93/23/80

Bob Marley & the Wailers


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