Written by Fereshteh Akhavan
Bob Marley, August 1979
Marley's stay in America was short-lived, however, and he returned to Jamaica to join up again with Peter and Bunny. By the end of the Sixties, with the legendary reggae producer Lee "Scratch" Perry at the mixing desk, The Wailers were again back at the top in Jamaica. They defined the future direction of reggae.
The band's own reputation was, at the start of the Seventies, an extraordinary one throughout the Caribbean. However, the band was still unknown internationally.
That was to change in 1972 when the Wailers signed to Island Records. It was a revolutionary move for an international record company and a reggae band. For the first time a reggae band had access to the best recording facilities and were treated in the same way as a rock group. Before the Wailers signed to Island, it was considered that reggae sold only on singles and cheap compilation albums. The Wailer's first album, Catch A Fire broke all the rules: it was beautifully packaged and heavily promoted. And it was the start of a long climb to international fame and recognition.
Rastaman Vibration, an album out in 1976, cracked the American charts. It was, for many, the clearest exposition yet of Marley's music and beliefs.
There were two events in 1978, both of which were of extraordinary significance to Marley. In April that year he returned to Jamaica (he had left in 1976 after the shooting that had almost cost him his life), to play the One Love Peace Concert in front of the Prime Minister Michael Manley, and the then Leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga. And at the end of the year he visited Africa for the first time, going initially to Kenya and then on to Ethiopia, spiritual home of Rastafari.
In 1979 the Survival LP was released. A European tour came the following year. At the end of the European tour, Bob Marley & The Wailers went to America. Bob played two shows at Madison Square Garden but, immediately afterwards he was seriously ill. Cancer was diagnosed.
Marley fought the disease for eight months. The battle, however, proved to be too much. He died in a Miami Hospital on May 11,1981.
A month before the end Bob was awarded Jamaica's Order of Merit, the nations' third highest honor, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the country's culture.
On Thursday, May 23,1981, the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley was given an official funeral by the people of Jamaica. Following the funeral -- attended by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition -- Bob's body was taken to his birthplace where it now rests in a mausoleum. Bob Marley was 36 years old. His legend lives on.