Bob Marley is in the air in Jamaica. Even the taxi driver took us on a detour to show off a new statue honouring his memory and his legacy.
On 11 May 2011 scores of reggae fans from across the globe placed roses before a statue of Bob Marley to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of a musician whose charismatic, loose-limbed stage presence and lyrics promoting “one love” took Jamaican music to an international audience. Tourists watched as three clerics from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church spread incense and holy water around the Bob Marley Museum, the singer’s former home in the capital of Kingston.
Bob Marley (1945-81), holder of Jamaica’s Order of Merit, was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rocksteady, and reggae band Bob Marley & The Wailers (1963-81). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited with helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience. Social issues facing Jamaica strongly influenced Marley’s music. His best-known songs include “I Shot the Sheriff”, “No Woman, No Cry”, “Could You Be Loved”, “Redemption Song”, and “One Love”. The compilation album Legend (1984), released three years after his death, is reggae’s best-selling album.
Marley was a well-known member of the Rastafari movement, whose culture was key to the development of reggae. Marley took their music out of the socially deprived areas of Jamaica and onto the international music scene. Today, the Marley family run the Bob Marley Foundation to support local communities where the need for charitable assistance is greatest. Founded in 1986, the Foundation has been involved with art exhibitions, film festivals, workshops for cultural development and talent shows. The highlight is Bob Marley Week, a celebration of Marley’s life organized in collaboration with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission.
Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella, has said: “Our dad was careful not to define himself. He may be a messenger of hope, but he did not call himself anything. He was just who he was, and often he worked only for others, so they would have food to eat, clothes to wear. Now we’ve come full circle, second and third generation. Daddy would be so proud today to see the seeds he planted – ‘Row fisherman row, you’re going to reap what you sow.’ Of this he was certain, his riches, as he liked to say, were his children.”
Marley’s message continues to reverberate internationally among various indigenous communities. For instance, the Aboriginal people of Australia burn a sacred flame to honour his memory in Sydney’s Victoria Park, while some members of the Native American Hopi and Havasupai tribe consider Marley to be the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy. Such is his legacy that in 2008 a statue of Bob Marley was unveiled in a small Serbian village during a rock festival as a token of peace in the Balkans. As the man himself said, “We should really love each other in peace and harmony, instead we’re fussin’ n fighting like we ain’t supposed to be.”