Sims/Nash continue to groom Bob Marley for international stardom,
while the Wailers lay their first versions of later hits like
"Don't Rock My Boat," and "Soul Rebel." Peter
records "Stepping Razor," written by mentor Joe Higgs.
From 67-69, the Wailers had frequent periods in which they fled
the tension-filled confines of Kingston for solace in the hills
of Bob's birth in Nine Miles, in the parish of St. Ann. Here
they grow food and live communally, composing songs and regaining
touch with the sources of their original inspiration.
In the summer Bob and Rita visit Bob's mother in Delaware. There,
Bob prophesies to a couple of young American friends, Ibis Pitts
and Dion Wilson: "I am going to die when I am 36."
On the night before Woodstock, Bob and Ibis stay up all night
twisting beads and wires into hippie jewelry to sell at the festival.
Bob writes "Comma Comma" which becomes an international
hit for Johnny Nash.
During the late 60s Bob also records his rarest song, "Selassie
Is The Chapel," written especially for him by Mortimo Planno.
Only 26 copies are pressed, twelve of which are brought to Ethiopia
by Bob's close friend, Jamaican football hero Allan "Skill"
In the spring, the Wailers agree to record an album for Leslie
Kong, Bob's original producer, who has now become a millionaire
from the sales of such songs as "My Boy Lollipop" and
"The Israelites." The Wailers make the world's first
real reggae album (as opposed to a collection of singles) called
"The Best of the Wailers," a set of songs designed
as a pep talk to themselves. Bunny urges Kong not to title the
album this way, claiming that one never knows one's best until
he is at the end of his life. Since the Wailers are so fit, Bunny
reasons, it must mean that the young Kong is at the end of his
life. Kong ignores the warning and eventually releases the album
with that title. Shortly after, he drops dead.
Next the Wailers join with another emigré from Coxson's
studio, the diminutive sprite called Lee "Scratch"
Perry. Their time together lasts less than a year, but it produces
what many consider the finest trio work of the Wailers' career,
backed by the powerful Upsetters rhythm team of the Barrett Brothers,
Aston "Family Man" on bass and Carlton on drums. They
record such classics as "Soul Rebel," "400 Years,"
"No Sympathy," "Kaya," "Brand New Secondhand,"
"Mr. Brown," Dreamland," and "African Herbsman."
They agree with Perry that all proceeds from the sales of their
records will be split 50-50, an arrangement which Perry negates
almost immediately. He sells their tapes to Trojan in England,
who release them as the albums "Soul Rebels," "African
Herbsman," and "Soul Revolution Part II," but
the Wailers never see a penny from any of them (and have not
to the present time).
Furious with Perry, the Wailers start another label, Tuff Gong,
titled after a nickname Bob has been given among his ghetto brethren,
to be managed by "Skill" Cole. They persuade the Barrett
Brothers to leave Perry and become a permanent part of the Wailers.
Peter records several solo singles, both vocal and instrumental,
for Joe Gibbs, including "Maga Dog" and "Them
A Fi Get A Beaten." Producing themselves, the Wailers begin
a new series of local hits, including "Screw Face,"
"Trench Town Rock," "Concrete Jungle," "Guava
Jelly" (also successfully recorded by Barbara Streisand
and Johnny Nash), and "Lively Up Yourself." Bob spends
much of the year in Sweden where he helps Nash write the soundtrack
to a movie in which the American singer is starring. The film
flops, and only two instrumentals by Bob make it onto the score.
Peter covers "Here Comes the Sun," and also releases
"Once Bitten" and "Arise Blackman Arise."
Bunny begins his own Solomonic label, releasing "Search
for Love." Bob is brought to England to back a Johnny Nash
tour in which Nash is billed as "the King of Reggae."
During '71 and '72, Bob plays more than 400 shows in high schools
and colleges throughout Britain. A final Danny Sims-Nash session
yields a CBSUK single "Reggae on Broadway." Sims signs
the Wailers to white Jamaican millionaire Chris Blackwell, whose
Island records has been rereleasing Jamaican recordings since
1961, including Bob's early solo work, as well as the initial
Wailers records. Blackwell gives Bunny, Bob and Peter £8,000
to record an album, "Catch A Fire," which they complete
in less than a month.
"Catch A Fire" is released in a unique zippo-lighter
cover and receives ecstatic reviews which hail it as a masterpiece
of the newly sophisticated Caribbean sound. The Wailers play
emotional concerts live on the BBC, and open in New York City's
Max's Kansas City club for Bruce Springsteen. The group records
a follow-up album called "Burning which proves to be the
trio's final release together. During the winter of 72-73, the
Wailers reportedly work every day in the UK for three months,
either in the studio or in concert, and at the end of that time
they each receive £100. Bunny quits the group to pursue
a solo career and vows never to return to Babylon. In October,
Bob and Peter open an American tour with Sly and the Family Stone,
but Sly fires them after five shows because they are not connecting
with his audience. By the end of the year, Peter Tosh quits as
well, wishing to pursue his own music. The future for the Wailers
A time of regrouping for the band, as Bob keeps the core of the
Barrett Brothers rhythm section to back him now as a solo artist
under the name Bob Marley and the Wailers. He replaces Peter
and Bunny with a trio of female singers who have had successful
careers in Jamaica: Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley.
The resulting album "Natty Dread," is his breakthrough,
acclaimed as a militant work of uncompromising revolutionary
fervor. Peter starts his own Intel-Diplo H.I.M. (Intelligent
Diplomat for His Imperial Majesty) label, releasing "What
You Gonna Do," "Burial," and "Ketchy Shuby,"
Bob tours internationally, playing a notable series of dates
at London's Lyceum Theatre, which result in the "Live"
album. He makes his first network television appearance on CBS's
"Manhattan Transfer Show," singing "Kinky Reggae."
He plays the Roxy in L.A. to a star-studded music industry audience
that dances on the tables. Ecstatic onlookers include Beatles
George and Ringo, Bob Dylan and Jack Nicholson. In Europe Bob
is hailed as a superstar.
"Jah Live," a musical denial of the reports of Haile
Selassie's death in September in Ethiopia, is recorded, along
with "War," a version of a speech that Haile Selassie
gave to the United Nations. By this year, Bob has been transformed
from a rock star into a shaman-like figure of great moral rectitude,
whose words have political reverberations internationally.
"Rastaman Vibration" becomes Bob's only top-ten album
in America, and sells millions of copies worldwide. He plays
major European venues, selling out everywhere. By the end of
the year, rightly or wrongly, it is felt in Jamaica that Bob's
endorsement of a candidate can actually swing a national election
to that person.
Bob approaches socialist Prime Minister Michael Manley, offering
to perform a free concert for his countrymen, insisting however
that the event be free of any political overtones. Manley agrees,
setting Sunday, December 5 as the date for a gigantic festival
in Kingston's Heroes Park Circle. But once Bob has accepted,
Manley announces that national elections will be held shortly
after the event. Bob has been co-opted, and immediately comes
under death threats from the opposition party of right-wing candidate
Edward Seaga. On Friday night, December 3, several gunmen break
into Bob's compound at S6 Hope Road in Kingston, and shoot Bob,
his wife, and Don Taylor, his manager. Two nights later, Bob
appears before 80,000 people and plays an emotional set of music,
displaying his wounds to the crowd. He then leaves the island
for a 14 month exile.
Bob spends much of this year in London, living with the reigning
Miss World, Cindy Breakspeare. He records enough material for
two albums, "Exodus" and "Kaya," and prepares
to embark on what is planned as the biggest reggae tour in history.
Bob performs the European leg, including a filmed concert at
London's Rainbow, but cancels the tour at the end of June when
doctors diagnose melanoma cancer in his right foot. He has part
of the big toe on that foot removed, hoping this will stop the
spread of the disease. "Exodus" is released to mixed
reviews which claim that Bob has gone soft following the assassination
attempt on his life.
Bob is approached by rival gunmen from Jamaica's two leading
political parties, and asked to come home to headline the "One
Love Peace Concert." The event is to be held to cement a
truce declared by the warring factions in Kingston's ghettoes.
On April 22, the 12th anniversary of Selassie's visit to Jamaica,
under a full moon, Bob is the final performer in an eight-hour
concert at the National Stadium. At its triumphant finale, he
calls onstage Prime Minister Manley and his political enemy Edward
Seaga and makes them shake hands in front of 100,000 people.
For his actions that night, and for his exemplary devotion to
world unity and the struggle against oppression, Bob receives
the United Nations' Peace Medal in New York in June, given "on
behalf of 500 million Africans." That summer, his "Kaya"
tour sets new attendance records.
Bob brings reggae to countries that have never heard it live
before, including Japan, New Zealand and Australia. His new album
"Survival" is greeted enthusiastically as a return
to his most militant roots. He plays a benefit at Harvard Stadium
in Boston to raise funds for African freedom fighters, and makes
three powerful speeches about recognizing Rasta as God Almighty,
legalizing herb, and uniting humanity for common purpose. His
performance that day is recognized as one of the strongest of
his life, and parts of his impromptu declarations are later incorporated
into his evocative ballad "Redemption Song." But those
around him sense a permanent weariness and fatigue, his face
becoming drawn and lined with pain.
Bob is invited by the King of Gabon to perform in Libreville
in January, one of only two performances Bob ever gave in Africa.
The second is historic: On April 17, Bob headlines the independence
celebrations in Zimbabwe, spending more than $250,000 of his
own funds to bring his group there. That summer, he tours Europe
with a tumultuously successful review based on his new album
"Uprising." He plays to over 100,000 people in Milan,
in a soccer stadium where the Pope had appeared the week before.
Bob outdraws the Pope. In September he begins the American part
of the world tour as opening act for the Commodores for two sold-out
nights in Madison Square Garden, anxious to reach the AfricanAmerican
audience which has always eluded him. The following day, Bob
collapses in Central Park while jogging with Danny Sims and "Skill"
Cole. Doctors tell him the melanoma cancer has spread to his
lungs and brain, and say that he has but weeks to live. Nevertheless,
he flies to Pittsburgh and performs his final concert at the
Stanley Theatre on September 23, then returns to NY for treatment.
Doctors there give up at the end of October. Desperate, he turns
to an ex-SS Nazi doctor named Josef Issels in Bavaria, and flies
to his Bavarian clinic as the year ends.
Dr. Issels keeps Bob alive for several months, but at the beginning
of May he tells Bob there is no more hope. Bob leaves for Jamaica,
but makes it only as far as Miami, where his mother lives. On
Monday morning, May 11, Bob dies in the company of his family.
His final words to son Ziggy are "Money can't buy life."
Jamaica goes into a state of shock: even Parliament recesses
for the next ten days. On May 21 a state funeral is held with
Edward Seaga, newly elected Prime Minister, ironically delivering
Bob's eulogy. The biggest crowd in Caribbean history watches
as Bob's body is driven home to his birthplace in Nine Mile,
St. Ann. Seaga issues seven postage stamps in his honor, and
raises a statue to his memory. His headquarters at 56 Hope Road
is turned into the Bob Marley Museum.