His music transcended all categories, classes and creeds - Robert "Bob" Nesta Marley OM (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981)
Marley was born in the small village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica as Nesta Robert Marley. A Jamaican passport official would later swap his first and middle names. His father, Norval Sinclair Marley, (born in 1895), was a white Jamaican of English descent, who lived in Liverpool. Norval was a Marine officer and captain, as well as a plantation overseer, when he married Cedella Booker, a black Jamaican then eighteen years old.
In 1955, when Marley was 10 years old, his father died of a heart attack at age 60. Marley suffered racial prejudice as a youth, because of his duel heritage origins and faced questions about his own racial identity throughout his life.
He once reflected: "I don't have prejudice against himself. My father was a white and my mother was black. Them call me half-caste or whatever. Me don't dip on nobody's side. Me don't dip on the black man's side nor the white man's side. Me dip on God's side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white."
Bob Marley was a hero figure, in the classic mythological sense. His departure from this planet came at a point when his vision of One World, One Love – inspired by his belief in Rastafari – was beginning to be heard and felt.
Bob's story is that of an archetype, which is why it continues to have such a powerful and ever-growing resonance: it embodies political repression, metaphysical and artistic insights, gangland warfare and various periods of mystical wilderness. And his audience continues to widen.
The Island of Jamaica has produced an artist who has transcended all categories, classes, and creeds through a combination of innate modesty and profound wisdom. Bob Marley, the Natural Mystic, may yet prove to be the most significant musical artist of the twentieth century.
At the end of the European tour Marley and the band went to America. Bob played two shows at Madison Square Garden but, immediately afterwards, was taken seriously ill. Three years earlier, in London, Bob hurt a toe while playing football. The wound had become cancerous. Eventually the battle proved too much. At the start of May Bob Marley left Germany for his Jamaican home, a journey he did not complete. He died in a Miami hospital on Monday May 11, 1981.
The previous month, Marley had been awarded Jamaica's Order Of Merit, the nation's third highest honour, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the country's culture.
On Thursday May 21, 1981, the Hon. Robert Nesta Marley O.M. was given an official funeral by the people of Jamaica. Following the service - attended by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition - Marley's body was taken to his birthplace at Nine Mile, on the north of the island, where it now rests in a mausoleum. Bob Marley was 36-years-old. His legend, however, has conquered the years.
* Bishop Derek Webley, MBE, is district bishop for the New Testament Church of God, in Villa Road, Handsworth.