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The Legend Bob Marley

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The legend Bob Marley

"On February 6, 1945, in a small village on the island of Jamaica, the musician who brought reggae, a popular rhythm of his land, to be recognized worldwide was born. He grew up in a house without electricity, without the presence of his father, and faced rejection from his family due to the color of his skin. This is the touching story of a man who died of cancer at the age of 36 while seeking treatments in Mexico and Germany that were considered "miraculous."

On February 6, 1945, in Jamaica, Bob Marley was born. Today he would be turning 75 years old. Marley was a singer and composer of reggae, a musical style known for its distinctive rhythm of bass, drums, and chord repetition. His music became a very important cultural, social, and political symbol for Jamaica.

Jamaica is a small Caribbean island that is usually associated with paradisiacal beaches, but also with structural poverty. It is famous for the speed of its athletes, such as Usain Bolt, who has won three Olympic gold medals and has set world records in the 100 meters. Additionally, it is related to the "spiritual" consumption of marijuana and the practice of the Rastafarian religion, which advocates for the return of black tribes from around the world to Africa, their motherland.

Marley was an exceptional figure, a surprising blend of spiritual leader and social activist, similar to a combination of an enlightened being and Che Guevara. Through his brilliant social songs, he turned a popular rhythm of his land into a universal heritage. His impact was so profound that nothing was ever the same. Jon Pareles, a prominent pop music critic for The New York Times, described him as "the voice of the pain and resistance of the third world," someone who never gave up his roots. For the marginalized around the world, Marley will always be their champion. His legacy continues to influence our lives significantly.

Marley's songs, which are some of the most listened to in the world alongside those of The Beatles and the great hits of bossa nova, address issues such as poverty, justice, and oppression. But they also convey a message of dignity and hope. Each of his songs has something special that makes every listener, no matter where or when they hear them, feel valuable and unique.

Marley is a very special artist, as he was the first global rock star born in the Third World. He represents and speaks on behalf of the people. Although his music has religious roots and is often associated with fun, he never shows obvious commercial interest. Despite this, he has sold millions of copies of his records through multinational record companies. Even after his death, reissues of his albums and new recordings continue to appear, leading to a dispute over his inheritance involving numerous lawyers and his extensive family, composed of nine wives, partners, and lovers, and twelve recognized children.

No Western music star occupied a more powerful cultural and social position on the world stage. The book titled after one of his many famous songs, "So Much Things to Say," written by perhaps the greatest expert on his life and work, American journalist and collector Roger Steffens, feeds a spiritual theory to explain the phenomenon. Many of those interviewed there - friends, partners, children, colleagues, experts - portray him as a Christian figure: a child born with nothing who becomes a deeply spiritual person, a natural leader, and, they say, a prophet who could see the future. Steffens reports that when Marley was at his peak, "his live shows began to resemble gospel meetings with a preacher and his (female) choir."

Cedella Booker was a Jamaican woman of African descent, 18 years old, and worked in the field and at home when she met the British Marine Infantry captain, Norval Marley, who was Jamaican but of English descent and white skin. However, this relationship did not last long because Norval, 50 years old, had other family commitments and did not want to stay with Cedella. One day, Cedella realized that she was pregnant with a child she decided to name Robert Nesta Marley Booker.

Little Robert and his mother lived their early years in Nine Mile, about 3 hours from Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. Cedella worked hard every day to support her son. In the small rural house where they lived, they had no water or electricity. Although his father recognized him and eventually provided him with financial support, Bob never had contact with him because of the prejudices of his grandmother, Norval's mother. They did not want to be seen with a dark-skinned child. When Bob was 9 years old, they moved to the Trench Town ghetto in western Kingston, a neighborhood affected by political violence and crime, with dirt streets and cardboard houses. It was there that Bob grew up and was raised. When he was young, Bob Marley was treated unfairly because of the family and racial history he carried with him. "He was like the ugly duckling," recalls Bunny Wailer, who along with Bob formed the famous band The Wailers, which would be important for the rest of their lives. Marley spent many nights sleeping on the cold floor with a stone as a pillow. Additionally, he was considered a pariah: whites saw him as a black child, while blacks, critical of mixed-race children, mocked him by calling him "the yellow boy." For Bob, his skin color seemed to be an obstacle wherever he went, leading him to isolate himself. He was a lonely soul who relied on his own inner strengths.

In 1963, when he was 18 years old, Marley allied with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh to form the group Wailing Wailers, to which Junior BraithWaite and the backing vocalists Beverly Kelso and Cherry Smith later joined. They recorded and released the single "Simmer Down," a cheerful rhythm song - close to ska, which is like an earlier and slightly faster version of reggae - whose lyrics portrayed the street bands of Kingston. After that, they became known as The Wailers and a couple of years later, they transformed into Bob Marley & The Wailers. With that project in 1972, he arrived in England. He was hired by the small label Island Records owned by an enterprising Jamaican music lover residing in London, Chris Blackwell.

In a production published by Rolling Stone magazine in March 2014, Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, shared his impressions of Bob Marley, whom he considers the most important discovery of his life. At first, Blackwell thought that Marley and The Wailers would be like Jimi Hendrix, a black rock act. However, he was amazed by the breadth of his lyrics, messages, and aura. When Marley visited his office at Island Records, Blackwell noticed his great presence and confidence, not arrogance. Additionally, he was surprised to learn that Marley had no plans to return to Jamaica, which made a great impression on him.

The album was re-recorded with arrangements by English musicians and a less "raw" sound, closer to Western tastes. There was no great initial impact, despite the originality of the packaging and the cover art of the album: a cardboard replica of a Zippo lighter of which only 20 thousand copies were made and is now a collector's frenzy. Subsequent editions were illustrated with the iconic image of Bob smoking a generous marijuana joint. The seed was planted.

In just under a decade, he ascended to the Olympus of the global music entertainment industry, releasing 10 albums - two of them live, Live! and Babylon by Bus, where some of the natural energy he exuded can be perceived - and became part of the rock aristocracy of the moment. He was even embraced by much of the punk revolution leaders who turned the rock world upside down in 1976-1977 because they considered reggae "authentic music" unlike the pomp surrounding bands like Genesis, Yes, and Pink Floyd. However, the myth took on its current gigantic dimensions after his death from cancer at the age of 36 in 1981 in Miami. A painful ending that came after pilgrimage through clinics and supposedly miraculous treatments in Mexico and Munich.

The estimated figure closest to reality indicates that to this day, about 250 million copies of his albums have been sold. Not counting, of course, the millions of illegal copies in cassette tapes at one time, then in CDs, and now through digital files. Especially the all-time favorite among his albums is "Legend," a collection of anthems including, of course, "Is this love," "No woman no cry," "Three little birds," "I shot the sheriff," and "Get up stand up" among others, which remained 500 weeks - more than 10 years - among the top 200 best-selling albums according to the American magazine Billboard, and over 800 weeks - more than 15 years - in the top 100 of the best-selling albums ranking in the United Kingdom. Figures, records that will never be enough to measure, let alone explain, the emotional impact of the songs of this man who would be 75 years old today.


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