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Bob Marley, his original name being Robert Nesta Markey, was a Jamaican born songwriter and singer. He was born in 1945 on 6th February, and he is regarded as one of the pioneers in the reggae industry. His career as a musician was marked by a blend of rocksteady, ska, and reggae (Onyebadi, 2017). Bob Marley mostly applied distinctive and smooth styles of writing songs and vocals. He served as a global ambassador for reggae, a chance which saw him produce and sell over twenty million records in his entire music career. This record set him to a position of the most influential and international superstar that ever emerged in the third World. He met his death in 1981, 11th May while in Miami, Florida (Dunkley & Shonekan, 2018). Reggae music entails songs mostly sang by Rastafarians who usually sing about normal occurrences about politics, social issues, love, and religion. The music is often accompanied by popular instruments such as the trombone, saxophone, trumpets, guitar, and drums. Bob was a son to a white father and black mother, and he spent most of his years in St. Ann Parish. He struggled with poverty while in Trench town, Kingston, a situation that drew his admiration and love for reggae music. He met many friends who introduced him to music, including Joe Higgs, Peter Tosh, and The Wailers. One of the albums he produced with Wailers is The Wailing Wailers created in 1965 (Bannister, 2019). The album focused on one love and rallied people behind a united struggle.
Most of Bob Marley’s songs were inspirational, revolutionary, and hope-oriented. In one of his popular songs, ‘People Get Ready,’ he expressed the idea of unity. The use of words such as ‘One aim, one God, and One Destiny” reflects on the words of Garvey who called on people to maintain peace and also live in harmony (Onyebadi, 2017). This song requests the people to express love for each other and help others in times of difficulty since they are one. From the song, Bhave pity on those whose chances grow thinner.’ The lyrics, Bob Marley request people to help others since God is one and everything that people accomplish ought to generate love, care, and kindness. ‘No woman no cry’ has a message of love, compassion, and respect for all mothers, sisters, and wives. The song recognizes the type of sorrows mothers goes through based on his true story while living in Trench Town. In this song, Bob sings, ‘in this future, and you cannot forget the past, so dry your tears, I say, No woman no cry, Little darling.’ Bob was referring to the harsh life and hypocrisy of government officials who made mothers toil a lot. He uses harsh words in this song to warn the people who make the lives of mothers and children difficult and who the opposite of what they promise. Buffalo Soldier is another Bob’s song that shows revolution for humanity. Since he is a Rastafari, he compares himself to 10th Calvary of the U.S Army that fought in the civil war alongside the Union Army (Onyebadi, 2017). Since he is dreadlocked, he identifies himself with other Buffalo Soldiers who helped Americans win the war. He calls on Africans to be like the same buffaloes due to their courage and determination to end the colonial yoke of oppression. He said that ‘he already fighting on arrival for survival.’ This means that blacks had to rise and defend their status, dignity, and freedom. Lastly, Redemption Song calls on listeners to redeem themselves from mental slavery. He sang the song after being diagnosed with cancer. He said that “None but ourselves can free our minds” (Bannister, 2019). This means that while humanity can free their body, the mind is the sovereign and only ruler to happiness. He calls on people to realize that they are bound to be slaves to men who can use their brain.
Bob’s mother, Cedella Marley, was 18 years when she gave birth to him. The rural community of Nine Miles shaped the life of Bob Marley, especially in the terrains of St Ann, which houses many cultural norms and customs for the residents. Bob’s father was Norval, and Captain Marley’s family vehemently opposed his marriage to Cedella. Bob first saw his father up to the age of five years, who by that time was taken to Kingston to say with his nephew where he started his education but later recalled by his mum. Bob was raised under the mixed heritage of a black mother and a white father. His father was, however, not much into Bob’s life, but he supported the family and died while Bob was ten years old. Poverty proved too much for Bob to drop out of school and join the music career. At this time, he met a friend, Bunny Wailer, who supported his dreams and together formed ‘The Wailers’ album in 1973. The Wailers were later signed at Island Label of Chris Blackwell which later released two albums that shaped the music career of Bob. He became a global brand, especially when Eric Clapton recorded for him a cover of his best song of the time, ‘I Shot the Sheriff. Also, in 1976, Marley becomes a well-known reggae artist in the US when his ‘Rastaman Vibrations’ was listed position eight on Billboard top two hundred charts. His album, Exodus, also became the best-selling in the 20th century as reported by Time Magazine (Alleyne, 2019). In terms of the political climate, the 1970s was a critical moment for the politics of Jamaica. The period of the 1970 and 80s was a time of political tensions and uncertainties that saw a brutal war between two parties and the killing of many Jamaicans. Bob was always involved in peace concerts and gave lyrics of solace to his countrymen and women. The continued shifts in the political climate in Jamaica between Marshall and Massop saw Bob organize various peaceful protests and events to rally the country for peace (Bannister, 2019). He was able to rally the Prime Minister at the time, Manley Michael and his opponent, Seaga Edward.
Bob’s albums were produced at different times with different meanings. The 1973 ‘Catch the Fire’ was introduced at a time when reggae was gaining roots. Being his first album oversees. The term literary means burning in hell. It was a hit album that was produced when Bob was living a life of misery and poverty. He conveys his negative perception of oppression and slavery. In the same year, Bob also produced another album called ‘Burnin.’ The most famous song in this album was ‘I shot the sheriff,’ which made the record successful. The songs in the album gave the country a big concern in matters of social and economy (Cooper,2015). During this period, Kingston was a rural economy and the influx of people due to post was triggered economic and social imbalance. Most cities had become ghettos with abject poverty and suffering. This harsh environment was the basis of most songs in this album, where Bob Marley passed the message of hope and campaigned against harassment of ghetto families. Natty Dread is regarded as one of the best albums produced by Bob Marley. It contains one of the best hit songs, ‘No Woman No Cry’ which depicts the impoverished life of Jamaica and the need to rise to defend one’s dignity. The album portrays a life full of hope and optimism in the face of challenges, encouraging his mates to help each other. The other album that was successful is the ‘Confrontation,’ which mostly revisited the themes of oppression and unity. The album talks about the life and teaching of Jah Almighty and how Jamaicans should have hope in their destiny and future. The album contains the most hit ‘buffalo soldier,’ which is famous in addressing the determination and predicament of the blacks (Onyebadi, 2017). Exodus is also a significant masterpiece that reflects on the life of Bob Marley after being attacked in Jamaica and was exiled in London. The album towers into the political intolerance of the authority that encourages people not to fear. Bob Marley equally applies various stylistic techniques to pass his message. First, in Redemption, he uses imagery to make people realize the need to emancipate themselves from slavery to gain freedom. He says that being free from the colonial mind will make the black person free and productive. Also, Bob Marley uses all types of musical elements in his songs, such as mento, rhythm, and blues. His songs mostly use mento, which is songs sang with celebratory tones and hymns such as those used in church (Onyebadi, 2017). Also, one of the main aspects recognized in Bob’s reggae is offbeat rhythms like “No woman no Cry.’
In 1978, Bob Marley also produced another album named survival. The album was produced alongside Wailers just after 1979. The album has songs that contain a laid back and relaxed sound. The album has a message of hope and unity among those who are suffering. He calls on Africans to unite and get out of the bondage of Babylon. For instance, he says that “Africa unite ‘Cause we’re moving right out of Babylon (Dunkley & Shonekan, 2018). This message signalizes the need for Africans to revolutionize and unite to defeat the enemy of oppression and suffering. In this album, Marley also appreciates the African values and their place in shaping their history. So, Bob Marley is enlightening the blacks to be wary of harsh social elements and fight for their freedom and emancipation. To illustrate further on his 1979 album of burning, Bob used the album to describe oppression and mistreatment in the hands of the dictatorship. He says that ‘This morning I woke up in a curfew, O God, I was a prisoner, too – yeah! This means that the album was aimed at awakening the blacks from being undermined by unknown people. In this album, Bob describes the need for Africans to rise and face the men dressing in uniforms of brutality (seemingly the police officers). The message in the album is so strong and subtle since it calls on the victims of oppression, not to e vulnerable to the forces of brutality.
The style in Bob Marley’s songs are stylistically played using various vocals, keyboards, bass, guitars, and drums. One of his best songs such as buffalo soldier, has many musical arrangements. The song also has various guitar work, but popularly, there is the continued use of scratchy rhythms. He usually uses percussion tools such as maracas, snare drum, and washboard. While listening to his album, Exodus, he uses many guitars that provide a single note, low melodic lines that correspond clearly with the bass line.
While on stage in 1980 at Pittsburgh, Bob Marley was already dying since he had developed malignant melanoma, which was incurable (Matnei et al. 2017). He was diagnosed with cancer long ago, and he did not have time to live. However, in the past years, he had set a record of spreading reggae music. He had attracted a broad audience from Jamaica with his message of love, unity, and harmony. His legacy after his death remains to be known and respected. He was the first African to be the most exceptional international musician. He can be remembered for his gospel faith, love, and units, which transformed the lives of many Jamaicans. His songs are still an inspiration to humanity and positive messages that were not marred with greed and egocentrism, as seen in today’s songs. One of the most admired versions of Bob’s music was the message of human commonality. He is forever remembered for the oneness of humanity and that humans should avoid judging others for petty things that breed suffering and hatred. This is depicted in some of his songs, such as Slave driver, One Love, Redemption Song, and Buffalo Soldier which illustrates the need to avoid discrimination and prejudice.
Thus, in conclusion, Bob’s songs were aimed at preaching peace, emancipation, hope, and determination in the human race. The frequent use of music acoustics such as guitars helped Bob to spread love messages together with exquisite rhythms that motivated and entertained the mass. Most of his songs are anti-oppression and were usually based on his real story. The life he lived as a poor kid and school dropout exposed him to ghetto life, which saw most of his songs revolve around suffering, poverty, and oppression from government agencies.
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