Bob Marley and The Wailers are the only Jamaican group to have achieved true global superstar status. Marley (born Robert Nesta Marley) was born in the small village of Nine Miles in the St Ann?s Parish of Jamaica. His father, Norval Marley was a white Jamaican born to British parents whilst his mother, Cedella Booker was a much younger black Jamaican. Marley was ten years old when his father died of a heart attack, after which the young Bob and his mother moved to the rough Trenchtown district of Kingston. He became friends with Neville "Bunny" Livingston (later known as Bunny Wailer) and they began to play music together, often under the guidance of the singer Joe Higgs.. It was at one of these sessions Bob and Bunny met Peter McIntosh (later known as Pete Tosh), who had similar musical ambitions.
In 1962 Marley recorded two solo singles, ?Judge Not? and "One Cup of Coffee" with producer Leslie Kong which were released, rather unsuccessfully, on Kong?s Beverley?s label. In 1963 they started to record with Coxsone Dodd at Studio One and this is when the group?s career really took off. Their first single, ?Simmer Down? held the Jamaican number one spot for 2 months and for the next 2 years they recorded non-stop at Studio One and had over 20 more chart hits.
In 1966, Marley married Rita Anderson, a singer with another Studio One group, the Soulettes. However, as work was scarce in Jamaica the day after the wedding Bob went to stay with his mother who was now living in Delaware, USA and for the next 6 months he worked in the Chrysler car factory there
Upon returning to Jamaica he became a member of the Rastafarian movement and began growing his trademark dreadlocks. The Wailers resumed recording at Studio One but now began releasing the songs on their own ?Wail ?N? Soul ?M? label. Over the next few years they also recorded for the JAD label, producer Leslie Kong and, most famously Lee Perry. Although this partnership lasted less than 2 years they recorded what many consider The Wailers' finest work. This period was also the beginning of their alliance with the Barrett brothers, the drum and bass team who would feature heavily in future recordings
After working with Perry the group releases a series of tracks on their own Tuff Gong label but in 1972 they signed to Chris Blackwell?s Island Records and in 1973 released ?Catch A Fire? was marketed in the same way as a rock album and was a huge success worldwide. It was followed a year later by ?Burnin?? which included "I Shot the Sheriff", a song quickly covered by Eric Clapton, significantly raising Marley and the Wailers? international profile. It was at this time that Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the group and the remaining members were joined by new musicians and singers, notably the ?I Threes?, three of the best female vocalists in reggae, Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and Bob?s wife, Rita Marley
The group continued as ?Bob Marley and the Wailers? and in 1975 they had their first big hit outside Jamaica in their own right, ?No Woman No Cry? from the Natty Dread album. Following on from the success of this were the legendary Lyceum concerts in London and the live album recorded there. These were followed in 1976 by a breakthrough album in the USA, Rastaman Vibration, which spent four weeks on the Billboard top Ten.
In December 1976, two days before ?Smile Jamaica?, a free concert organized by Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley in an attempt to ease tension between the two warring political groups, Marley, his wife and manager Don Taylor were shot by unknown gunmen inside Marley's home. Taylor and Rita Marley sustained serious injuries, but later made full recoveries. Bob Marley received minor injuries in the chest and arm. The shooting was thought to have been politically motivated, as many felt the concert was really a support rally for Manley. Nonetheless, the concert proceeded, and an injured Marley performed as scheduled.
Marley left Jamaica at the end of 1976 for the UK where he recorded his ?Exodus? and ?Kaya? albums, both of which sold extremely well worldwide. Exodus stayed in the British album charts for 56 consecutive weeks and included four UK hit singles: "Exodus", "Waiting In Vain", "Jamming", and "One Love". In July 1977 he had an operation in Miami to remove cancerous cells from his toe
In 1978, Marley and the band performed at another political concert in Jamaica in an effort to calm warring parties. Famously, by Marley's request, Michael Manley and his arch political rival, Edward Seaga came up on the stage and joined hands in a gesture of peace (short-lived unfortunately)
The band then embarked on a huge world tour whilst continuing to develop their own Tuff Gong label. The ?Survival? album was released in 1979, defiant and politically charged with tracks such as "Zimbabwe, ?Africa Unite?, "Wake Up and Live", and "Survival" reflecting Marley's support for the struggles of Africans. In April 1980 he performed at the celebration of Zimbabwe Independence Day.
Uprising (1980) was the group?s final studio album and is one of their most religious with tracks such as ?Redemption Song? and ?Forever Loving Jah? The cancer that he had been treated of 3 years earlier had n spread and after playing two shows at Madison Square Garden as part of his Autumn 1980 Uprising tour he collapsed while jogging in New York?s Central Park and the remainder of the tour was subsequently cancelled. He died in Miami in May 1981.