Why is Bob Marley a Legend?

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Why is Bob Marley a Legend?

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If there's one name that can't be ignored when talking about reggae (but also Rastafarianism), it's Bob Marley. But do you know why he has become such a legend for followers of this musical trend? Let's find out his story and the major events that made this man an icon both musically and personally. Ready to learn more about the life of the "Marley legend"? 

Passionate about reggae, I have, for many years, begun researching various topics to better understand this movement, its actors and its relationship with Rastafarianism. Through my investigations, I was able to better understand the specificities of these two major currents and naturally I also wanted to learn more about the major characters. 

Bob Marley participated in the development of Rastafarianism throughout the world and made known a unique music for the time, Reggae. Died 40 years ago, the Rasta singer conveying messages of peace in his songs lived through difficult episodes that have fueled his story.

So, through this article, you're going to accompany me and discover why the singer became an eternal star.  You will thus learn more about:

  • The singer's early life;
  • The beliefs that made him important;
  • His struggle, worthy of a legend;

Are you ready to find out why this little country-born guy became such an icon? Let's go.



The early years of Bob Marley's life are an interesting topic in themselves. They did indeed forge the singer's personality and thus helped build the beginnings of the legend.

a) A complicated childhood

Well, you probably already know this, Bob Marley was born to a black mother of Jamaican descent and a white father, British, in 1945. It's not an ideal time for a mixed-race child to face the scorn of others, both black and white. Marley suffered from this. When he was still a child, he met Buddy Livingston, who was to become his (only real) friend. You know him as Buddy Wailer

The two kids will move at the same time to Kingston the capital of Jamaica, in the Trenchtown ghetto. They will live near each other and Bob's mother will have an affair with Buddy's father. 

The two children are bored and will be introduced to music by Joe Higgs. The latter uses music as a means to rescue the youngsters from the torpor of the ghetto and keep them from bad company. We are at the beginning of the 1950s and the drug gains strongly ground. The two young people will take a moderate interest in the classes but the music will still have an effect on Bob. To cope with the taunts he is constantly subjected to, he will strum his guitar, stimulated by Higgs.

This is then the first step in building a legend! The young man has talent!

At 17, the duo will meet Winston Hubert McIntosh, who you know as Peter Tosh. Together, they'll form the band the Wailers. 

Bob Marley has found what he loves to do and is going to do everything he can to get there. But it's going to be a very long road.

b) A struggle to be recognized

The group had its first hit with "Simmer down" which would quickly reach number one on the Jamaican island.  But the group is confronted with the dishonesty of the professionals they work with and the adventure will soon come to a halt. But Marley's will, however, does not stop. After his marriage and a stay in the United States - where he joined his mother - he returned to Jamaica and would create his own label. But even if the tracks appeal, they do not have the expected success. He lands a partnership with Johnny Nas that will allow him to travel to Sweden - he records the music for a film - and England, where he will stay several months.

The singer vegetates but does not give up. He will then sign a contract with Island Records. The two albums he records ("Catch a fire" and "Burnin ") are then quite successful.  But even though Eric Clapton recorded his song "I shot the sherif", he still had to wait two more years to have a real international success following the release of "No woman, no cry". After years of perseverance, Bob Marley finally became a known and recognized singer. This life of hardship and determination is one of the criteria that created the legend of the singer.


If Bob Marley is known for anything, it's not just for his singing and songwriting skills.  He has also become an icon of the Rasta movement around the world.



a) An important representative of a previously unrecognized movement

Will I insult you by introducing you to the Rasta movement? I hesitate. Let's just do a quick refresher in case you forgot a few things about it. 

The Rasta Movement originated in the 1930s among young black people who wanted to be able to live more freely and simply. Even if slavery was abolished, the fact remains that a black person living at that time was still mostly poor and had no rights.  He was exploited and regularly suffered acts of racism against which he could do nothing but suffer again and again. It is in this context that several voices will be raised.



Marcus Garvey, along with P. Howell, is one of those who marked the beginnings of the Rasta thought movement. He will put forward the equality of all men and will put the Black man in his place. He will also make a link between history and the descendants of slaves. He will thus link Pharaonic Egypt but also the heroes of the texts of the Old Testament to the African exiles. The Bible is reworked to "erase the changes put in place by white people." Garvey will also create a prominent link between Ethiopia and black exiles around the world. And this new relationship would become even more important with the arrival on the Ethiopian throne of Hailé Selassie, a man who would become a veritable living God for the Rastas.

Garvey continues his work and will carry his message across the United States. Howell, on the other hand, is going to follow a different path. This one will found a community, true cradle of Rastafarianism. The Pinnacle sees the first rastas appear. And the first precepts of the movement.

b) Bob Marley and Rastafarianism


It was in 1966 that Bob Marley would meet the living God of Rasta. The community was still low-key in the early 1960s, although it had a growing membership in the ghettos. But when Haile Selassie arrived in Jamaican lands in 1966, a unique phenomenon was to occur in the singer's life.

The diplomatic visit of the Negus shakes the crowds and in this one Bob Marley. Marley already has a Rasta foundation but he still hesitates a bit. And when he meets Selassie, he will understand that Rastafarianism is a true movement. 

He will then become an icon of the movement. He will share his fervor with his (growing) fans and spread the word about the precepts of rasta. He becomes a Rasta apostle and this will further strengthen his legend giving him an ever-welcome religious note in a legendary saga.

A few years later, he will receive Selassie's ring from the hand of the emperor's grandson. He will never leave this ring, which will follow him to the grave.



Bob Marley didn't just have a tricky childhood. His final days also contributed to his legend.

During his life, Bob Marley faced an assassination attempt in December 1976, but that's not what stopped him. What made a lasting impression was his fight and battle with cancer.


a) A disease that invited itself at a soccer game


We rarely know when cancer is coming into our lives. For Bob Marley, by contrast, we know precisely when the disease has decided to "take over the field." 

It is 1977. The singer is in Paris. Passionate about soccer, he participated in a match with journalists and members of the Wailers at the foot of the Hilton Hotel. During this match, won by the artists (6 to 1), the singer gets his foot crushed. One of his toes is then injured. Bob Marley did not care at all and continued his concerts, soccer games with friends and his daily life. The injury could have healed on its own. But it didn't. 

A few months later, the singer's thumb swelled terribly. He is forced to consult a doctor who will diagnose melanoma. He is then advised to have an amputation.  Marley refuses, sure that his belief in God and some Rasta remedies will help him overcome this problem.


b) Complications and struggle that have the legend of B. Marley


In September 1980, the singer is on tour in the United States. He has just given two masterful concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York, on the 19th and 20th. To relax, he goes running on the morning of Sunday 21 in Central Park. That's when he has a meltdown.

He is taken to the hospital and the doctors will perform many tests and the bad news falls: the singer has 5 metastases. His lungs, his stomach are affected as his skin which shows 3 melanomas. His cancer has generalized and he is given little time to live (one month). Doctors are amazed to see that the man is still standing and ensures his tours without batting an eyelid or almost. Bob Marley wants to do a last concert in Pittsburgh and will ensure it against the advice of doctors. However, he has to cancel the rest of his tour afterwards.

He will then undergo numerous radiation and chemotherapy sessions that weaken him. The man loses his dreadlocks but wants to fight. He gets baptized at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Miami and is given the baptismal name Bob Berhane Selassie, Light of the Holy Trinity. He doesn't want to give up and even though Rastas have very limited faith in medicine, he decides to go to Dr. J. Issels' clinic in Germany.



The Ringberg Klinik provides an alternative medicine aimed at allowing terminally ill patients to live longer. Bob Marley will then undergo blood transfusions, THX injections, hyperthermia sessions. The treatment is very difficult and Bob suffers terribly. But he continues the fight. He celebrates his birthday with his mother, his musicians and his wife, but he is a shadow of his former self (he weighs less than 50 kilos at the time).

In early May, his doctor tells him that there is nothing more he can do to help him. Bob Marley then decided to return to Jamaica. The flight has a stopover in Miami. Bob thinks he can visit his mother who lives there but has to go to the hospital. Placed in intensive care, he will die on May 11 after months of struggle.

A state funeral is being held in Kingston to pay final respects to the reggae legend, to the man who faced hardship and illness with gusto, to the rasta who always put the love of people first.




When Bob Marley was born in 1945 in the middle of a Jamaican farmhouse, he had no idea of his future. A hard childhood and struggles to get his talent recognized marked his early life. The man refuses to give in and will eventually achieve the success he deserves. But for a short time because the disease comes to mow him down in the middle of his glory.

You now know that the man deserves his title of legend. And if anyone asks you why he became so well known and adored, you have the keys to provide an accurate and complete answer. He never gave up. He managed to impose his lifestyle, his music, his passions. He has become an icon for anyone who wants to confront illness. You may add that he is the one who made reggae known around the world but also rastafarianism

If you too want to carry the torch for these two major movements for Bob Marley, start by wearing a t-shirt featuring the singer!

You'll find a wide selection if you click here 👇👇

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