Marley, Bob (1945-1981), Jamaican singer, guitarist, and songwriter, a pioneer of Jamaican reggae music. Considered one of the greatest artists of the genre, he was the first Jamaican reggae performer to achieve significant international stardom.
He was born Robert Nesta Marley in Rhoden Hall, Saint Ann, Jamaica. Marley was learning the welding trade in Kingston when he formed his first harmony group, the Rudeboys, in 1961. The group later became known as the Wailers. The Wailers included vocalists Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh, both of whom later embarked on successful solo careers. The group's early recordings were in a style called ska, a hybrid of New Orleans rhythm and blues and Jamaican mento. Mento was the first of the reggae styles. (The term reggae is commonly used as a collective designation for a number of successive forms of Jamaican pop music-ska, rock-steady, poppa-top, and reggae.) By the late 1960s, influences from United States rhythm and blues, Jamaican folk rhythm, and dub (rhythmic, improvised verses) were synthesized into the rock-steady and poppa-top styles, and Marley emerged as a rising talent in this new genre of Jamaican music. In 1967 he converted from Christianity to Rastafarianism, a religion that has had a profound influence on reggae music. The Rastafarian movement of this period, among other beliefs, recognized Haile Selassie I, king of Ethiopia, as the living God; praised the spiritual effects of marijuana; and endorsed black racial superiority. Influenced by the Rastafarian movement, Marley's music contains elements of spiritualism and mysticism. Some songs call for personal freedom through revolution, while others embrace carefree attitudes toward life or convey stories of love. Marley and the Wailers recorded Catch a Fire (1972), Burnin' (1973), Natty Dread (1975), and Live (1975), among other albums. During the 1970s, amid great political and economic turmoil in Jamaica, Marley cultivated a rebel image. An increasingly political figure, he survived a 1976 assassination attempt at his home in Jamaica. He subsequently went to Europe and experienced a new degree of popular success in England, Sweden, the Netherlands, and West Germany (now part of the united Federal Republic of Germany). Rastaman Vibrations (1976) and a United States tour brought him unmatched success with American reggae fans, and his popularity was furthered with Exodus (1977), Babylon by Bus (1978), Kaya (1978), Uprising (1980), and reissues of earlier work.