On this day in 1945, Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley was born in Jamaica to Cedella Booker and Norval Sinclair Marley. His mother was a native of Jamaica and his father was a white Jamaican of British (and rumoured Syrian-Jewish) descent who was an officer in the British military.
Marley was ten years old when Norval died of a heart attack in 1955 at age 70.
By age 16, Marley had recorded his first single ‘Judge Not’, and in 1963, he formed The Wailers with Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingstone, Junior Braithwaite, and Beverly Kelso.
Braithwaite and Kelso left the group in 1965, but the Wailers continued as a trio, with Marley, Tosh, and Livingstone trading leads. In 1966, the group had separated and the band dissolved.
Marley married his girlfriend Rita Anderson while working in a factory in Newark before his return to Jamaica where the Wailers reunited. Throughout this period, the Wailers committed themselves to the religious sect of Rastafari.
The Wailers had their breakthrough in 1972 when Chris Blackwell – who had released ‘Judge Not’ in England in 1963 – signed the Wailers to Island Records and advanced them the funds to make a record in Jamaica.
The first result of their new contract was in1973 when the album Burnin’, which included the songs ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ and ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ reached an international audience for the first time.
The band toured excessively during this period, and Marley expanded the instrumental section of the group, bringing in a female vocal trio, which included his wife, Rita.
Now called Bob Marley and the Wailers, they toured Europe, Africa, and America, building especially strong followings in the U.K., Scandinavia, and Africa.
In 1976, Marley was shot by gunmen during the Jamaican election campaign, but survived and continued to soar in popularity until his 1981 death due to brain, lung and stomach cancer.
Rita Marley continues to run the Tuff Gong studios and record company.