Bob Marley, known by millions for his reggae rhythms and dreds, had a profound impact upon the world of music, and upon the politics of his native land, Jamaica. Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945 in Nine Miles, Jamaica. As the son of a white man–an English marine officer, he and his mother, a black teenager and native Jamaican were quickly abandoned. At age 7 Marley and his mother moved to Kingston, Jamaica to live in an area called Trench Town. This life in the city stimulated Marley’s interest in music, as the city life presented him with the music of Fats Domino and Ray Charles, who became his role models of sorts. By the time Marley was 16, he wanted to record a record album.
According to the PBS Documentary “Bob Marley: The Power & the Glory,” Marley and two friends formed a vocal trio called the Wailers. Marley’s perfectionism and aspirations were evident from the beginning of this musical journey. “From the start, he was a perfectionist who brooked neither lateness nor levity at rehearsals.” Because Jamaican radio was so enthralled with the British and American hit makers of the sixties, it took several years for the Wailers to achieve any success, but in 1964 they had a hit with “Simmer Down.”
Stephen King writes in the Journal of Popular Culture magazine that, “Although the Wailers were founded in the early 1960s, only with Catch a Fire in 1973 was the band’s influence truly felt outside Jamaica. Because the ten years from 1973 to 1983 included the period of Marley’s greatest success, this study will focus on a selected sample of 40 songs, covering the interval between Catch a Fire and Confrontation.”
In 1966, Marley moved to American to live with his mother, who had previously moved to Delaware. As an un-established Jamaican artist with a funky style unlike those that were featured so prominently on the American radio, Marley needed a record label to sign him. But upon finding no takers, Marley began working at the DuPont hotel as a custodian, and then worked the night shift at a Chrysler factor in order to raise enough money to start his own record label. While in America, Marley witnessed the tumultuous social upheaval that was part of the civil rights movement.