A visit to Bob's house
The life and achievements of internationally acclaimed musical legend and Rastafarian luminary Robert Nesta Marley have been kept alive through artefacts, memorabilia, writings and photographs enshrined at his former residence and studio at 56 Hope Road in St Andrew.
Regarded as one of the greatest musical legends of our time and proclaimed and accepted worldwide as the ‘King of Reggae’, Bob Marley charted his own course in the music industry with passion and creativity as a songwriter, singer, and performer.
Marley successfully transcended three Jamaican musical genres from the 1960’s through to the early 1980’s, Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae - his most influential musical form. And, after more than three decades since his passing, his music is still relevant to millions of people across the globe.
The house is a famous tourist attraction, museum and shrine and is a must-see for fans. In 1975, Marley purchased the property from Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, who introduced Bob Marley and the Wailers to an international audience.
The decision to convert the house into the Bob Marley Museum was made six years after his death by his wife, Rita, matriarch of the family, and founders of the Rita Marley Foundation, Dr Eleanor Wint and Dr Neville Garrick. The Museum was Marley’s home until his passing in 1981 and was also home to Tuff Gong record label that was founded by the Wailers in 1970’s.
The early 20th century house was refurbished and opened to the public on May 11, 1986 with efforts made to recapture the basic elements of the design. Much of the large, creaky, colonial-era wooden house remains as it was in Marley’s day. A tour provides fascinating insights into the reggae superstar's life after moving uptown and features his life story from his early days to his rise to international super-stardom.
According to Marie Bruce, general manager at the Bob Marley Museum, “they wanted to capture the lifestyle of Bob and provide a vehicle for people to experience a day in the life of Bob Marley,” she said.
Although the house is very simplistic, vibrant Rastafarian murals and colours decorate the surroundings. Inside there are displays of Marley’s gold and platinum records along the walls – Exodus, 1977, Uprising, 1980, and Legend, 1984. If you browse through, you will also see many of Marley’s prestigious awards.
Marley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994; in December 1999, his 1977 album “Exodus” was named Album of the Century by Time Magazine and his song “One Love” was designated Song of the Millennium by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Since its release in 1984, Marley’s “Legend” compilation has annually sold more than 250,000 copies according to Nielsen Sound Scan, and it is only the 17th album to exceed sales of 10 million copies since SoundScan began its tabulations in 1991.
The second floor of his home includes the bedrooms with one of the rooms showcasing media clippings of Marley’s life as a star. Another room is a model of Bob Marley’s original record shop, the Wail’n Soul’m and the most intriguing room of all is Marley’s unadorned bedroom left just as it was with his star-shaped guitar lying by his bedside.
A former recording studio at the rear of the house is now an exhibition hall with photographs of Marley and a theatre, where the tour closes with a 20-minute film. Also featured are Rastafarian religious cloaks, Bob Marley’s favourite denim shirt and the Order of Merit given to him by the Jamaican Government.
“It is a mission to maintain and keep the integrity and value of the historical site. We have had to find a balance in keeping it in its original state and complying with 21st century requirements,” Bruce said.
“The core of the house remains the same, although some of the space has been converted into offices and a recording studio,” she added.
Renowned percussionist Bongo Herman, who was a personal friend of Bob Marley, also makes the tour a memorable one with entertaining Nyabinghi drumming and demonstrations of the correct use of the percussion instruments.
In the lyrics from ‘No Woman No Cry’ Good friends we have had, oh good friends we've lost along the way (way) ... And then Georgie would make the fire light …
Georgie was an older man who lived in the Trench Town neighbourhood with Bob Marley. He would keep a fire going to light things up at night… “logwood burning through the night”.
Marley always liked porridge, and Georgie would cook it in the mornings, after a long night of tending the fire while the others sang. Georgie still lives at the Hope Road residence and after the tour, we observed him riding his bicycle around the property.
Baptised in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as Berhane Selaisse, meaning ‘Light of the Trinity’ Marley will not be forgotten as his memory lives on not only in Jamaica but all over the world. Although Marley passed at a very young age, 36 to be exact, he had a rebel type of approach, but his rebelliousness had a clearly defined purpose to it. It wasn’t just mindless rebelliousness; he was rebelling against the circumstances in which he and so many people found themselves.
A statue of Marley, mastered by sculpture Pierre Rouzier, welcomes visitors to the museum. On May 31, 2001 by virtue of Marley’s significant contribution to the establishment of Reggae music as part of Jamaica’s cultural heritage the site was designated a protected national heritage site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT). On average more than 35,000 persons visit the museum each year.
Bob Marley’s life is the story of a man who rose from humble beginnings to achieve worldwide greatness. His life and work will no doubt transcend many generations, and he will be remembered as one of the world’s greatest musical legends.
His legacy also continues through his music that is produced though Tuff Gong International, located at 220 Marcus Garvey Drive, Kingston 11. For more information visit www.bobmarleymuseum.com or www.tuffgongjamaica.com ; on Facebook tuffgonginternational or on Twitter@tuffgongstudio.
ABOUT THE VISIT:
Monday - Saturday
First Tour: 9:30 am
Last Tour: 4 p.m.
Each tour is 1 hour.
Non-Residents - Adults: US$20
Children (Ages 4 – 12): US$10
Residents - Adults: J$500
Children (Ages 4-12): J$250
There is a café on the compound where you can relax and get food and refreshments. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed to be taken inside the home, however photographs can be taken outside the house by the murals depicting Bob Marley and his family.