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Marley still stands strong

Published:Sunday | May 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Davina Henry, Staff Reporter

Friday marked the 31st anniversary of reggae icon Bob Marley's death. The singer passed away at the age of 36 from cancer and left behind a legacy that transcends all musical genres and appeals to all age groups worldwide.

Despite his untimely passing more than three decades ago, Marley continues to outsell contemporary reggae stars.

Based on Google Trends search data, for every 100 persons searching the web for Bob Marley, twenty-eight are searching for Sean Paul, fourteen for Shaggy and four for Matisyahu.

Throughout his career, Marley released more than 10 albums, most of which have made their way unto top international charts worldwide.

One of Marley's earliest recordings, Catch a Fire, propelled him to international recognition. That album included songs such as Stir It Up and Concrete Jungle.

In 1973, Catch a Fire peaked at 171 on the United States (US) Billboard 200 album charts and number 51 on the R&B charts.

Subsequent albums by Marley also made their way unto the US international charts, but it was not until Natty Dread was released in 1974, that opportunities in other markets were made available to reggae music.

Natty Dread peaked at number 44 on the Swedish charts and number 43 on the United Kingdom charts.

From 1976 onwards, Marley's albums graced international charts in Norway, New Zealand, US, UK, Sweden and African countries.

digital charts globally

In present times, Marley's albums have peaked at number one on almost every chart. The sustainabilty of Marley's music is evidenced as The Gong continues to dominate Billboard, iTunes and other digital charts globally.

Recently, Marley: The Definitive Story was released and since then, the soundtrack from the documentary has topped the US Billboard reggae charts.

Marley currently has 10 albums on the Billboard 200 album charts which include Legacy, Chant Down Babylon and Live Forever.

He also tops the chart in 18 countries based on checks on iTunes reggae albums charts. These countries include US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg.

Many of these charts have more than one album charting. The majority of those albums are in the top five.

Marley's dominance transcends the Reggae category. He also has eight albums listed on the R&B/Hip Hop charts, one song on the dance/club play charts and one album on the kids charts.

His albums on the R&B/Hip Hop chart includes, Live Forever, Chant Down Babylon, Songs of Freedom and One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley.

Legend is also listed as one of the top-five, longest-charting albums in UK history, having spent over 409 weeks on the charts.

Released in 1984, Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers has lived up to its name by becoming only the 17th album to exceed sales of 10 million copies since Nielsen SoundScan began tabulating in 1991.

musical form and religion

In 2010, a CNN International poll listed Marley in the top five global icons. The US-based news agency stated that Marley's status was so large that he embodied a musical form and religion.

"No performer personified Reggae and Rastarianism more than Bob Marley, a musical inspiration for millions. Responsible for bringing together warring factions in Jamaica, its small wonder he was honoured with a state funeral," said CNN.

Despite the impressive digital footprint Marley's albums continue to make, Danny Sims, who played a pivotal role in Marley's career and was one of his first music publisher's says sales of Marley's album have plummeted.

In a recent interview, Simms said "in the last three years, the sales of (Marley's) records on Island Records label have not been a million dollars a year. Something very devilish is happening, Bob Marley went from the top to the bottom."

According to Sims, Bob Marley's numbers now lag behind artistes and groups of the same era he was well ahead of in years past.

Despite this, Bob Marley, Jamaica's first billion-dollar brand, continues to make history. Marley and his offspring - Ziggy, Damian and Stephen, continue to represent Marley's brand worldwide.

Reggae is now a universal sound, and the music of Marley continues to propel that movement.