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Bob Marley's death memorialised

Published:Wednesday | May 11, 2011 | 3:58 PM

Thirty years ago one of Jamaica’s most loved icons Bob Marley passed away in a hospital in Miami after battling cancer.

Since then, the reggae legend has become a cultural icon known worldwide for his lyrics, boyish good looks and other aspects of his personality.

Several persons have been paying tribute to 'The Gong', and on the social networking website Twitter, Bob Marley has been a worldwide trending topic.

Take a look at an article published in The Gleaner on May 14, 1981 about Marley's death.

Bob Marley dies of cancer

The Hon. Robert Nesta Marley (Bob) O.M, the most widely acclaimed Jamaican musician ever, died of cancer in the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, Florida on Monday.

Bob Marley, as he was known worldwide, was on his way home to receive the honour of the Order of Merit which was conferred on him by the Government less than a month ago. The reggae singer was the biggest selling recording artiste in the history of Jamaican music having sold well over 20 million records.

His battle with cancer started some eight months ago during his last concert tour of the United States. Marley had finished the European leg of his tour and was performing in Madison Square Gardens, New York, in October last, when he fainted. His connections reported that he was suffering from exhaustion.

However, it was later revealed as cancer.

Marley, who was 36-years-old, was returning home from Bavaria, West Germany, where he had undergone chemotherapy treatment for the disease at the clinic of Dr. Josef Issels whose unorthodox approach has been scoffed at by leading European experts.

The singer had stopped off in Miami because daily treatment which was required for the disease was said to be probably non-existent in Jamaica. He arrived in Miami on Thursday and entered the hospital on Friday. On Monday he was in his room with his wife, Rita, his mother, Mrs. Cedella Booker and his attorney/ business agent and constant travelling companion Miss Diane Johnson. He requested that his wife fetch something from his South Miami home where his mother resides, but he died before she returned.

A photo of Bob Marley courtesy of The Voice.


The story of his illness goes back to last October when he began treatment at the Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York for the disease. After he was given up by the American doctors, who gave him until Christmas to live, he went to Bavaria for treatment.

He stayed with Dr. Issels at Rottach-Egern near Lake Tegern in the Bavarian Alps. When he arrived he was partially paralyzed by a brain tumor. He had cancer of the stomach, his ‘locks’ were shorn and he had a ban placed on him from drinking alcohol or smoking. His mouth appeared twisted and he was weak after losing a great deal of weight.

However, in an exclusive interview with John Stevenson of the Associated Newspapers he said: “Like so many other patients who come here (Issel’s place), I was given up by doctors to die. Now I know I can live. I have proved it.

Marley was one of the world’s most popular pop singers. He was also a very successful song writer having written million selling hits for entertainers such as Johnny Nash and Eric Clapton. He was also a producer and businessman and owner of Tuff Gong Recording Studios on Hope Road, St. Andrew, one of the largest in the Caribbean.

A photo of Bob Marley courtesy of The Voice.


He was born in Rhoden Hall, St. Ann on February 6, 1945. His father was a British Naval Captain, Norman Marley of Liverpool England, who was in Jamaica during the Second World War. His mother, Cedella Booker, emigrated to the United States several years ago and now lives in Miami, Florida.

Bob, who became a welder, his mother, two brothers and a sister moved to Kingston when he was nine. They lived at Waltham Park Road and later at Wilton Gardens (Rema), Trench Town.

He started recording in 1963 and his first hit was “Judge Not”. Although he and his group the Wailers, which included Peter McIntosh and Bunny Livingstone, and which was formed in Wilton Gardens made several hit songs including “Rude Boy Ska”, “Simmer Down” , “Stir it Up” and “Nice Time” during the ‘60s’, they never achieved real success until the ‘70s.

Barbadian pop star Rihanna saluting Bob Marley on her Official Twitter page.

In 1972 the Wailers signed a contract with Island Records and the first album “Catch A Fire”, which was distributed worldwide by Island was a moderate success. Island is owned by Jamaican businessman Chris Blackwell, who also gave the start to the careers of other Jamaican entertainers Millie Small, Jimmy Cliff and Owen Gray.

After the initial success of “Catch A Fire” the group recorded “Burning” before they split. Bob then formed a band including his two mainstay musicians, Aston “Family Man” Barrett on bass and Carlton Barrett on drums and the singing group, the I-Threes, comprising his wife Rita, a former lead singer of the Soulettes, Judy Mowatt formerly of the Gayletts and Marcia Griffiths.

Bob Marley and the Wailers went on to make the “Natty Dread” album, and then the “Rastaman Vibrations” album which became their first million seller. Since then they have recorded several other albums including ‘Survival”, “Kaya” and his latest “Uprising” which was released last summer.

An image of The Gleaner's front page with articles on Bob Marley's funeral

published on Friday May 22, 1981.


In April this year, Bob Marley was awarded the Nation’s third highest honour, the Order of Merit (O.M). Also in April he was awarded a Certificate of Merit by The Gleaner Company for his contribution to entertainment.

In 1980 he was invited by the newly elected Patriotic Front Government of Zimbabwe to perform at celebrations marking Independence. In 1976 he was awarded the Deutsche Schalplatten Award by Ariola Records for sales of his records.

In 1978 he was the guest performer of the Peace Concert which was organised by the Peace Committee made up of several political gangs to try to end political warfare in the Corporate Area.

In the early years Bob Marley and the Wailers did several ballads including “It Hurts to be Alone” and ‘I’m Still Waiting” as well as several Ska tunes dealing with life in general. The most popular among the latter was “Simmer Down”, “Rude Boy Ska”, “Dancing Shoes” and “Bend Down Low”.

Bob Marley juggling a football in this Gleaner photo

Tunes like ‘Rude Boy Ska” and Peter McIntosh’s “I Am The Toughest” became anthems of the rebellious youth population of the 1960s, in a period where guns were becoming quite prevalent. Kingston was seething with rival gangs and political rivalry started to develop. Those songs made the Wailers icons to the youths, but in later years the group was to become the social conscience of the young with their strong Rastafarian influence and a rigid opposition to political division which they termed “tribalism”.

By the early ‘70s they were singing tunes like “400 years” , “Jah Live and ‘Guava Jelly” which appealed largely to adults, while still dealing with the explosive issues of hunger and poverty.

His last local appearance was at the Reggae Sunsplash show in Montego Bay in July, 1979.