One Love, One Life, 25 Years Later

Bob Marley is still stirring up the music world 25 years after his death.

Just ask top-selling Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu, who pays homage to Marley when he sings the music legend's "Rastaman Chant" at all his concerts.

"I heard 'Rastaman Chant' when I was a teenager at 17," he told ABCNEWS.com. "It was the first song that I would just sing to myself. … It became like an anthem to me, a song that I would just sing walking down the street. It's a song I love performing at every one of my shows."

Thursday will mark the 25th anniversary of Marley's death. Marley died of cancer on May 11, 1981, but his music continues to top the charts.

Compilations of his greatest hits -- "20 Best of Bob Marley" and "Golden Legends: Bob Marley" -- have peaked at No. 8 and No. 10 respectively on the Billboard magazine's top-selling reggae album charts this year. According to Billboard, albums by Bob Marley & The Wailers were third on the 2005 reggae charts, trailing only Sean Paul and Marley's youngest son, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. Albums under Bob Marley's name alone were No. 9 on Billboard's charts.

"Legend," the definitive collection of Marley's greatest hits, remains the best-selling reggae album of all time. In addition, he has been ranked among the Top 10 of Forbes' highest-earning deceased celebrities in four out of the five years it has compiled the list, making an average of $8.4 million a year.

The timeless message of his music, though, is part of his appeal.

"His music is melodic and the rhythm is appealing to any age, and many children pick up on his music at a very early age," said Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records and Marley's former manager. "When they become teenagers, the relevance of the lyrics kick in, and his music lasts with you forever."

'Gorgeous' Pop Protest Songs

Marley barely knew his father, a white English soldier who oversaw a Jamaican plantation when he met Marley's mother, Cedella Booker. Shunned by his wealthy English relatives, Marley grew up in the Kingston slum of Trenchtown, becoming aware of the corruption in his country's government and law enforcement.

These experiences, along with his sympathy for the political struggle of Africans in Zimbabwe, would form the foundation of Marley's music. The Wailers represented the cries of the oppressed. When Marley sang, "I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy," he wasn't just creating a catchy lyric and dance tune. When he sang, "Get up! Stand up! … Stand up for your right," he wasn't talking about a right to party. Marley's infectious melodies often overshadowed his lyrics' message.

"For my money -- and given the amount of sub par war protest songs out there lately -- Bob Marley was just a great songwriter, on the level of [John] Lennon, [Paul] McCartney and [Bob] Dylan in talent," said Nathan Brackett, senior editor of Rolling Stone magazine. "He was really gifted at getting really political messages in three-minute pop songs. Some of his songs were really gorgeous. They captured the pain and suffering in an oppressive system."

Called the first superstar to come out of the Third World, Marley was skilled at speaking not only for the people, but to the people. One of the most quoted lyrics from Marley's classic "Redemption Song" is, "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...