"I’m not on the white man’s side, or the black man’s side. I’m on God’s side."
– Bob Marley
One might take an entire lifetime to understand the meaning of these words, but the man who quoted it breathed these values. Bob Marley, born as Robert Nesta Marley, one of the greatest legends of the 20th century, was born 71 years ago today. When the reggae superstar met an untimely death at the age of 36, the world lost an icon. Bob Marley, nevertheless, continues to stay alive through his music, philosophy and actions. Reggae greatly owes its popularity to Bob Marley as he was the one who brought this genre to the forefront. His song endorsing a world without barriers One Love was declared as the Song of the Millennium by the BBC in 2000.
Bob Marley was not just another musician. He not only changed the history of music but also brought about a social consciousness regarding issues of political turmoil in Africa, world peace and oppression. Belonging to a mixed race, Bob experienced the horrors of racism early in life. His journey from being a simple slum child to rising on the world stage as a legendary musician with social and humanitarian messages at the core of all his work was not just by chance.
But it was not just these experiences. Bob Marley was greatly influenced by Rastafarianism, a religion that was developed in Jamaica, a religion that had much of the Christian ideology at its core with its belief in a supreme being called ‘Jah’. Most of his actions post his allegiance to this new faith have made him perpetually relevant in the pages of history.
Today, as we remember the son of Jamaica on his birth anniversary, let us glance over the mark Bob Marley left on world culture.
A blend of traditional Jamaican folk music, R&B, jazz and soul, it took birth and developed amidst the poor African people living in the ghettos. Reggae got international fame when Bob Marley attracted the attention of the world towards it through his songs like Buffalo Soldier, Redemption Song, No Woman No Cry, Get Up Stand Up etc. topping the music charts while also sending strong messages of love, peace and emancipation.
Bob Marley made the world get the vibrant touch of reggae music. Those inspired by his kind of music did not fail to popularise their icon's hippie way of life and unconventional existence. Bob Marley made his dreaded flowing locks, loose colorful tunics, bandanas and beanies, love for peace and freedom and non-conformist attitude to sectarianism look fashionable. Bob Marley became a trendsetter and the hippie culture that he adopted led to a cult following.
Bob Marley’s adherence to the Rastafarianism ideology made him openly support Cannabis, an alternative medicine and a sacred herb in the legend’s words. The Bob Marley – cannabis association led to an entire debate regarding the legalisation and alleged wonders of the Marijuana herb and this continues even today. The Rasta culture believes that Marijuana helps in spiritual attainment and relaxation while also making a person peaceful and calm.
Bob Marley can be called as a Pan-African freedom activist who preached the message of oneness, African freedom and unity through his uplifting lyrics. In 1976, he did a concert ‘Smile Jamaica’ which aimed to reduce tensions between warring factions. It was this concert during which Bob Marley was shot at by a gunman. His songs became anthems for a generation of revolutionaries, especially the ones involved in the fight for the freedom of Zimbabwe. Another significant political act by Bob Marley was during his One Love Peace Concert in 1978, when he made Prime Minister Michael Manley and leader of the opposition Edward Seaga shake hands publicly.
It is not difficult to find Bob Marley, his passion for music, love for Marijuana and his proclamation of peace on T-shirts, bags, mugs and various other merchandise in the market. Commercialization of products by depicting the legend has made his values and ideals get ingrained in the public consciousness on a much deeper level. Marley Natural, a high-end weed brand launched by Bob Marley’s family is proof of the impact this man’s life has on people around the world.
In just 36 years of existence, Bob Marley broke the shackles of poverty and went on to become one of the greatest musicians this world has ever seen. May his ideals of peace, love, equality and freedom find a permanent place on Earth.
May the legend’s soul rest in peace.