Bob marley’s life (1945-1981)

Youth Listen to Bob’s Mother talk about his Father

On Feb. 6, 1945, Robert Nesta Marley was born in Jamaica in Nine Miles within the Parish of St. Ann. His mother was an 18 year old Jamaican woman, Cedella Booker. Bob’s father was a 50 year old English captain, Norval Sinclair Marley, who was stationed in Jamaica. Bob spent his early years with his mother in St. Ann, then during his teens they moved to Kingston, the capitol of Jamaica. Settling in Trench Town, a shanty town with in Kingston, Bob experienced a childhood filled with poverty and violence. After attending the Stepney School in Kingston, Bob spent some time aquiring a trade as a welder. During his youth, Bob developed a love for singing early on through his involvement in the church choir and the encouragement from friend Desmond Dekker.

Religion Listen to Gill Noble ask Bob “what is a Rasta?”

Bob’s earliest experience with religion was guided by his mother’s upbringing in Christianity. As a youth he spent time developing his musical awareness in the church choir. Later, in his adult life, Bob converted to Rastafarianism through the influences of those close to him. Bob’s wife Rita, who was also raised Christian, sparked Bob’s interest in the Rastas when she became exposed to Rastafarianism through contact with other singers. Bob’s close friends Joe Higgs and Bunny Livingstone were also Rastas. Mortimmo Planno served as Bob’s spiritual guide into Rastafarianism.

Joe Higgs Listen to Joe Higgs

Joe Higgs held great influence in Marley’s rise to success. He was a Rastafarian in Kingston who encouraged and nutured young musicians by offering free music coaching at his home. Later, he joined Bob, becoming Bunny Livingston’s replacement in the 1973 US tour.

Beverly Studios Listen to Bob’s Mother recall his first song

Marley was introduced to Leslie Kong, the producer at Beverly Studios

and Jimmy Cliff, an already successful singer, through a good friend, Desmond Dekker. It was here that he recorded his first track, “Judge Not” in 1962, which was accidentally released under the name “Bob Morley”. It was rumored that Leslie also tried to pursuade Bob into changing his name to Haddam for stage purposes. Eventually, relations broke with Marley and Kong after Kong refused to pay him for his work.

The Wailing Wailers (Ska) Listen to Bob explain the beat

Shortly after a run in with Beverlly Studios, Bob left and formed the Wailing Wailers in 1962 (Bob Marley, Bunny Livinstone, Peter McIntosh, Junior Brathwaite as lead vocals, and Beverly Kelso and Cherry Smith as back up vocals). The group was so named as Bob explained that, “In those days we were always crying”. At the end of 1963, the Coxsone Dodd label released the Wailing Wailers’ first single “Simmer Down”. This song was written in response to the disturbances in the ghettos between the Rastas and the authorities telling everyone just to “cool it”. This was also the first time for Bob and the group’s popularity to reach outside of Trenchtown. Ska music was becoming relatively more well known and the so called Rude Boy anthems about the violence in the ghettos took on a cult like following.


On Feb. 10, 1966, Bob married Alpharita Anderson whom he had been dating for almost a year. Alpharita, better known as Rita, was a nurse as well as a singer herself. She later would form the I-Three, which became the back up group for the Wailers. The day after their wedding, Bob left to visit his mother in America for a few months.

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Bob marley’s life (1945-1981)