On Sunday, Jamaica's favorite son and reggae's greatest torchbearer, Nesta Robert “Bob” Marley, would be turning 66. His career came and went quickly but certainly left a profound impact. Though he passed nearly 30 years ago, his music remains just as popular, his message never more relevant.
Like Joplin, Vicious, Hendrix before him, and Cobain after, Marley's passing was one that came far too early. He was at his peak of popularity when he succumbed to cancer. He was at the forefront of the reggae sound and a spokesman for the Rastafari movement, preaching for peace and freedom through his lyrics.
The man's music is believed to be the most pirated the world over, which means two things: 1) the Marley estate and family is missing out on a few bucks, and 2) his music crosses societal divides.
Who would have thought a hard-smokin' (he was a proponent for the legalization of cannabis; we could have used him as a spokesman during Proposition 19), dreadlock-wearing (one source said as many as 72 types of lice, some of which were unique species) kid from the village of Nine Mile would one day unveil a sound that had yet to find a place in the spectrum? Though he wasn't the originator of reggae, he was the one who brought the soothing, everything-is-going-to-be-all-right sound and feel to the mainstream.
Though no longer around to produce music, the offspring of Marley have carried on his spirit. Three (Ziggy, Damian and Stephen) of his 11 children have gone on to create a musical legacy of their own.
In a 1979 interview with 60 Minutes, Marley was asked whether he was a rich man: “When you say 'rich,' what you mean?” he replied. Lots of possessions. Money. “Possessions make you rich? I don't have that type of richness. My richness is life, forever.”
In Marley's memory, light up a spliff and remember to wear sunscreen.