The Citizen (Gauteng)

Bob Marley’s spirit lives on


- Kingston

This year also marked death of Bunny, the Wailers’ last surviving member.

It’s been four decades since Bob Marley’s death, a period longer than the reggae icon’s brief, but potent, life that skin cancer ended when he was 36. Yet Marley lives on as a voice of the dispossess­ed, the palpable vibrancy, spirit of protest and moral zeal of his songs, including One Love, Redemption Song and I Shot The Sheriff, enduring in a way few bodies of popular music have ever done.

His rich anthems of peace and struggle, hope and discontent, still reverberat­e globally and especially in his native Jamaica, a small nation whose rich culture its most famous son popularise­d on an internatio­nal stage.

“It is said the brightest stars sometimes don’t burn as long and, in many ways, Bob Marley was our brightest star; he accomplish­ed a lot in a short period of time,” said Judy Mowatt, an original member of the influentia­l I-Threes trio, whose vocals backed Marley and the Wailers.

“Looking back now, I believe in many ways he was before his time,” she added.

“His words have been prophetic – he was a man who believed everything he sung, it wasn’t just lyrics and music.”

Marley was diagnosed with acral lentiginou­s melanoma in 1977, which was first discovered

underneath a toenail when he suffered a foot injury playing football. He opted against doctors’ recommenda­tions that he amputate his toe, a procedure that would have violated his staunch Rastafaria­n faith.

While in New York in 1980 to perform two shows at Madison Square Garden, Marley collapsed during a Central Park jog. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors found the cancer had crept into his brain, lungs and liver.

Marley performed what would

be his final show in Pittsburgh on 23 September, 1980. Not long after, he cut his tour short and underwent months of ultimately unsuccessf­ul alternativ­e cancer treatment in Germany. On his way home to Jamaica to receive one of his nation’s highest awards, the Order of Merit, Marley’s condition worsened. He landed in Miami to seek emergency treatment.

“Money can’t buy life,” he reportedly told his son Ziggy from his hospital bed before his death

on 11 May, 1981, 40 years to the day yesterday.

Learning of Marley’s death is a moment seared into Mowatt’s consciousn­ess. “It was a Monday morning, sitting on the veranda like I am now, and I got the phone call that Bob passed. It was very painful. All the years we have worked together has come to a closure and it just hit me. Bob was gone forever,” she said.

Marley was given a state funeral in Jamaica on 21 May, 1981, that combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodox and Rastafari tradition. He was eulogised by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga and buried in a chapel near his birthplace, with his guitar.

This year’s 40th anniversar­y of Marley’s death is particular­ly poignant, as 2021 marked the death of the last surviving member of the original Wailers, Bunny Wailer.

“This is the first year that we are memorialis­ing Bob’s transition anniversar­y from 1981 in the context of all three Wailers leaving, Peter (Tosh) having left in 1987, and Bunny surviving them both for 40 years and 33 years, respective­ly, transition­ing here in 2021,” said Bunny’s long-time manager, Maxine Stowe.

The Wailers “are now reunited in another plane of existence”, Stowe said.

The group in the ’60s helped transform reggae, with its heavy bass lines and drums, into a global phenomenon with untold impact. The genre – which emerged out of Jamaica’s ska and rocksteady styles – also drawing from American jazz and blues and has influenced countless artists and inspired many new music styles, including ragga and dancehall.

The style is often championed as a music of the oppressed, with lyrics addressing sociopolit­ical issues, imprisonme­nt and inequality.

“His voice was an omnipresen­t cry in our electronic world, his sharp features, majestic locks and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds,” Seaga said during his eulogy.

“Most people do not command recollecti­on. Bob Marley was never seen. He was an experience which left an indelible, mystical imprint with each encounter.

“Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousn­ess of the nation.” –

Such a man cannot be erased from our minds

 ?? Picture: AFP ?? RASTAMAN VIBRATION. A man pedals past a mural of Bob Marley in Kingston, Jamaica. It’s been four decades since the death of the reggae superstar.
Picture: AFP RASTAMAN VIBRATION. A man pedals past a mural of Bob Marley in Kingston, Jamaica. It’s been four decades since the death of the reggae superstar.

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