|Born||Robert Nesta Marley|
February 6, 1945
Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, British Jamaica
|Died||May 11, 1981 (aged 36)|
Miami, Florida, U.S.
|Cause of death||Melanoma (Skin Cancer)|
|Years active||1962 - 1981|
|Known for||Performing during the 1980 Zimbabwe's Independence Celebrations|
|Home town||Trenchtown, Kingston, Jamaica|
|Relatives||Skip Marley and Nico Marley (Grandsons)|
Robert Nesta Marley was a Jamaican singer, songwriter and musician. Considered one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by fusing elements of reggae, ska, and rocksteady, as well as his distinctive vocal and songwriting style. Marley's contributions to music increased the visibility of Jamaican music worldwide, and made him a global figure in popular culture for over a decade. He was also considered a global symbol of Jamaican culture and identity, and was controversial in his outspoken support for the legalization of marijuana, while he also advocated for Pan-Africanism. In early 1980, he was invited to perform at 17 April celebration of Zimbabwe's Independence Day.
Bob Marley was born on 6 February 1945 at the farm of his maternal grandfather in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, to Norval Sinclair Marley and Cedella Malcolm. Norval Marley was a white Jamaican originally from Sussex, whose family claimed to have Syrian Jewish origins. Bob Marley's full name is Robert Nesta Marley, though some sources give his birth name as Nesta Robert Marley, with a story that when Marley was still a boy a Jamaican passport official reversed his first and middle names because Nesta sounded like a girl's name. Tracks such as "Zimbabwe", "Africa Unite", "Wake Up and Live", and "Survival" reflected Marley's support for the struggles of Africans.
His Performance on Zimbabwe's Independence Day
17 April of 1980, when Bob Marley arrived to headline the independence celebrations that would see Rhodesia become Zimbabwe, his song “Zimbabwe,” the centerpiece of the “Survival” album, was the most popular foreign song in the country. Marley, whose religion of Rastafarianism had long preached cultural and political resistance against white oppression in Africa, wanted to “build a blood-claat studio inna Africa, have hit after blood-claat hit”—so much so that he spent thousands of dollars flying lighting and sound equipment to Zimbabwe to create a concert atmosphere that would match that of Madison Square Garden.
In Zimbabwe, popular songs were central to the century-long fight to end the colonial system, and Marley’s claim that music was “the biggest gun because the oppressed cannot afford weapons” was nowhere more resonant. After Marley’s performance that night, when he shed tears watching the Rhodesian flag come down and Zimbabwe’s go up, the local musician Thomas Mapfumo (Gandanga) took the stage. Mapfumo was a leading singer of Chimurenga music, the music of struggle. Never mind that it was late, and that Prince Charles and all the other foreign dignitaries and top-ranking army officers—the nation’s new VIPs—had left. The freedom fighters stayed behind, waving their guns. Peasants who had been locked out of the main event joined in dancing to the chimurenga music until the next morning.
Road to his Perfromance
In the 1970s there was a musical group formed by those working for the United Nations in Europe and the group was called The United Nations Jazz Band (TUNJB). Zimbabweans in that band were (former Finance minister) Herbert Murerwa, Cephas Mangwana and Gibson Mandishona. Bob Marley used to go to Ethiopia to support the Rastafarian movement in that country and during one of his visits he made inquiries about people who were involved in music and apparently TUNJB was brought to his attention. This is how he got to be connected with the Zimbabweans in the group.
They became friends with Mandishona and would visit him at his house and rehearse with him. During these visits that's when he highlighted that Zimbabwe was on the brink of independence and it would be great if they could actually write a song for the country, so they started working on the track. This song was so special to Mandishona in the sense that it was timely as it was sung during the independence celebrations and the fact that it was being performed by an artiste of that calibre who was a sympathiser of the liberation movement was just amazing.
- Gibson Mandishona, , Mail & Guardian, Published: 24 January, 2020, Accessed: 24 April, 2020