Episode recap by Vh1.com:
“Behind the Music: Bob Marley” tells the story of the rasta rebel with rare and never-before-seen photos, film, news video, performance footage and more, plus new interviews featuring The Wailers’ co-founder Bunny Wailer, Keith Richards, I-Threes vocalists Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths, pioneering ska artist Joe Higgs, reggae historian Roger Steffens, lawyer and friend Diane Jobson, author Chris Salewicz, recording engineer Tony Platt, friend Neville Garrick, record producer Coxson Dodd, friend and music publisher Danny Sims, and Cindy Breakspeare, plus Bob’s mother Cedella Booker, wife Rita Marley and children Sharon, Ziggy and Stephen. A former colony steeped in profound social inequity and abject poverty after three centuries of British colonial rule, Jamaica was awakening to freedom when Bob Marley was born to a single mother in a tiny rural shack with a dirt floor. Later moving to the Trenchtown section of Kingston where his mother sought better work opportunities, a young music-loving Marley eventually hooked up with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh to start a group that became Jamaica’s top band by the late ’60s, cranking out hit after hit of ska-based country, rock, and pop. But the hits didn’t make a lot of money for them, as the studio owned their recordings. Marley objected and turned his back on the recording industry’s cozy arrangements. He followed his mother to Delaware and labored in hotels and on an auto assembly line — while becoming more politicized in the turbulent America of the time — and saved his money to start a label with The Wailers. Marley also came to embrace the Rastafarian religion, with its dreadlocks and marijuana rituals, and its goal to spread the word of the Lion of Judah. Battling oppression and injustice with reggae anthems of empowerment and inspiration, Marley was still known only in Jamaica — until Island Records’ Chris Blackwell intervened and gave Bob Marley to the world. Though co-founders Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh split after the release of the band’s second album, Marley held The Wailers together and conquered the music charts. Hugely influential back home in Jamaica, he refused to align himself with what he felt was a corrupt Jamaican political scene. Two days before a 1976 concert that he hoped would unify the citizenry — a show that was instead co-opted by prime minister Michael Manley and made to appear as an endorsement of his party — Marley and his wife were shot in an attempted assassination. The assailants were never caught. Now a larger-than-life legend, Marley left for a world tour in 1977. When he badly injured his foot during an impromptu soccer game in Paris, Marley received word that he was also suffering from cancer. Despite surgery and treatment, the cancer spread to his brain and lungs, and finally stilled reggae’s most vibrant voice on May 11, 1981. Among the highlights from “Behind the Music: Bob Marley”:
Wailers co-founder Bunny Wailer, on Marley’s struggle to be heard: “Bob was geared for it — whatever sacrifices he had to make, he was determined to make those sacrifices.” Keith Richards, on first hearing The Wailers: “There’s definitely a buzz in there — and you can’t keep me away from a buzz … ‘Catch a Fire’ caught fire, and Bob just basically exploded.” Rita Marley, on first meeting Bob: “You come in as a female, young girl, everybody wants to lay you down — but Bob had a different attitude, and a different approach, and we started to share letters. He would send little notes, ’cause he was shy, very shy.” Judy Mowatt, on Marley’s mission: “This is of God. People need to know that Bob understood his God- given purpose, and that was what propelled him and pushed him.” Neville Garrick, on Marley’s use of marijuana: “He would just explain it by saying that, you know, we smoke herb not for giddiness or happiness but to heighten our consciousness.” Keith Richards, on Marley’s global superstardom: “Bob struck a universal chord. I mean, why are Scandinavians leaping around to ‘No Woman No Cry’ or ‘Buffalo Soldier,’ eh? It’s in the genes.” Cindy Breakspeare, on Marley’s brief life: “Looking back now, you have to wonder what more could he have done? It seems that he really did do it all, he accomplished what he set out to do.” Nelson Garrick, on Marley’s infidelities: “Bob loved women. Like Solomon, that was his weakness. Being a handsome man, women gravitated to him.”
Biography of Bob Marley from AllMusic.com:
Reggae’s most transcendent and iconic figure, Bob Marley was the first Jamaican artist to achieve international superstardom, in the process introducing the music of his native island nation to the far-flung corners of the globe. Marley’s music gave voice to the day-to-day struggles of the Jamaican experience, vividly capturing not only the plight of the country’s impoverished and oppressed but also the devout spirituality that remains their source of strength. His songs of faith, devotion, and revolution created a legacy that continues to live on not only through the music of his extended family but also through generations of artists the world over touched by his genius.
Robert Nesta Marley was born February 6, 1945, in rural St. Ann’s Parish, Jamaica; the son of a middle-aged white father and teenaged black mother, he left home at 14 to pursue a music career in Kingston, becoming a pupil of local singer and devout Rastafarian Joe Higgs. He cut his first single, “Judge Not,” in 1962 for Leslie Kong, severing ties with the famed producer soon after over a monetary dispute. In 1963 Marley teamed with fellow singers Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingston, Junior Braithwaite, Beverly Kelso, and Cherry Smith to form the vocal group the Teenagers; later rechristened the Wailing Rudeboys and later simply the Wailers, they signed on with producer Coxsone Dodd’s legendary Studio One and recorded their debut, “I’m Still Waiting.” When Braithwaite and Smith exited the Wailers, Marley assumed lead vocal duties, and in early 1964 the group’s follow-up, “Simmer Down,” topped the Jamaican charts. A series of singles including “Let Him Go (Rude Boy Get Gail),” “Dancing Shoes,” “Jerk in Time,” “Who Feels It Knows It,” and “What Am I to Do” followed, and in all, the Wailers recorded some 70 tracks for Dodd before disbanding in 1966. On February 10 of that year, Marley married Rita Anderson, a singer in the group the Soulettes; she later enjoyed success as a member of the vocal trio the I-Threes. Marley then spent the better part of the year working in a factory in Newark, DE, the home of his mother since 1963.
Upon returning to Jamaica that October, Marley re-formed the Wailers with Livingston and Tosh, releasing “Bend Down Low” on their own short-lived Wail ‘N’ Soul ‘M label; at this time all three members began devoting themselves to the teachings of the Rastafari faith, a cornerstone of Marley’s life and music until his death. Beginning in 1968, the Wailers recorded a wealth of new material for producer Danny Sims before teaming the following year with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry; backed by Perry’s house band, the Upsetters, the trio cut a number of classics, including “My Cup,” “Duppy Conqueror,” “Soul Almighty,” and “Small Axe,” which fused powerful vocals, ingenious rhythms, and visionary production to lay the groundwork for much of the Jamaican music in their wake. Upsetters bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his drummer brother Carlton soon joined the Wailers full-time, and in 1971 the group founded another independent label, Tuff Gong, releasing a handful of singles before signing to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records a year later.
1973’s Catch a Fire, the Wailers’ Island debut, was the first of their albums released outside of Jamaica, and immediately earned worldwide acclaim; the follow-up, Burnin’, launched the track “I Shot the Sheriff,” a Top Ten hit for Eric Clapton in 1974. With the Wailers poised for stardom, however, both Livingston and Tosh quit the group to pursue solo careers; Marley then brought in the I-Threes, which in addition to Rita Marley consisted of singers Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. The new lineup proceeded to tour the world prior to releasing their 1975 breakthrough album Natty Dread, scoring their first U.K. Top 40 hit with the classic “No Woman, No Cry.” Sellout shows at the London Lyceum, where Marley played to racially mixed crowds, yielded the superb Live! later that year, and with the success of 1976’s Rastaman Vibration, which hit the Top Ten in the U.S., it became increasingly clear that his music had carved its own niche within the pop mainstream.
As great as Marley’s fame had grown outside of Jamaica, at home he was viewed as a figure of almost mystical proportions, a poet and prophet whose every word had the nation’s collective ear. His power was perceived as a threat in some quarters, and on December 3, 1976, he was wounded in an assassination attempt; the ordeal forced Marley to leave Jamaica for over a year. 1977’s Exodus was his biggest record to date, generating the hits “Jamming,” “Waiting in Vain,” and “One Love/People Get Ready”; Kaya was another smash, highlighted by the gorgeous “Is This Love” and “Satisfy My Soul.” Another classic live date, Babylon by Bus, preceded the release of 1979’s Survival. 1980 loomed as Marley’s biggest year yet, kicked off by a concert in the newly liberated Zimbabwe; a tour of the U.S. was announced, but while jogging in New York’s Central Park he collapsed, and it was discovered he suffered from cancer that had spread to his brain, lungs, and liver. Uprising was the final album released in Marley’s lifetime — he died May 11, 1981, at age 36. More.