The biting cold sliced right through his seven-year old body. Although the sun was already peeping out of the hills on the distant horizon, the cold was unrelenting. He hugged his tiny chest tight. But that wasn’t enough to keep him from shivering. Bob knelt down and began milking one of his grandfather’s cow.
Bob Marley was born on 6th February 1945 in Nine Miles, a little rural town in the northern part of Jamaica. Nine Miles is etched high up in the hills. Up there, the cold bites hard. But that never stopped him from waking up early not because he was eager to do so but because his uncles often left for him a lot of their farm work responibilities.
Bob’s mother Cedella Booker was only 19 when she gave birth to him. His father was a white man from England but working in Jamaica. He wasn’t present in his son’s life. He died in 1955 when Bob was only ten years old. The only heritage that he left Bob was mixed race, which left the young man searching for his identity for his entire teenage years. When he moved from Nine Miles to Trench Town, a ghetto in Jamaica's capital Kingstown, he began finding this identity through music.
When Bob Marley died today, 11th May, 1981, he was only 36 years old. He recorded his first song when he was sweet sixteen, and achieved more in twenty years than most people do in a lifetime. While still in his early twenties, he turned the trickle of reggae, a Jamaican music style, into a torrent that swept all over the world. He then rode this reggae wave in concerts all over the world and used his global stardom to preach peace.
Bob Marley was also a passionate pan-Africanist. In his song, ‘Africa Unite,’ he proclaimed that, “How good and how pleasant it would be before God and man to see the unification of all Africans… Africa unite, because we are moving right out of Babylon and we are going to our Father’s land... Africa unite for the benefit of your people.”
His love for Africa was so deep that when Zimbabwe got independence from Britain, he joined the country on its independence day, April 19, and performed to a packed Rufaro Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe. He even composed a special song entitled, 'Zimbabwe.' As screaming fans cheered on, he sang and chanted, “We gon' fight; We'll have to fight; We gonna fight; Fight for our rights!”
What the crowd didn’t know was that by that time, Bob was already suffering from melonama skin cancer, which had been diagnosed in 1981. He was a man in pain. A man with limited time on earth.
on April 17th, two days before the independence day performance, Bob stopped over in Nairobi. A Nation Newspaper headline screamed about his presence, ‘Reggae King Bob flies into Nairobi.’ The Standard too, wasn’t left behind, declaring triumphantly that, ‘Reggae King Stops over in Nairobi.’ He had also visited Kenya two years earlier in 1978 during his first ever visit to Africa. That visit also took him to Ethiopia, the spiritual home of Rastafarians.
As we remember the passing on of this icon, there is a lot of inspiration that we can draw from his life and words. There is a phrase from one of his songs that sums up how he lived his life and how we can follow in his footsteps. The song is ‘Get up, stand up’ and the phrase is ‘don't give up the fight!’
Don’t give up the fight of your life. Don’t give up on your aspirations. Don’t give up your pursuits. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t give up the fight. As Bob said in yet another of his powerful songs, ‘keep on moving.’
Even when you fall down, stand up, dust yourself and keep on moving. May God help us to do so.
Thank you Bob Marley, for the inspiration of your life.