Posted by: Bill Jones | February 8, 2008

Bob, Bunny, Peter and the Big Toe

When one thinks of reggae music, one undoubtedly thinks of Bob Marley. Bob embodied all that was the music of Reggae and the Rastafarian movement. Along with Bunny Livingston, Peter McIntosh, Beverley Kelso, Junior Braithwaite, and Cherry Smith formed a ska and rocksteady group, calling themselves “The Teenagers”. They later changed their name to “The Wailing Rudeboys”, then to “The Wailing Wailers”, and finally to “The Wailers“. By 1966, Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith had left The Wailers, leaving the core trio of Marley, Livingston, and McIntosh.

The Wailers’ first album, Catch A Fire, was released worldwide in 1973, and sold well. It was followed a year later by Burnin’, which included the songs “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot The Sheriff“. Eric Clapton’s cover of “I Shot the Sheriff” in 1974 brought International notice to the Jamaican band.

The Wailers broke up in 1974 with each of the three main members going on to pursue solo careers; as is the usual case. No one knows the true reason; some believe that there were disagreements amongst Livingston, McIntosh, and Marley concerning performances, while others claim that Livingston and McIntosh simply preferred solo work. McIntosh began recording under the name Peter Tosh, and Livingston continued as Bunny Wailer. Despite the breakup, Marley continued recording as “Bob Marley & The Wailers” adding some new musicians, including wife Rita, and continued on making the music we have come to enjoy.

bobsoccer.jpgIn July 1977, Marley was found to have malignant melanoma in a soccer wound on his right hallux (big toe). Marley refused amputation, citing worries that the operation would affect his dancing, as well as the Rastafari belief that the body must be left whole. Stating “Rasta no abide amputation. I don’t allow a man to be dismantled.”

Marley may have seen the medical doctors to be samfai (tricksters, deceivers). True to his belief, Marley went against all surgical possibilities and sought out other means that would not break his religious beliefs. He also refused to put together a will, based on the Rastafari belief that writing a will is acknowledging death as inevitable, thus disregarding the everlasting (or everliving, as Rastas say) character of life. The cancer then spread to Marley’s brain, lungs, liver, and stomach.

After playing two shows at Madison Square Garden as part of his fall 1980 Uprising Tour, he collapsed while jogging in New York City’s Central Park. The remainder of the tour was cancelled due to the complications. Bob Marley played his final concert at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 23, 1980. The live version of “Redemption Song” on Songs of Freedom was recorded at this show. Marley afterwards sought medical help from Munich specialist Josef Issels, but his cancer had already progressed to the terminal stage.

While flying home from Germany to Jamaica for his last and final days, Marley became ill, and landed in Miami for immediate medical attention. It was already too late, Bob died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, Florida on the morning of May 11, 1981 at the age of 36. The spread of melanoma to his lungs and brain caused his death. His final words to his son Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life.” Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica, which combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and his own Rastafari tradition. He was buried in a crypt near his birthplace with his Gibson Les Paul guitar, a soccer ball, a fat Cannabis bud, a bong, a ring that he wore every day that was given to him by the Prince AsfaWossen of Ethiopia and a Bible. A month before his death, he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit.

Our selection today is the last live show Bob Marley and the Wailer’s perfomed. Bob Marley’s birthday would have been February 6th. So, Happy Belated Birthday.

Bob Marley – 1980-09-23 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Recorded live at Stanley Theater (now the Benedum Center) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 23, 1980.

1. Natural Mystic
2. Positive Vibration
3. Burnin’ & Lootin’
4. Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)
5. The Heathen
6. Running Away
7. Crazy Baldhead
8. War No More Trouble
9. Zimbabwe
10. Zion Train
11. No Woman No Cry
12. Jammin’
13. Exodus
14. Redemption Song
15. Coming In From the Cold
16. Could You Be Loved
17. Is This Love

Here is your File

P.S. Following the debut of his Rolling Stones film Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese will next take on a documentary about Bob Marley. The movie is slated for release on what would have been Marley’s 65th birthday, February 6, 2010.

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