Afterlives of the Rich and Famous

Bob Marley

Legendary singer, songwriter, and guitarist Bob Marley, the man who in his brief lifetime brought unprecedented worldwide attention to reggae music and the Rastafarian faith, was born Robert Nesta Marley on February 6, 1945, in the village of Nine Mile, St. Ann Parish, Jamaica. His father, Norval Marley, was a white British plantation overseer and officer in the Royal Marines, fifty years old when he conceived Bob with his black eighteen-year-old fiancé, Cedella Booker. Norval moved to Kingston before Bob was born and, although he financially supported his wife and son, was an absentee father until his death of a heart attack when Bob was ten. Bob’s interracial heritage made him an object of ridicule during his childhood and remained an issue throughout his life, which he’s quoted as addressing with his trademark Jamaican accent, “Me don’t dip on the black man’s side nor the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.”

When Bob was fourteen, he left home and school for Kingston, where his music career began. After recording several obscure and not especially successful singles, he formed a quintet called the Wailers with fellow singers Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingstone, Junior Braithwaite, and Beverly Kelso. Their first single, “Simmer Down,” was a major hit in Jamaica in 1964. But in 1965, when Braithwaite and Kelso left the group and the Wailers became a trio, not even their most popular singles received enough royalties to keep them solvent. The Wailers went their separate ways—in Bob’s case, to Newark, Delaware, his mother’s home at the time, where he earned a living as a factory worker for almost a year before returning to Jamaica. In the meantime, he married his girlfriend, Rita Anderson, in 1966, and their first two children were born—Cedella in 1967 and David, nicknamed Ziggy, in 1968.

The Wailers reunited, made more fairly unsuccessful records, and, most significantly for the rest of Bob’s life, became devout Rastafarians, largely due to Rita’s influence and the continued teachings of Mortimer Planner, one of the faith’s most highly regarded elders. Bob adopted and, through his music, began spreading such basic Rastafari tenets as peace and brotherhood, vegetarianism, and the spiritual use of cannabis.

The Wailers finally attracted the attention of Chris Blackwell, who signed them to his influential label, Island Records, in 1972, and their album Catch a Fire was their first to be marketed outside of Jamaica. Their second Island Records album, Burnin’,
included a Bob Marley song called “I Shot the Sheriff,” which was recorded by British superstar Eric Clapton and helped to elevate Bob’s and the Wailers’ notoriety, and in 1973 the Wailers set out on their first overseas tour.

By the end of 1973 Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone had left the Wailers to pursue solo careers, and Bob “regrouped,” expanding his instrumental section and recruiting a female trio that included his wife, Rita, to form Bob Marley and the Wailers, who successfully toured Europe and the United States. By 1978 they’d achieved several hits in both England and the United States, and their albums Rastaman Vibration and Exodus soared into the top twenty on America’s pop music charts.

Bob’s popularity and influence back home in Jamaica had long since given him significant importance not only as a musician, but also as a spokesman on public issues. On December 3, 1976, he, his wife, and his manager, Don Taylor, were shot two days before Bob Marley and the Wailers were due to perform a free concert in support of the progressive Jamaican prime minister Michael Manley. All three survived what was generally believed to be a politically motivated assassination attempt, and Bob appeared at the concert as scheduled and then promptly left for England.

In mid-1977, shortly after the release of the Exodus album, Bob discovered that an unhealed wound on his toe was a malignant melanoma. Doctors urged him to have his toe amputated, but his religious beliefs impelled him to refuse. The Exodus promotion tour was abbreviated, but in 1978 the band was back in action, recording the album Kaya and performing in Jamaica’s One Love Peace Concert; later that year Bob was presented with the United Nations’ Peace Medal of the Third World.

In 1980, after producing several more albums and resuming tours of the United States and Europe, Bob fell ill during a New York City concert in early September and collapsed the next day while jogging through Central Park. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered that the cancer that started in his toe had spread to his liver, his stomach, and his brain. The prognosis was that he had less than a month to live.

He bravely and brilliantly performed a concert in Pittsburgh on September 22, but to his profound disappointment he was unable to continue the scheduled U.S. tour. He traveled to Miami and was formally baptized at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and from there he and Rita flew to a treatment center in Germany in an effort to prove the New York doctors wrong.

When it became apparent that the controversial German therapy wasn’t working, Bob and Rita set out for Jamaica, attempting to honor Bob’s wish to die at home. They got no farther than Miami, where Bob was rushed from the airport to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. He died there on May 11, 1981, at the age of thirty-six.

Bob Marley was honored with a state funeral in Jamaica attended by the Jamaican prime minister along with hundreds of thousands of mourners. He was laid to rest in a chapel mausoleum in his hometown of Nine Miles. Among his many posthumous honors are his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the BBC’s “Song of the Millennium” award for his classic “One Love,” and Time magazine’s “Album of the Century” award for Exodus.

From Francine

Bob, one of our most highly advanced spirits, began making regular trips Home while he was still in Germany. I’m sure there are those who would confirm that he was having conversations with many of his friends here months before he finally left his body once and for all, which actually happened during his flight to Florida. There were throngs of friends from Home and from his forty-four past lives waiting to greet him, including his father. The two of them have an interesting relationship—they shared a previous incarnation as half brothers in Kenya who lived in separate homes and were never particularly close. Bob grew up more advantaged than Norval and supported him from a distance throughout his life out of respect for their familial connection.
The two of them charted a very similar dynamic for themselves in this most recent lifetime.

Norval repaid his karmic debt to Bob while still keeping his distance—like some kindred souls, Bob and Norval are very good at fulfilling specific, important purposes in each other’s lives, but they bring out the worst in each other when they spend too much time together. It’s interesting that Bob’s remarkable influence on your world was partially a result of the strength he gained from growing up without his father and refusing to define that fact of his life as a disadvantage. He entered his final incarnation with great clarity about his life themes of Harmony and Justice, which gave him an unusual insight and sense of direction about obstacles that would have discouraged less focused spirits.

Bob arrived Home with that same clarity, joyfully looking forward to resuming his full life here. He lives communally with a large, fluid group of friends on what corresponds to your island of Tasmania, where he continues composing beautiful songs of peace and unity and infusing them to a young Rastafari musician named Muata, who lives in western Ethiopia. Bob is also one of our most popular performers, joining a wide variety of other musicians from Jim Croce and Jimi Hendrix to Louis Armstrong and Andrés Segovia for brilliant concerts throughout the Other Side. It might interest you on earth to know that Bob’s song “One Love” is as familiar and beloved at Home as it is here. He’s an avid soccer and lacrosse player and, always a passionate master craftsman, has begun creating his own bass guitars to give to his many music students.

Bob quickly resumed his position as an esteemed member of our network of peace councils—never believe there aren’t constant efforts on the Other Side to find realistic solutions to your world’s problems. His other great passion here is his work with and on behalf of animals, researching cures for common and often fatal viral diseases among the earth’s animals and also exploring the vast potential of stem cells in the treatment of a variety of orthopedic challenges.

He was so eager to see his mother, Cedella, when she left her body that he actually traveled through the tunnel to hold her hand and personally bring her Home, and she now lives with him in his island commune. He closely follows his wife’s work with her foundation, and he thanks his son, Ziggy, for his ongoing efforts with the documentary about his life and urges him not to get discouraged by the “inevitable frustrations.” He was disappointed that he didn’t live long enough to fulfill his intention of writing his autobiography, and he’s hard at work on it now—when he’s satisfied with it he’ll be infusing it to a woman he says his son has met, but doesn’t know well yet, who will make herself apparent to Ziggy at the appropriate time, and the two of them will see it through to fruition.

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