Happy Bob Marley Day!

If Bob Marley was alive, today he would have celebrated his 65th birthday. Every year on this day, fans gather to listen to his music and honor his legacy. From London to Ethiopia to Jamaica to right here in Chicago, we’re celebrating Bob Marley Day. My relationship with his music goes back as far as my earliest childhood days. Check the timeline.

Bob_Marley,_Legend

When I was a toddler, my dad spent time in Jamaica studying for a master’s degree. When he returned, he brought what seemed like Bob Marley’s entire record collection with him. Uprising. Natty Dread. Burnin’. Survival. Rastaman Vibration. We had all the LP’s and from that early age, I started soaking them up like a sponge. I swear on the Bible that I have clear, distinct memories of seeing footage of Bob Marley’s funeral on television. The coffin surrounded by an ocean of weeping fans, the mourning of a people. I know I probably have created these memories — Bob passed in 1981. I wasn’t more than two at the time, but part of my brain swears that I witnessed this moment with the rest of the Caribbean.

One of my earliest embarrassing memories is of my brother Dominic sneaking up on me as I sang Redemption Song to myself (I must have been only four or five, and of course I didn’t know the lyrics).

When I was a teenager, Bob’s lyrics helped me navigate my way through oceans of frenemies. I absorbed his lyrics. Listening to his music gave me that feeling of spiritual balance that I felt unable to attain at church on Sundays with my parents.

And to this day, whenever I need a little guidance, a little perspective, a little satisfaction for my soul — I turn to him. Rest in Peace, Mr. Marley. It’s an understatement to say you left this world too soon.

Here are my top 5 favorite Bob Marley tunes, in no particular order. That would be too difficult.

5. Who The Cap Fit/Man to Man

Few songs have ever actually caused me to look within myself as this song did. The lyrics spoke very directly to my soul during a turbulent part of my life —

“Some will hate you, pretend they love you now
Then behind they try to eliminate you.
But who Jah bless, no one curse;
Thank God, we’re past the worst.

It’s a double-edged sword, and Bob captured it so perfectly in this song. Sometimes you’re watching out for the cap-wearers. And sometimes, the cap-wearer is you. Realizing that was essential for me, and I think it’s rare that a song can be credited for making someone a better person. But Who The Cap Fit did that for me. Most definitely.

4. Revolution.

This song certainly isn’t among Bob’s most popular, but those words hit me deep in my soul. And they speak so earnestly to Bob Marley’s own beliefs and experiences. “Never let a politician grant you a favor. He will always want to control you forever.”

3. Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)

Click to watch because in their infinite wisdom, Island Records has disabled embedding. Wonder what Bob Marley would think about that.

One of the most incredible things about Bob was his prescience. His lyrics spoke about issues that are tragically timeless — poverty, struggle, hunger, and pain. Not being able to pay your bills. Not being able to feed your kids. And while singing about that, he sang about revolution, self motivation, and rising above that which angers you.

And besides all of that, there’s the irresistable command. “Forget your sorrows and dance. Forget your troubles and dance. Forget your weakness and dance. ”

When you listen to this song, you almost can. Check it live in 1980. And please take note of the I-Threes. They give me SO much style inspiration.

2. Forever Loving Jah

If you catch me at the right time, this song can STILL put chills down my spine. The strength of Bob’s religious conviction is so palpable in the songs composed after Haile Selassie’s passing. This song, Jah Live, and Selassie Is The Chapel resonate with faith. It’s an emotion that’s almost wholly lacking from music today.

1. One Drop

This song feels just as fresh as it was back in the day. The beat can’t be denied. This song has more fond memories for me than most, so that’s what makes this my top pick. But even in writing this I’m questioning my choice. There are SO many Bob Marley songs that are just perfect compositions.

Although Legend is Bob Marley’s most popular album (and the most popular reggae album of all time according to Billboard), that “best of” compliation falls short and fails to include some truly essential tracks. If you’re REALLY trying to get into the deeper crates, treat yourself to Songs Of Freedom. It is as good as a best of collection gets. Four CDs that show the evolution of this one of a kind musical legend. SO worth the money.

At times in the past, I’ve listened to Bob Marley’s music and felt an undertone of anger that a musician so talented had to die so young. Just 36 years old, and with SO much more music to make. But on this Bob Marley Day, I’m just rejoicing in his musical legacy. He left us with so much to listen to, so much to consider. So much inspiration. He may be gone, but Robert Nesta Marley will never, ever be forgotten.

What are your favorite Bob Marley songs? Share your memories with me!

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Comments

  1. This a fabulous, heartfelt & beautiful tribute to Bob. I too have those exact same feelings for Bob & his music. Ever since I was a little girl at age 6, I’ve been all about Bob. My dad is from Nigeria & we listened to all kinds of music, but Bob just spoke to us.

    Just like you, Bob got me through a lot of my adolescent “turbulence” & still gets me through my days in this life. His music speaks to my soul. I grew up just knowing he had to be my guardian angel because of the deep love I had for him & his music. I still like to think that now! ; )

    Love my Bob! So good to know somebody shares the same sentiments as I do. Looking forward to celebrating with you tonight!

  2. Seeing this post makes me get emotional, because I know exactly how you feel….Bob Marley’s music changed my life. He gave me a sense of happiness, culture, realness and above all things SPIRITUALITY…Which was something that I could not receive when I went to church every Sunday with my mom. His life and music touches me so deep and I really credit him for changing my life. Thanks so much for this post….

  3. “Listening to his music gave me that feeling of spiritual balance that I felt unable to attain at church on Sundays with my parents.” I really relate to that statement bella. I can’t remember the first time I heard a Bob Marley record or discovered who he was, he just seems to be a part of life. It’s too hard to pick a favorite song, because there are just so many masterpieces, but I can say when I was transitioning into wearing my natural hair, “Natty Dread” always made me feel right when the world made me feel wrong.

  4. I love so many of Bob Marley’s songs from the spiritual “Give thanks and praises” and “Jah Live” to the social commentary: “Who the Cap Fit” “Rat Race” “Concrete Jungle.” I like some of love songs as well.

    Like you, a lot of my consciousness growing up and in my early 20s was directly formed by Bob Marley. What a phenomenon. Died at only 36, almost 30 years ago and still so influential all over the world.

  5. ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID says:

    Excellen Birthday tribute to Bob, Afrobella. Nuff respect, sister !!

  6. Under the Radar says:

    Truly a legend…
    The spirituality in his lyrics helped me define/embrace my own. Still some of my favorite tunes are his love songs. “Is This Love” has enjoyed constant rotation on my playlists where other love songs have fallen off over the course of time and too much play!

  7. paradisebird says:

    His music and his presence has kept me sane in my most fearful and depressed moments. This man`s music is simply and purely healing for me. He is a healer, a magician and a gifted ancestor. Thanks Afrobella for this post and hooring his extraodinary talent and spirit.

  8. Great post!

    My faves include:

    Lively Up Yourself
    Kaya
    Guiltiness
    Is This Love
    Johnny Was
    No More Trouble

    Okay, you’re right, too many from which to choose. I’ll stop at 6!

  9. Black Honey says:

    Great tribute Bella…

    Growing up in rural Alabama, my exposure to Bob Marley was limited to Sunday afternoon broadcasts from Alabama State University.

    It was only later that I began collecting his CDs.

    While I still appreciate his songs of revolution and consciousness, now more than ever, I’m drawn to his love songs. Waiting in Vain, Turn Your Lights Down Low, Is This Love, and Satisfy My Love are my favorites.

  10. 1. Love your blog!
    2. You’re in Chicago??!!! Yay!
    3. Bless the gods for giving us Bob.

    carry on goddess!
    slick

  11. I love me some Bob Marley. My top 5 are 1. redemption song, 2. one love, 3.no woman no cry, 4. could you be loved, 5. stir it up. His music is timeless and poignant to any generation.

  12. Black Honey says:

    I meant satisfy my soul not satisfy my love.

  13. Redemption Song.
    Small Axe.
    No Woman No Cry.
    Turn Your Lights Down Low.
    Three Little Birds.

    Great man, great songs.

  14. paradisebird says:

    I cannot count the times his music uplifted me, inspired me and influnced me…until today.
    In one word…this man is a magician and a healer.
    My favourites by Mr Bob Marley….

    1. Rastaman vibration
    2. Buffalo soldier
    3. Chant down Babylon
    4. Redemption song
    5. Kaya
    ….and I could go on nd on and on

    Happy birthday Bob! And thank you so much for sharing your incredible gifts with the world!

  15. What a beautiful tribute to Bob Marley. Thank you for sharing your faves. There are so many how do I choose? Three Little Birds, Kaya, Stir it Up, Mellow Mood, Mr. Brown, Redemption Song and Jamming come to mind right now.

    There are so many memories from high school and college with Bob Marley playing in the background. When I lived in San Diego, they had Brunch with Bob every Sunday morning on the radio and it was fabulous. His music brings a smile to my face whenever I hear it.

  16. Bob Marley has influenced the entire world with his music, which will live on to be rediscovered by more and more generations to come. His work has affected my life and my art so much. I paid tribute to him with a surreal and psychedelic portrait inspired by his words. You can see it on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/05/in-memoriam-bob-marley.html

  17. i love u my raster man then am very happy 2 day bob marley day….

  18. i love u raster man then na 2 day na bob marley day

  19. Eu não seii com quem aprendi amar
    o bob marley pois quando nasce ela ja tinha falecido
    mais as musicas as frases me troceram ate ele
    e agora sou uma fã apaixonada por ele.

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