Ask anyone to name just one reggae artist and most will say Bob Marley - he's an icon for Jamaica and the music he helped make so popular. His talent for writing deceptively simple songs that had great depth as well as universal themes helped make him not just a reggae great, but a true musical superstar.

Born in 1945 in a rural area of Jamaica to a white father and a teenage local girl, he left home as a young teenager, heading to Kingston, where he made his first record aged 17. Shortly after Marley formed a group called the Teenagers, who soon became the Wailing Rudeboys before simply calling themselves The Wailers. During 1964 and '65 they had numerous hits in Jamaica before they split up and Marley moved to America where his mother was living.

Bob MarleyOn his return to Jamaica in 1966 Marley formed a new incarnation of the Wailers and made a number of recordings with Lee 'Scratch' Perry before eventually signing to Chris Blackwell's Island Records, releasing Catch A Fire in the spring of 1973. The follow-up Burnin' included I Shot The Sheriff made even more famous by the Eric Clapton cover version - as well as Get Up Stand Up. It was after this that Wailers' founding members Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh left and Marley recruited new singers before recording Natty Dread, which is for some the greatest reggae album of all time. It includes the seminal No Woman No Cry, which was also the first single to chart in Britain in 1975. The following year Roots, Rock, Reggae from Rastaman Vibration was Marley's first American hit single and the album from which it was taken cracked the top 10 of the U.S. album charts and remains his most successful album in America.

After an attempted assassination Marley left Jamaica and recorded the Grammy Hall of Fame's Exodus, his biggest selling record that included Jamming, Waiting in Vain and the title track, which was his second big UK single. Following the release of Kaya, Marley's highest placed album on the U.K. charts, Babylon By Bus and Survival, it was discovered that Marley had inoperable cancer and he died aged 36 on 11 May 1981. The last album to be released in his lifetime was Uprising, from which was taken Could You be Loved, which became his best performing U.K. single prior to his untimely death. His legend lives on and the release of the 'Marley' movie in 2012 is a superb tribute to the man who made Reggae such a popular form of music around the world.

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.Bob Marley

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 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." 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.

Bob MarleyAs 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.

Posthumous efforts including 1983's Confrontation, the best-selling 1984 retrospective Legend, and the 2012 documentary Marley kept the man's music alive, and his renown continued to grow in the years following his death -- even decades after the fact, he remains synonymous with reggae's world-wide popularity. In the wake of her husband's passing, Rita Marley scored a solo hit with "One Draw," but despite the subsequent success of singles "Many Are Called" and "Play Play," she had largely withdrawn from performing to focus on raising her children by the mid-'80s. Oldest son David, better known as Ziggy, went on to score considerable pop success as the leader of the Melody Makers, a Marley family group comprised of siblings Cedella, Stephen, and Sharon; their 1988 single "Tomorrow People" was a Top 40 U.S. hit, a feat even Bob himself never accomplished. Three other Marley children -- Damian, Julian, and Ky-Mani -- pursued careers in music as well.

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS

ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand
ALBUM REVIEWExpand