Bob Marley Biography - Part 2

Catch A Fire...

Bob flew back to England by the end of '72 with the master copies of "Catch A Fire" and Blackwell began to put the final touches to it, to make it appeal to a rock audience. The original album sleeve was in the shape of a Zippo lighter which when opened revealed there was a cutout flaming wick with the record hiding behind it.

Bob Marley and The Wailers appearing on UK televisions Old Grey Whistle Test, Performing Concrete Jungle from the Catch A Fire album, in 1973The first true reggae album "Catch A Fire" was released in the UK in December '72 and the US shortly afterwards. Although the album wasn't a huge seller despite some great reviews in the UK and US it had justified Blackwell's faith in the Wailers.

To support the album the Wailers criss-crossed the UK performing mainly clubs and small provincial theaters (including an appearance on UK television's Old Grey Whistle Test) and then later the US a first for a reggae band.

Despite the success they were having Bunny was becoming very uncomfortable with life on the road (particularly when he found it hard to find I-tal, unprocessed food), and so when the group got back to Jamaica before starting their US tour, he told Bob that he would continue studio work and Jamaican gigs, but refused to tour outside of Jamaica, evectively leaving the Wailers. The US tour began early in July taking in Boston, New York, the mid-west, Florida and finally California. Their old tutor Joe Higgs took bunny's place.

Blackwell realized he needed a follow up album to "Catch A Fire", and by mid-November of the same year "Burnin" was released and again, was well received by music fans who appreciated the rootsier feeling to it. The album featured reworkings of "Small Axe" and "Duppy Conqueror" and some new songs such as "I shot the sheriff", Burnin and Lootin" and the classic "Get Up Stand Up" written by both Bob and Peter, it would later be a regular in-concert for Bob.

Sadly it was to be the last album the original trio (Bob, Bunny and Peter) would work together on. Peter was becoming uncomfortable with the idea of Bob being seen as the star of the band (mostly by Island records, Chris Blackwell), and so left the group and started his own solo career.

From that point on it would be Bob Marley and Wailers.


Hope Road...

Most of '74 was spent at 56 Hope Road (a house which had been bought for Bob in upper-class Kingston by Chris Blackwell), writing songs for the Wailers next album, and trying to formulate a new structure for the band, now that Bunny and Peter had left. Bob needed someone to replace the harmonies of the two, and he found three woman of such voice: Rita, Bob's wife, and her friend Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. They would become known as the I-threes. Bob had also found a new manager named Don Taylor who remained so right up to early 1980.

The Wailers next album was released (after some delays) early in '75 which was easily Bobs greatest album release so far, thanks to a cover version of "I Shot The Sheriff" from the previous album "Burning" done by famous rock singer Eric Clapton, the song had gone to no 1 in the US and reached no 9 in the UK, calling attention to the song writing abilities of the little known (to most anyway) reggae singer.

The album contained some of Bob's best know songs like the classic "No Woman, No Cry", "Lively Up Yourself", "Rebel Music", and "Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)" among others.

Yet again another tour was organized in North America by the summer of '75, then by mid-July flew to England for another 4 dates (at larger venues) including two consecutive nights at London's Lyceum the second of which Chris Blackwell recorded for a live album.

Even though Bob had now become an international success he never let it go to his head and he remained true to his beliefs, and considered himself as merely a messenger of Jah Rastafari.

"Me only have one ambition," he asserted, " I only have one thing that I like to see happen, I like to see mankind come together - black, white, Chinese, everyone - that's all..."

By August Bob was back in Jamaica working on songs for the next album. One song in particular he was working on was a speech that Haile Selassie had delivered to a United Nations assembly at Stanford University in California in 1968, which would be titled "War". The song became one of Bob's most powerful highlights of the Wailers stage show.

"Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior,
is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, me say War"

It was during these sessions that Jamaican newspapers were reporting that Haile Selassie had died. As soon as Bob had heard the news he set about writing a new song entitled "Jah Live" which was Bobs way of expressing to the non-believers that you cant kill God.

"Fools say in their heart, Rasta your God is dead, but I'n'I know Jah Lives..."

On its release in Jamaica the song was an instant success.

Bob new manager Don Taylor had set up a show that would be known as the Dream Concert. When the Rock star Stevie Wonder was asked to play, with the idea of headlining a joint stadium concert (with the Wailers) with the profits to go to a Jamaican Salvation Army Institute for the Blind he happily agreed to play.
The Concert took place on October 11 with both Peter and Bunny joining the Wailers set, this was to be the last time that the 3 would perform together on stage.

The show was a huge success with the highlight being when Stevie Wonder joined in on singing "I Shot the sheriff" at the end of the Wailers set. It highlighted the fact that Bob Marley and the Wailers were now an international success.


Rastaman Vibration...

It was May '76 that Rastaman Vibration was released. With most of the songs being regular in-concert songs. The album contained ten songs in all, Positive vibration, Roots, Rock, Reggae, Crazy Baldheads, are a few, with the highlights being "War" and "Rat Race". The later being a song about the upcoming elections in which Bob reminds the listener that "Rasta don't work for no CIA."

A three-month tour of North America and Europe began. A show in Philadelphia at the Tower Theater would give Bobs Mother a chance to see her son perform a live concert for the first time, having been driving up from Delaware especially for the show. Bob played an extra long show (knowing his Mom was in the audience). She was very impressed with the performance (which is also one of my favorites and I'm sure many other people too), as were the other thousands present with her in the crowd.

The Wailers moved to Europe after the Californian shows, these included dates in Germany, Amsterdam, Paris and finally England.

When Bob returned to Jamaica in September, he found it to be a war zone - literally.

On the run up to the elections which were to be held on the 15 of December 1976, Bob was asked to play a concert on the 5th to "cool down" the waring sides of the two main political paties the PNP and the JLP, at least until the elections were over. Bob agreed to play.


Ambush in the night...

On December 3rd, two nights before the Smile Jamaica concert gunmen entered the back room of Bobs house, where Bob and members were reharsing for the show. The gunmen opened fire, showering the room with bullets, hitting Bob in the arm, Rita was shot by one of two men in the front yard as she ran out of the house with the Marley children and a reporter from the Jamaican Daily News. The bullet caught her in the head, and burrowed between the sclap and skull.

Don Tailor, Bob's manager was just coming into the room to speak to Bob, and steped right in the line of fire. As Talylor lay in a heap on the floor in front of Bob, bleeding badly from several bullets lodged in his upper thighs and another at the base of his spine he didn't realize that he had been directly in the line of gunfire meant for Bob. The gunmen fired a total of eight shots in the room, one bullet hitting a counter, another hit the ceiling, five tore into Don Talor and the last creased Marleys breast below his heart and lodged deep inside his arm.
Bobs friend Lewis Griffith also needed immediate medical attention for his stomach wounds.

The injured were rushed to hospital as soon as the smoke cleared, where Bob got treated for his wound. Taylor and Griffith were put on the critical list, Rita went into surgery for the removel of the bullet lodged in her sclap.
Amazingly no one was killed in the incident.

Bob retreated, under police escort to a hideout in the Blue montains over-looking Kingston, where he got time to reason with his Rasta brethren about the Ambush that just took place, and the question of the Wailers appearance at the Smile Jamaica show was left to linger.

By the day of the show all of Jamaica had heard of the shooting incident and although Marley was not expected to appear; the crowd that day began building, and by 5pm there 50,000 had gathered.
Bob decided to appear despite the fact that he would be leaving himself open for further attacks.

Bob made his way down the narrow montain road to the festival site (which had now grown to 80,000) escorted by police and orther members of the band, including Rita, who had joined Bob after being released from hospital. Bob met the leader of the PNP, Michael Manley on stage who hugged him with emotion and then stepped on to the sideline.

Bob started the show by saying "When me decide ta do dis yere concert two anna half months ago, me was told dere was no polictics. I jus wanted ta play for da love of da people." Then saying he would sing "one song" he launched into what became a ninety-minute set, starting with the song "War". Near the end of his peformance Bob opened his shirt and rolled up his left sleeve to show his wounds to the audience. Before leaving the last thing the crowd witnessed was Bob mimicking the gunmen with his hand drawn out in the shape of a gun, with his locks thrown back in the air.

"When people start fighting me, is more better fer me. Me can sit down an' meditate off what they's fighting me for and write a song about it...
'Ow ya think me write I Shot the Sheriff?"



In the months that followed, Bobs whereabouts were unknown to most. It was 3 months later when Bob traveled to England (were his presence was discovered when he was caught for possessing ganja) to start work on his next album, which was titled "Exodus" and subtitled Movement of Jah People.

While in England he stayed with a Jamaican beauty Queen, and later Miss World, Cindy Breakspeare, who had a child with Bob (Damian Marley). It was while in England that Bob gained a lot of fame thoughout England and Europe. The "Exodus" album was released in May 1977 and was his most successful album yet, reaching no 8 in the UK charts.

REPORTER: You think the whole question of fame, what it's done to you, is part of you belongs to that world of music. You think that's gonna change your beliefs and effect you?
BOB: Ya can't do that ta me! Any body change, they change from long time ago. They have that change within them; whatever you see - it was there before.

A European tour was organized to promote the album. The start off venue was Paris, where Bob and crew took time-off for a football match against a tough-tackling team of French journalists.

During one of these tackles Bobs right big toe was crushed, which sent him limping off the pitch. Despite first aid it proved impossible for the wound to heal up properly due to conditions of life on the road and on stage.

The tour had taken the group through Belguim, Holland, Germany and Scandininavia before coming back to Britain in June; Bob had toured despite the permanent pain due to his big toe not healing properly.

Apart from his music, Bob's favorate past time was football. When the tour ended Bob saw a foot specialist in London, who after close examination of the toe discorvered cancer cells. The doctor recommended that the entire toe be amputated as early as possible in order to stop the spread of the cells.

The suggestion that Bob should lose part of his foot shocked him, probably even more so then the discovery of cancer. Unsure what do to Bob went to Miami to get a second opinion, visiting the surgeon who had saved Don Taylor's life after the ambush the year before.

The advice he gave Bob was the same, some of the injured toe at least would have to go, so Bob had the operation done to remove the toenail and had the toe cleansed and it healed beautifully as a result.



The period of rest that followed the procedure was spent mainly in Miami, were Bob was inspired to write an album called Kaya. The word "Kaya" being the Jamaican term for ganja. The album was released by the spring of 78, it was a series of uplifting songs about the simple things in life, like a misty morning - sun is shining -the pleasures of smoking herb - making love. The album also contained one of Bobs best known songs "Iis this Love?". The critics accused Marley of "going soft" saying that he had given up his leadership role. Marley simply stated that he "Jus' wanna cool off the pace."

Bobs manager Don Taylor who was now fully recovered from the shooting incident almost two years earlier, began to plan a Wailers world tour. Based around the recently released Kaya album, the tour was planned to start in the US in May before covering Europe in the summer and eventually Australia, New Zealand and Japan during the autumn.


To read the final part of this biography of Bobs Marleys life, CLICK HERE

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