Bob Marley Once Played A Free Concert Two Days After He Was Shot
Seventy years ago on this day, Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley was born in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica.
He would grow up to become one of the most legendary and revered musicians of all time.
It's probably safe to say there's not a single person out there who hasn't heard of Bob Marley. His smiling face is featured on murals across the world, and his music continues to bring joy to people of all races, nationalities and creeds.
Sadly, Marley died of cancer in 1981, but by that time he'd already been immortalized through his songs, deeds and world views. His music spreads a timeless message of hope, love, peace, tolerance and solidarity.
Yet despite the peaceful sentiments of his songs, Marley's life was often consumed by violence.
In 1976, at the height of Marley's popularity, the streets of Jamaica were a war zone. The island's two political parties, the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), were entangled in a deadly conflict.
In order to appease the warring parties, Prime Minister Michael Manley organized a free concert called Smile Jamaica, which was to be headlined by Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Marley wanted it to be a nonpartisan, completely apolitical event. He didn't want to be seen as supporting either party but simply wanted to perform for his people.
In spite of his intentions, it was evident that some people felt the concert signified Marley was endorsing Manley and his party, the PNP. It didn't help that the concert was being held in conjunction with impending elections.
Whether he liked it or not, Marley was an inherently political individual. People wanted him on their side, as he'd become a prominent public figure and an international sensation. Not to mention, his music and philosophy seemed to espouse the socialist ideology of the PNP.
He was a man who rejected money and worldly possessions, yet the JLP was directly associated with the United States and capitalism. Consequently, the free concert angered many people on the side of the JLP.
Just days before the concert, gunmen attacked Marley's home, and he was shot in the upper arm. Doctors warned him that removing the bullet might cause him to lose control of his fingers. Thus, the bullet would remain in his arm for the rest of his life. Marley couldn't imagine a world in which he wasn't able to play instruments.
Marley refused to be deterred by this violent incident, and two days later, on Dec. 5, he delivered an inspired performance before 80,000 people. It was one of the most monumental shows of his career.
When asked why he still played the concert after getting shot, Bob righteously stated,
The people who are trying to make this world worse aren't taking a day off. How can I?
The Smile Jamaica concert and the events that led up to it helped inspire one of Marley's most radical and revolutionary albums, Exodus.
Happy birthday, Bob! Thanks for the music and the message.