Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rocksteady and reggae band Bob Marley & The Wailers. Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited with helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience.
Marley's music was heavily influenced by the social issues of his homeland, and he is considered to have given voice to the specific political and cultural nexus of Jamaica. His best-known hits include "I Shot the Sheriff", "No Woman, No Cry", "Could You Be Loved", "Stir It Up", "Jammin'", "Redemption Song", "One Love" and "Three Little Birds"". The compilation album Legend, released three years after his death, is reggae's best-selling album, going ten times Platinum which is also one Diamond in the U.S. and selling 25 million copies worldwide.
In 1962, Marley recorded his first two singles, "Judge Not" and "One Cup of Coffee", with local music producer Leslie Kong. The songs were later re-released on the box set Songs of Freedom, a posthumous collection of Marley's work.
In 1963, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith formed a ska and rocksteady group, calling themselves "The Teenagers". They later changed their name to "The Wailing Rudeboys", then to "The Wailing Wailers", at which point they were discovered by record producer Coxsone Dodd, and finally to "The Wailers". By 1966, Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith had left The Wailers, leaving the core trio of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh. Between 1968 and 1972, Bob and Rita Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer re-cut some old tracks with JAD Records in Kingston and London in an attempt to commercialise The Wailers' sound. In 1972, the Wailers entered into an ill-fated deal with CBS Records and embarked on a tour with American soul singer Johnny Nash.
The Wailers' first major label album, Catch a Fire was released worldwide in April 1973, packaged like a rock record with a unique Zippo lighter lift-top. Initially selling 14,000 units, it didn't make Marley a star, but received a positive critical reception. It was followed later that year by Burnin', which included the standout songs "Get Up, Stand Up", and "I Shot the Sheriff". The Wailers were scheduled to open 17 shows for Sly and the Family Stone in the States, but after four shows, the band was fired because they were more popular than the acts they were opening for. The Wailers broke up in 1974 with each of the three main members pursuing solo careers.
Despite the break-up, Marley continued recording as "Bob Marley & The Wailers". His new backing band included brothers Carlton and Aston "Family Man" Barrett on drums and bass respectively, Junior Marvin and Al Anderson on lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl "Wya" Lindo on keyboards, and Alvin "Seeco" Patterson on percussion. In 1975, Marley had his international breakthrough with his first hit outside Jamaica, "No Woman, No Cry", from the Natty Dread album. This was followed by his breakthrough album in the United States, Rastaman Vibration (1976), which spent four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.
Marley left Jamaica at the end of 1976, and after a month-long "recovery and writing" self-imposed exile, he recorded the albums Exodus and Kaya. Exodus stayed on the British album charts for 56 consecutive weeks. It included four UK hit singles: "Exodus", "Waiting in Vain", "Jamming", and "One Love". In 1978, Marley returned to Jamaica and performed at another political concert, the One Love Peace Concert, again in an effort to calm warring political parties.
Survival, a defiant and politically charged album, was released in 1979. Tracks such as "Zimbabwe", "Africa Unite", "Wake Up and Live", and "Survival" reflected Marley's support for the struggles of Africans. His appearance at the Amandla Festival in Boston in July 1979 showed his strong opposition to South African apartheid, which he already had shown in his song "War" in 1976. In early 1980, he was invited to perform at the celebration of Zimbabwe's Independence Day. Uprising was Bob Marley's final studio album, and is one of his most religious productions; it includes "Redemption Song" and "Forever Loving Jah". Confrontation, released posthumously in 1983, contained unreleased material recorded during Marley's lifetime, including the hit "Buffalo Soldier" and new mixes of singles previously only available in Jamaica.