Today in labor history: Bob Marley, champion of the oppressed, is born

Bob Marley, who introduced reggae to the world and gave voice to the passion of oppressed people, was born 68 years ago, on Feb. 5, 1945, in the Jamaican village of Nine Mile. He died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 36. In his short life, Marley became a worldwide symbol of the fight for freedom and justice waged not only by his own people but by the people of the world.

Reggae came out of the slums of Jamaica, and, one source notes, “was the first music poor Jamaicans could call their own.” Marley was not the first reggae musician, nor the only great one, but he put reggae on the world stage with a series of hit songs and albums. In addition he championed the popular government of Prime Minister Michael Manley, a trade unionist and socialist. And through his music he supported the South African people’s struggle against apartheid.

Appropriately, a box set of Marley’s music released after his death is titled “Songs of Freedom.”

Among his most famous songs are “I Shot the Sheriff”, “No Woman, No Cry”, “Could You Be Loved”, “Stir It Up”, “Get Up Stand Up”, “Jamming”, “Redemption Song”, “One Love” and, “Three Little Birds”,[ and the posthumous releases “Buffalo Soldier” and “Iron Lion Zion”. The compilation album Legend (1984), released three years after his death, is reggae’s best-selling album, going Platinum 10 times and selling 25 million copies worldwide.

In 1999 Time magazine named Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Exodus the greatest album of the 20th century. In 2001, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award,

Two recent documentary films illuminate Marley’s life and his Rastari religion.

Video: Bob Marley sings “No Woman No Cry” at the Amandla Festival in Boston, 1979:

Photo via Wikipedia.


Special to
Special to is a daily news website of, for and by the 99% and the direct descendant of the Daily Worker. Published by Long View Publishing Co., People’s World reports on the movements for jobs, peace, equality, democracy, civil rights and liberties, labor, immigrant, LGBT and women’s rights, protection of the environment, and more.