The Story: Bob Marley (and The Wailers)

Soul rebel. Natural mystic. Shooter of sheriffs (but emphatically not deputies).

Rasta’s righteous and redemptive purveyor of roots, rock, and reggae.

Bob Marley began his musical career as a teenager in Jamaica in the early 60’s, a time when the country was just inventing its own music based on traditional island styles mixed with the soul and R&B emanating from America. Living in one of the poorest sections of Kingston, Jamaica, Marley and other kids had little choice in how to survive — it often came down to crime or creativity.

Fortunately, Bob decided on the (slightly) less dangerous path – although he was the subject of an assassination attempt later in life – and chose to write about the violence, oppression, and poverty surrounding him in order to help him escape it, scoring his first national hit at the age of 16 with a danceable plea for peace called “Simmer Down.”

After recording for the next decade with varying degrees of success in his homeland while virtually unknown in the rest of the world, Marley signed with major UK label Island Records in 1973. Island’s founder, Chris Blackwell, a longtime champion of Jamaican music, hoped to introduce Bob Marley and The Wailers and their new reggae sound to the young rock audiences. Bob considered his songs to be “rebel music,” just like the outlaw-enthused rockers, and it turned out to be a natural fit. World domination ensued and Bob Marley became the international face of Jamaica, synonymous with reggae.

So let’s get together and feel alright. Here’s the least you need to know:

Songs Of Freedom  A near-perfect box set covering Marley’s entire career from the first ska recordings to the more pop-oriented reggae songs at the end. Along the way you get all the hits, plus the best album tracks and previously unreleased gems. His 60’s and early 70’s work is spread out over hundreds of reissues and compilations so it’s great to have all the necessaries in one place. Absolutely essential listening.

As a music geek, you need to know a lot of Bob, but this box is probably all you would ever require unless you become a hardcore fan or reggae enthusiast. But you could also check out the following …

Legend  The best-selling reggae album of all time. All the songs you (should) know and love from his Island years. For one-stop shopping, this is the disc.

Catch A Fire  (1973)  The major label debut of The Wailers. Sparking up the rock and reggae. Stirring it up.

Exodus  (1977)  The album which launched Bob as a superstar all over the world. Slick and contemporary production with massively memorable songs. Melodies pure and true.

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