Bob Marley & The Wailers

Bob Marley (Feb. 6, 1945 — May 11, 1981) was a Jamaican vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter known internationally as the frontman of Kingston reggae legends The Wailers. He led the band through several iterations over an 18-year period, achieving global fame with a series of albums on Island Records between 1973 and 1978.

Marley co-founded The Wailers in 1963 with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. The act released a string of ska-soul singles on Wail ‘N Soul ‘M and other labels during the mid-to-late 1960s, culminating with two albums on Upsetter in 1970 and 1971. 

The Wailers members: Bob Marley (guitar, vocals), Bunny Wailer (vocals, percussion, 1963-74), Peter Tosh (vocals, guitar, 1963-74), Beverley Kelso (vocals, 1963-65), Junior Braithwaite (vocals, 1963-65), Cherry Green (vocals, 1963-65), Constantine “Vision” Walker (backing vocals, 1966-67), Aston “Family Man” Barrett (bass, 1969-81), Carlton Barrett (drums, 1969-81), Rita Marley (backing vocals) Marcia Griffiths (backing vocals, 1974-81), Judy Mowatt (backing vocals, 1974-81), Al Anderson (lead guitar, 1974-75, 1978-81), Junior Marvin (lead guitar, vocals, 1977-81), Earl Lindo (keyboards, percussion, vocals, 1973-74, 1978-81), Tyrone “Organ D” Downie (keyboards, percussion, vocals, 1975-81), Alvin “Seeco” Patterson (percussion, 1974-81)

He was born Robert Nesta Marley on February 6, 1945, in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica to Norval Sinclair Marley (1885–1955) and Cedella (née Malcolm, 1926–2008). Norval — originally from Crowborough, East Sussex, England with Syrian Jewish ancestry — was 60 years Bob’s senior. He died at age 70 when Marley was 10. Cedella was a Jamaican singer and writer who would later author two books about her son.

As a child in Nine Mile, Marley befriended Neville Livingston (b. 1947), who adopted the name Bunny Wailer. They played music together at Stepney Primary. Cedella started seeing Thadeus Livingston (Bunny’s father) and they had a daughter, Claudette Pearl, Bob and Bunny’s mutual half-sister. The Marley’s and Livingston’s settled in Trenchtown, where the boys listened to local ska music and American R&B via US radio.

Marley and Wailer formed a vocal group with fellow Trenchtown youth Beverley Kelso, Junior Braithwaite, and Peter Tosh. They rehearsed near the residence of Joe Higgs of the popular vocal duo Higgs and Wilson. Higgs became their harmony coach and taught Marley how to play guitar.

By 1962, Marley (guitar), Tosh (keyboards), and Wailer (percussion), formed the instrumental core of the Teenagers with Braithwaite on vocals and Kelso and Cherry Smith on backing vocals. They went through several name changes (the Wailing Rudeboys, the Wailing Wailers) before settling on the Wailers.

Apart from the band, Marley cut a 1962 single with Kingston producer Leslie Kong: “Judge Not” (b/w “Do You Still Love Me?”), released on Beverley’s Records with backing by the label’s house band, Beverley’s Allstars. Another track, “One Cup of Coffee,” appeared on the back of a 1963 Ernest Ranglin single.

In 1963, the Wailers caught the ear of Clement Dodd, founder of Coxsone Records, who produced their first single “Simmer Down” (b/w “I Don’t Need (Your Love)”), a Jamaican #1 hit in February 1964. It was recorded at Studio One with backing by the Skatalites. Between 1964 and 1967, the Wailers issued 19 further singles on Coxsone.

By 1966, the Wailers slimmed to the trio of Marley, Tosh, and Wailer. Their first album, The Wailing Wailers, appeared that year on the Studio One label. That same year, they founded the rocksteady label Wail N Soul M.

Meanwhile, Marley mentored the Soulettes, a vocal trio that included Rita Anderson, his soon-to-be wife. In 1968, they flew to the Bronx, where Marley cut a number of US-friendly sides with songwriter Jimmy Norman, including “Gonna Get You” and “Stay With Me.” That October, they had their first child, Ziggy Marley.

During the late ’60s, Marley converted to Rastafari and grew his hair into dreadlocks. The Wailers broke with Dodd and linked with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and his studio band the Upsetters. As ska gave way to reggae, the Wailers slowed their tempos and adopted more guitar-based arrangements, as heard on the 1970/71 Wailers albums Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution Part II, both issued on Upsetter.

The Wailers made another international contact in American soul singer Johnny Nash, who adopted the rocksteady beat on his singles “Hold Me Tight” and “Stir It Up,” a Marley-penned Wailers cover. In 1971, Marley and Nash co-composed the music to the Swedish romance film Want So Much to Believe, in which Nash stars as Robert. The following year, the Wailers and Nash did a joint tour of the UK.

While there, the Wailers arranged a meeting with Island Records head Chris Blackwell to discuss royalties on his release of their material in the UK market. Instead, he offered them an advance for a new album.


  • Soul Rebels (1970)
  • Soul Revolution (1971)
  • Upsetter Revelusion Rhythm (1971)
  • Catch a Fire (1973)
  • Burnin’ (1973)
  • Natty Dread (1974)
  • Live! (1975)
  • Rastaman Vibration (1976)
  • Exodus (1977)
  • Kaya (1978)
  • Babylon by Bus (1978)
  • Survival (1979)
  • Uprising (1980)
  • Chances Are (1981, recorded 1968–1972)
  • Confrontation (1983)


  • Discogs: Bob Marley

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