30 Years After His Death, Bob Marley Can Still ‘Satisfy My Soul’

COMMENTARY | Nesta Robert Marley was born in Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, in 1945. In the late 1970s, Marley tried to promote peace and cultural understanding in Jamaica. After an assassination attempt before his “Smile Jamaica” concert, the band moved to England for an 18-month self-imposed exile. On May 11, 1981, Marley died of cancer. He was 36 years old.

I first heard Bob Marley in 1985. It was a particularly challenging time in my life. As it is with most of us when we are seeking answers to our most troubling questions, they often come from unexpected places at the least expected time. As I struggled to let go of past baggage in order to move forward in my life, I heard my first Marley song:

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

It was not the prison constructed of the bricks of my past but rather my own fear of leaving that held me back. Outside of those walls I would have to let go of the ability to blame others for my failures and would have to accept responsibility for my own decisions. It was my first terrifying but necessary step toward my own freedom from “mental slavery.” “Redemption Song” was but the first taste in what would become a Bob Marley feeding frenzy.

Today, as my own country erupts in turmoil, the words of the song “Rat Race” give me faith and direction: “Don’t forget your history/ Know your destiny/ In the abundance of water/ The fool is thirsty.” It is important for me to remember the history of my country and pass this knowledge on to my children. I cannot rely upon government-run schools to teach the truth of my nation’s founding and purpose.

Learning of the assassination attempt for standing up for his beliefs taught me that I too must not allow my faith to be crushed beneath the weight of challenge. Marley’s song “So Much Things To Say” gives me courage as I resist the systematic elimination of the rights endowed by my Creator. Though others may find me guilty, I will not sit down, “‘cos i’n’i no expect to be justified by the laws of men.”

I firmly believe that Marley was a prophet, an instrument of higher powers. The “chosen” usually are the last to know their importance and the first be taken from us. Thirty years after his death, his legend lives on, encouraging me and others who will listen to remember that, no matter what or how hard the struggle,”get up stand up, stand up for your rights.” And in my darkest hours, when my faith is most seriously tested, I can always crank up a little reminder and soon I am singing with him and to myself: “don’t worry about a thing/ ’cause every little thing gonna be alright.”

Sources: “Jamaican Politics and Bob Marley One Love Peace Concert”, Rasta-Man-Vibration.com

“Redemption Son Lyrics”, Lyrics Freak.com

“Bob Marley lyrics ‘” Album Exodus [1977]”, RockMagic.net

“Bob Marley: Get Up, Stand Up Lyrics”, MetroLyrics.com

“Bob Marley Legend (1984) Three Little Birds”, Pure Lyrics.com