Bob Marley (1945-1981)
Album cover of Catch a Fire (1973).
One of the most important figures in the history of the Rastafari movement is the reggae artist Bob Marley (1945-81). The son of a white father and black mother, Marley lived in the Kingston slums of Jamaica. He recorded his first singles in 1962, had his first internation hit with The Wailers' album Catch A Fire in 1973. He had his first solo hit outside Jamaica with "No Woman, No Cry," in 1975.
Bob Marley became a Rastafari around 1966. He grew dreadlocks, adopted marijuana as a sacred sacrament, and is said to have begun every performance proclaiming the divinity of Jah Rastafari. His immense popularity as a musician brought both reggae and Rasta to international attention. Reggae music is intimately connected to Rastafari and its lyrics often speak of oppression, poverty, slavery, apartheid and human rights.
Marley was diagnosed with cancer in 1977 and he succumbed to the disease on May 11, 1981. Uprising (1980), Bob Marley's final studio album, is one of his most religious works, including the tracks "Redemption Song" and "Forever Loving Jah."
A few months before his death, Bob Marley was baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a Christian faith that rejects the divinity of Haile Selassie. This has allowed both faiths to claim Marley as "their own."
Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica, which combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafari. He was buried in a crypt near his birthplace with his Gibson Les Paul guitar, a soccer ball, a cannabis bud, and a Bible.