It’s inevitable that people who die young are frozen in time so that when they hit some age almost twice what they were when they passed away, it’s difficult to imagine. Reggae music superstar Bob Marley was only 36 when he died in 1981 of cancer, but before that time, he brought a whole new sound to the world.
Since many of the Wailers songs were, for contractual as well as artistic reasons, recorded more than once, the versions below may not be the ones referred to in the description.
16. Rock, Roots, Reggae (1976) – oddly, this is the only Marley single to reach the Billboard (US) Hot 100 charts, peaking at #51.
15. Simmer Down (1963) – the first single released by The Wailers. It was the #1 hit in Jamaica in February 1964.
14. Waiting in Vain (1977) – from the great Exodus album, it reached #27 on the UK singles chart.
13. Exodus (1977) the title song of the album that Time magazine, in 1999, named the best album of the 20th century.
12. I Shot the Sheriff (1973) – probably the song that introduced most Americans to the music of Bob Marley, but not HIS version. Eric Clapton’s cover version was a massive international hit in 1974. LISTEN.
11. Redemption Song (1979) one of his last works, and one of his greatest, it’s a simple solo acoustic recording utilizing some of Marcus Garvey’s words. It has been heavily covered, including versions by Johnny Cash/Joe Strummer, and by Stevie Wonder, which I own.
10. No Woman, No Cry (1974) – I think the song’s history is as interesting as its performance. “Though Bob Marley may have written the song, or at least the melody, songwriter credits were given to Vincent Ford, a friend of Marley’s who ran a soup kitchen in Trenchtown, the ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica where Marley grew up. The royalty checks received by Ford ensured the survival and continual running of his soup kitchen.”
9. Could You Be Loved (1980)- as usual, it fared better on the charts in Europe (and New Zealand!) than in the US. “The song is considered by many reggae fans to be disco influenced.”
8. Lively Up Yourself (1974) – this is the first song on the Natty Dread album, the “first recorded without former bandmates Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. It is also the first album recorded with the I-Threes, a female vocal trio that included Bob’s wife, Rita Marley, along with Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt.”
7. Buffalo Soldier (1983) – this was from Marley’s final recording sessions in 1980, not appearing on record until the 1983 posthumous release of the album Confrontation. “The title and lyrics refer to the black U.S. cavalry regiments, known as ‘Buffalo Soldiers’, that fought in the Indian Wars after 1866.”
6. Three Little Birds (1977) – I was watching some cartoon with The Daughter about five years ago, and it used this song, to great effect. It was released as a single in 1980, reaching #17 on the UK charts and “has been covered by numerous other artists.”
5. One Love/People Get Ready (1965, 1977) – it was first recorded by Marley’s original group, The Wailers, then rerecorded for the Exodus album. “The song contains an interpretation of The Impressions’ song ‘People Get Ready’ written by Curtis Mayfield.”
4. Is This Love (1978) – released on his 1978 album Kaya.
3. Get Up, Stand Up (1973)- almost all of Marley’s songs are message songs. This was the last song Marley ever performed on stage, “on September 23, 1980, at the Stanley Theater, now the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”
2. Jamming (1977). -the 1980 Stevie Wonder hit Master Blaster (Jammin’) (LISTEN) was a tribute to Bob Marley.
1. Stir It Up (1972) – I may have heard the 1973 Johnny Nash version (LISTEN) first, but prefer the Wailers.