Yesterday (May 11) was the 35th anniversary of Bob Marley’s death. He died from malignant melanoma in a Miami hospital almost 4 years after a spot under his toenail gave way to the fatal diagnosis. At his state funeral a few days after his passing, then Prime Minister Edward Seaga eulogized him, saying:
“His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. His sharp features, majestic looks, and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds. Bob Marley was never seen. He was an experience which left an indelible imprint with each encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation.”
Bob was a year older than me when he died. If he had lived, he would be the same age as my dad. I walk by the Bob Marley Museum almost every day going to and from work and often wonder what would have come of him and what kind of legacy he would be leaving if he had lived longer.
As it is, Bob Marley is exactly as common place in Jamaica as you’d imagine he would be. His music is as much a part of the culture as Jingle Bells is a part of Christmas. Need a song everyone can sing along to for a karaoke contest? Try ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low‘. Find yourself seated at a piano but don’t know how to play? The first thing you’ll plink out isn’t ‘Chopsticks’, it is ‘No Woman, No Cry‘. Having a good day and catch yourself humming under your breath? If it isn’t a church hymn, it’s probably ‘Three Little Birds‘. It isn’t as though people think or talk about him all the time, or even that they would consider themselves fans (fandom seems to be reserved for dancehall chart toppers and notorious ghetto stars). Marley’s spirit has transcended all that and just is, ever present, like the inner voice of the nation.
His final words were, “Money can’t buy life”. I think I would have liked him.