Robert Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945, in Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica, to Norval Marley and Cedella Booker. His father was a Jamaican of English descent. His mother was a black teenager. The couple planned to get married but Norval left Kingston before this could happen.
Bob Marley's career started in 1963 with a group called "the Wailers", formed with Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston. In 1966, Bob Marley married Rita and it was she who introduced him to Rastafarianism.
The Wailers worked with Lee "Scratch" Perry, resulting in some of the Wailers' finest tracks like "Soul Rebel", "Duppy Conquerer", "400 Years" and "Small Axe." This collaboration ended terribly though after The Wailers found that Perry, thinking the records were his, had sold them in England without their consent. This did, however, bring the Wailers' music to the attention of Chris Blackwell, the owner of Island Records.
Blackwell immediately signed them and produced "Catch a Fire", their first album. In 1974 Tosh and Livingston left the Wailers to start solo careers. Marley later formed the band "Bob Marley and the Wailers", with his wife Rita as one of three backup singers called the I-Trees. This period saw the release of some groundbreaking albums, such as "Natty Dread", "Rastaman Vibration".
In 1976, during a period of nasty political violence in Jamaica, an unsuccessful attempt was made on Marley's life. Marley left for England, where he lived in self-exile for two years. In England "Exodus" was produced, and it remained on the British charts for 56 straight weeks. This was followed by another successful album, "Kaya." These successes introduced reggae music to the western world for the first time, and established the beginning of Marley's international status.
In 1977 Marley found a wound on his big toe that wouldn't heal. Tests revealed a malignant melanoma. Bob refused to have his toe amputated, ignoring his doctors recommendations. The reason? Doing so was a contradiction to his Rastafarian beliefs. Others, however, claim that the main reason behind his refusal was the possible negative impact on his dancing skills. The cancer was kept secret from the general public while Bob continued working.
Returning to Jamaica in 1978, he continued work and released "Survival" in 1979 which was followed by a successful European tour. In 1980 he was the only foreign artist to participated in the independence ceremony of Zimbabwe. It was a time of great success for Marley, and he started an American tour to reach blacks in the US. He played two shows at Madison Square Garden, but collapsed while jogging in NYC's Central Park on September 21, 1980. The cancer diagnosed earlier had spread to his brain, lungs and stomach. Bob Marley died in a Miami hospital on May 11, 1981. He was 36 years old.