- Bob Marleyby Debbie D'Arcy
This work has reached the exceptional level
One Love, One Heart, One Destiny
Bob Marley by Debbie D'Arcy

Jamaica would forever be his path to great renown
in rural Roots and proverty so rife in Kingston town.
His heritage twixt black and white, at first a cross to bear,
while Mellow Mood was triggered by a father rarely there.
But Trenchtown Rock fired up this boy as music would inspire
and gave him credibility that raised him from the mire.
A Dreamland for a future in the spotlight he'd pursue,
a Cornerstone to build a life of hope from all he knew.
With US broadcasts, he'd delight in R and B and Ska
and, key to give his song appeal, he'd learn to play guitar.
Before too long, he'd Stir it Up and form his backing band -
The Wailers (after much debate), about to rock the land.
His Rasta creed and dreadlocks bore his culture strong and proud
while Simmer Down in reggae style would send a Caution loud
to Rude Boys of the ghettos who engaged in thuggish crime:
"Control your temper" won't you, or you're in for "hotter" time!
Then global fame awaited him, he soon was Riding High
with landmark song that made his name - No Woman (please) No Cry -
and country tours consumed his time with pressure taking hold.
But, on return to Kingston, a new Crisis would unfold.
A tension twixt two warring groups in escalating strife
resulted in a shooting aimed to take this showman's life.
Survival plans would force his hand, Back Out to relocate
to London in self-exile while the threats might then abate.
This Exodus would never stop his creativity;
he knew he had much Work to do so people would feel free.
In Jamming style, he called upon  all children to unite
"for life is worth much more than gold," "we all defend the right."
With brief respite from touring, he'd be on the Zion Train,
a mission to get all on board, Wake Up and Live Again
for hue of skin has no import and peace will never reign
until equality is shared, a War will thus remain.
In Africa, his heartland, where he found his Rebel Soul,
his racial bridge would span two worlds with harmony, his goal.
Don't Stand Alone, his clar'on call, the Sun is Shining bright
and Rocking Steady he would chant his words of faith and light.
But in his quest for unity, he erred and failed to heed
when cancer, first detected, would then spread with undue speed.
A Bad Card had been dealt to him but he would carry on,
his message, Is this Love to last, sustained him in his song.
A charismatic man with fans who always Want(ed) More
but, through it all, his wife forgave, preferring to ignore
with love, a firm Foundation, that would only see his best;
she knew the pressures and the pain, unseen by all the rest.
Impassioned by conflicting times and insecurity,
he strove to knock down walls and help the world, with hope, to see
"One Love, one heart, one destiny" would always be our might -
Three Little Birds in song to share: "things gonna be all right."
This Legend of his era, in a life cut far too short,
was lauded for his talent and the peaceful fight he fought.
A Prince of Wails, so honoured as he lay in regal State,
lives on with us, his struggle for love's triumph over hate.


Author Notes
Robert Nesta Marley 1945-1981

Image: courtesy of Google free pics; Information sources: Wikipedia and other biographies on the web and Netflix. Please note that his biopic is due for release on 14 February 2024.

When I started this, I never thought that this reggae star would be worthy of comparison with Martin Luther King. I was wrong. But for the differences in their cultural, and familial background, the parallels are stark.

Song/album titles have been used for the poetic purpose of this biography and may not necessarily relate to the context of the songs or their period. They may also be slightly amended or shortened to accommodate the meter. Dates in brackets refer to original release). Thank you so much for your understanding.

Stanza 1: Roots (1986); Mellow Mood (1966)
Marley was born in St Ann Parish, Jamaica. His mother, Cedella Malcolm, a native of Jamaica was 18 when she married a much older Englishman, Norval Sinclair Marley. Though he provided financial support, Marley Snr was largely absent from his son's life and a bond was never formed. He drew inspiration from his own personal experiences as well as the marginalised communities of Jamaica.

Stanza 2: Trenchtown Rock (1971); Dreamland (album 1998); Cornerstone (1970)
At the age of 12 he moved with his mother to Trenchtown, Kingston. Previously a growing squatter settlement, it developed into the Hollywood of Jamaica, the birthplace of rocksteady and reggae music.

Stanza 3: Stir it Up (1967)
Ska- a forerunner of reggae music in Jamaica in the 60s.
Building on his early love and influenced by his setting and the media, his music career took off with his band name changing from the Teenagers to the Wailing Rudeboys to the Wailing Wailers to the Wailers.

Stanza 4: Simmer Down (1994); Rude Boy (1965); Caution (1971)
By the age of 17 he was embracing the Rastafari faith - a religion that developed in Jamaica in the 1930s as a reaction against British colonial culture. It is based on a specific interpretation of the Bible, a belief of a single God (Jah) deemed to reside partially in each individual. It is Afrocentric, focusing attention on the African diaspora, believed to be oppressed within Western society or Babylon. Haili Selassi 1, former Emperor of Ethiopia, is a key figure in this religion.
Rude boy was a subculture from the poorer sections of Kingston, associated with violent, discontented youths. This was a particularly unstable time in the aftermath of independence in 1962.

Stanza 5-6 No Woman, No Cry ( 1975); Crisis (1978); Survival (1979 11th studio album); Back Out (1971)
Exhausted from touring, he returned to Kingston where an assassination attempt on him, his wife, manager and musician fortunately caused no fatalities. Though never wanting to take sides in politics, he increasingly became seen as a supporter of the People's National Party, his influence in Jamaica being seen as a threat to the party's rivals. He later speculated that the CIA or FBI might have been behind this attack which occurred 2 days before a planned free concert, Smile Jamaica, aimed at countering political violence. Despite the inevitable trauma and advice to stay away, he performed at the concert, fleeing the country the next day.

Stanza 7-8: Exodus (1977 9th studio album); Work (1980); Jamming (1977); Zion (earthly paradise in Ethiopia) Train (1980); Wake Up and Live (1979); War (1976)
A 2 year period of song-writing followed whilst in England, his mission, ever strong, to further the advancement of civil rights. Whilst disharmony existed, particularly in relation to apartheid, there could never be peace.

Stanza 9: Soul Rebel (1970); Stand Alone (1971); Sun is Shining (1978); Rocking Steady (1972)
He paid his own way out to Zimbabwe to play his iconic independence concert. Africa was at the epicentre of his religion and yet the country was torn apart by apartheid. His bi-racial background also brought his mission of integration into strict moral focus and priority.

Stanza 10: Bad Card (1981); Is this Love (1978)
While playing football, his toe was badly injured when someone's spiked boot came down heavily on it. It became infected and subsequently found to be cancerous. Rather than follow medical advice that could have saved his life, he refused it, more concerned that his dancing would be affected and/or it contravened the terms of his religion. It was only after he collapsed with a seizure, that it was discovered the cancer had spread to every part of his body, including his brain. He still persevered as long as possible, fortified by his faith, before travelling to Germany for chemotherapy.

Stanza 11: Want More (1976); One Foundation (1973)
Despite being married to Rita Marley (also a backing singer) from the age of 21 until his death, he continued to have other liaisons and, out of 7 such relationships, he sired 11 children. His wife was remarkably forgiving, her love and respect for him surpassing his marital disloyalty.

Stanza 12: One Love (1977 album Exodus; also title of biopic due for release on 14 February 2024).; Three Little Birds (1980)
These were troubled times in the world with the Cold War, in particular, causing division and conflict. His deep empathy for the challenges faced by his people motivated him to express them through his music. Even shortly before his death, the release of the remarkably upbeat tone of Three Little Birds is testament to Marley's undying spirit and, together with One Love, his philosophy of love, reflection and unity for inner peace in the face of adversity. He had a love of nature and was charmed by the birds that visited his window sill. I also liked the idea of them symbolising the three elements of his mantra: One love, one heart, one destiny.

Stanza 13: Legend (1984 album)
From Germany he set out for his beloved Jamaica one last time to receive the Order of Merit but he never made it and died in Miami, aged 36 years. Adored by the people of Jamaica, he was given a hero's send-off with a state funeral.

His message of love and unity has continued to reverberate around the world, including India and various indigenous communities, for instance, members of the Native American Hopi and Havasupai tribes revere his work.

The Bob Marley Foundation is a charity that supports his legacy through arts, education, health and sports, preserving the spiritual, cultural, social and musical ideals that inspired him during his life.


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