7 Surprising Facts You May Not Know About The Jamaican Legend Bob Marley
Updated: Feb 9
Jamaican singer, musician, and songwriter Bob Marley served as a world ambassador for reggae music and sold more than 20 million records throughout his career.
Many of us are familiar with Bob Marley’s famous songs and even know the lyrics from memory. There is however, so much more to this renowned musician beyond his international rock ‘n’ roll stardom. Although he died at the young age of 36, Marley’s music and his message have lived on.
Here are seven interesting facts you may not know about this reggae icon.
1. The Name His Mother Gave Him
Bob Marley was actually born Nesta Robert Marley in the Parish of St. Ann, Jamaica, on February 6, 1945. According to Clash Music, his first and middle name were switched after people pointed out that “Nesta” seemed like a girl’s name.
Marley also earned the nickname “Tuff Gong” as a teenager for the toughness he showed growing up in Kingston’s Trench Town. He later called his record label Tuff Gong, which is now part of Island Records.
2. He Was A Palm Reader Before He Was A Singer
At the age of four, folks discovered that when Marley read palms , his predictions would come true. He stopped reading palms at age 7, when he decided to become a singer. As an adult, he reportedly told a woman who asked him to read her palm, “I’m not reading no more hand; I’m singing now.”
3. He Had Many Children
Marley married a local Sunday school teacher named Rita Anderson when he was 21 and they stayed married until his death. He adopted Rita’s daughter and the couple went on to have four children. He had several other children with other women, according to Biography.com, and adopted a child that his wife Rita bore from another man. Marley acknowledged fatherhood of 13 children, although there are rumors that more children exist.
4. He Received An Order Of Merit From Jamaica
Shortly before his death from cancer, Marley received the Order of Merit from Jamaica. The Order of Merit is part of the Jamaican honours system, and it is the fourth-highest honour awarded by the nation of Jamaica. This award can be given to “any citizen of Jamaica … who has achieved eminent international distinction in the field of science, the arts, literature or any other endeavor,” according to the Jamaican government’s website.
The motto of the Order is “He that does truth comes into the light,” which is definitely something Marley embodied.
5. He Was Given The Peace Medal From The United Nations
In 1978, the United Nations awarded Marley a Peace Medal in recognition of his advocacy for “disenfranchised blacks around the world,” according to his official website.
He received the medal from African delegates to the United Nations in a ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Marley's commitment to fighting oppression continues through an organization established in his memory by the Marley family. The Bob Marley Foundation is devoted to helping people and organizations in developing nations.
6. He Is Sixth On Forbes’ List Of Highest-Earning Dead Celebrities
After his death in 1981, Marley’s music has continued to be played and loved. In 2016, he was the sixth highest-earning dead celebrity in the world, according to Forbes, preceded by fellow musicians Prince, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
In 2014, the Bob Marley and the Wailers greatest hits album “Legend” cracked the Billboard Top 10 list after Google Play made it available for 99 cents.
7. His Children Are Carrying On His Legacy
The Marley family are carrying on the family legacy. His eldest son, Ziggy Marley, has won 8 Grammy Awards and has been nominated 14 times. his eldest daughter, Cedella Marley, runs the family business as CEO of Tuff Gong. All of Marley's children have gone on to do great things; from performing, charity initiatives, fashion labels, and cookbooks.
Bob Marley will forever be remembered for his powerful musical message. The more you learn about him, the more fascinating he becomes—and these seven facts prove it.
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Jacqueline is a writer/editor with decades of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to reporting. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. She is a trained engineer and musician and loves to see people transformed through her work.