The Man Behind the Legacy: The Story of Bob Marley’s Short but Legendary Life

Few people in the history of music have both inspired and influenced the world as much as Bob Marley has. There’s a reason why this man’s face is planted on posters of millions of walls and why his music is still heard and appreciated today. He became a cultural and musical icon for generations to come. From his distinctive dreadlocks to his unforgettable songs and melodies, his loyalty to his hometown, and the advocacy for peace – Bob Marley will forever be an advocate for truth and a trendsetter, even though he died about 30 years ago.

Bob Marley is photographed performing circa 1979.
Photo by Steve Joester / Shutterstock

It seems as though all of his accomplishments and his music have overshadowed the darker parts of Bob Marley’s life. Not to mention the actual way he died. Marley’s life story wasn’t always happy, easy, or carefree. His strong beliefs were the product of growing up in turmoil and poverty. Marley faced all kinds of challenges, from oppression to assassination attempts to a battle with cancer. And above all, he projected positivity.

This is a look into Bob Marley’s real life and how he got to become a legend – all before his untimely death at the age of 36.

A Child of His Country’s History

Robert Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945, on his grandfather’s farm in Nine Mile, Jamaica. Norval Sinclair Marley, his father, was originally from England, whose family claimed to have Syrian Jewish roots. He was a privileged white politician working for the British government, who claimed to have been a captain in the Royal Marines. Bob’s mother, Cedella Malcolm, was a descendant of slaves.

Bob Marley photographed outside of his home by Dennis Morris.
Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

As you can see, there was a clear power imbalance, and when Norval married Cedella, she was only 17 years old. The history of Jamaica involves both oppression and rebellion, leading to the slaves revolting against the colonial oppressors. Many say that the origin of Bob Marley was kind of like a mini version of this much bigger piece of history.

The Son of an Absent Father

Norval promised Cedella marriage and economic stability, having manipulated her into a romantic relationship with him. But by the time she got pregnant, the man pretty much hit the road. Shortly after Bob’s birth, his father left the family and moved to Kingston, Jamaica. However, he still gave his wife financial support and would occasionally come to visit his son.

Bob Marley’s father is photographed sitting on a horse with a hat on.
Source: YouTube

Cedella was determined to give her boy the best life possible, and so she left her home in the rural village behind and made a new life in Kingston. And while Bob carried his father’s surname, he never felt attached to the man who he felt treated his mother so cruelly. According to the BBC, Bob rarely spoke about his father. He carried his anger towards his father for the rest of his life, long after his father died when Bob was 10 years old.

A Tough Neighborhood

Once Marley and his mother were living in Kingston, they set up shop in Trenchtown (West Kingston). The city is apparently one of Kingston’s most economically disadvantaged areas. Homes in Trenchtown, aka the “yard,” were composed of cheap metal shacks, usually without any plumbing. The conditions were rough.

A younger Bob Marley is seen standing with another kid.
Photo by Shangri-La / Kobal / Shutterstock

Fights and stabbings were common, and people had to work hard to survive, including Bob’s mother. During his youth, the street gangs grouped together into a bigger unit called the Rude Boys. They were a group that would often get into violent battles with the local police. Marley never considered himself a true member of the Rude Boys, but he was comfortable hanging out with them. He learned to stand up for himself, and even earned himself the street name “Tuff Gong.”

Understanding His Roots

To truly understand Bob Marley, you need to understand the city of Trenchtown. Marley never rejected nor was ashamed of his Kingston roots. While others looked at those streets and saw nothing but crime, poverty, and pain, Marley saw bravery, strength, and community. While others hoped to escape Trenchtown, he wanted to show his people the world and help improve their quality of life.

Bob Marley backstage at an event in 1976.
Photo by Bobby Bank / / Shutterstock

Bob Marley’s creativity was driven by the place he grew up. People say that Trenchtown was considered the ‘Motown of Jamaica,’ a place some of the country’s most popular musicians called home. Since Marley was in Kingston to stay, he made the best of his life and started making the connections that would lead to his future career success.

Meeting Bunny Wailer

In 1955, when Bob Marley was 10, his father died of a heart attack. Norval was 70 years old. Marley’s mother went on to marry Edward Booker, a civil servant from America, giving Marley two new half-brothers: Richard and Anthony. While living in Trenchtown, Marley met and became friends with Neville Livingstone, who later became known as Bunny Wailer.

Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tock circa 1964.
Source: Pinterest

The two young men shared the same interest in music and took a class held by Joe Higgs, the famous Jamaican singer. During this time, Bob and Bunny made friends with another classmate named Peter MacIntosh, better known as Peter Tosh. When the boys were in elementary and junior high school, they started playing music together. And they would eventually have an even deeper connection…

The Genesis of the Wailers

As it turns out, Bob and Bunny became more than just childhood friends. They were more like brothers, and that’s because Bob’s mother and Thadeus Livingston (Bunny’s father) had a child together. Their daughter was Claudette Pearl, who became the half-sister to both Bob and Bunny. By then, the two boys were living in the same house.

Bunny Wailer, Bob Marley, Carlton Barrett, Peter Tosh, and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett circa 1973.
Photo by International / New World / Kobal / Shutterstock

This was perfect for a pair of close friends who loved music more than anything. Their musical explorations included the latest American R&B, which they heard on radio stations whose broadcasts reached Jamaica, and the new genre of ska music. Sooner or later, Marley found himself in a vocal group with Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Beverley Kelso, and Junior Braithwaite.

Picking Up a Guitar

Joe Higgs and his singing partner Roy Wilson, who became the popular vocal act Higgs and Wilson, would rehearse at the back of their houses. It didn’t take long before Marley (who lived nearby), Junior Braithwaite, and the others were hanging around this successful duo. At the time, Marley and his group didn’t want to play any instruments and were more interested in being a vocal harmony group.

Bob Marley is seen performing circa 1976.
Photo by Steve Joester / Shutterstock

Higgs helped them develop their vocal harmonies, but what really made Higgs an important figure in Marley’s life was the fact that he taught him how to play the guitar. Thanks to Higgs, Marley created the bedrock that would later allow him to make some of the biggest-selling reggae songs in the history of the genre.

He Wasn’t Discouraged

Bob’s desire to become a musician grew much deeper, and so he started to search for any opportunity to make it in the industry – which was tiny where he came from. Marley was lucky to have gotten help from a successful young singer named Jimmy Cliff, who introduced him to Leslie Kong, Beverley’s label owner. Marley auditioned for him in 1962.

Bob Marley and the Wailers on The Old Grey Whistle Test circa 1973.
Photo by Alan Messer / Shutterstock

He recorded two singles called “Judge Not” and “One More Cup of Coffee,” which didn’t turn out so well. But despite the failure of his first two tracks, he remained determined. Marley, Bunny, and Peter formed their official vocal group called Wailing Wailers in 1963. Their initial name was “The Teenagers,” and the group added three more singers: Junior Braithwaite, Beverly Kelso, and Cherry Smith.

Their First Major Hit

Under the guidance of Joe Higgs and a drummer Alvin Patterson, the vocal group began recording for the Studio One label owned by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. Back then, the most popular music scene in town was this mobile DJ station on wheels, which was operated by Dodd. Dance halls would be set up around Dodd’s DJ station, making him the authority of the local music scene.

Bob Marley and the Wailers circa 1975.
Photo by Ian Dickson / Shutterstock

The Wailers hopped on this DJ train and submitted their new song “Simmer Down,” which became their first hit single and a huge hit in Jamaica. By January 1964, “Simmer Down” reached number one on the JBC Radio Chart and sold over 80,000 copies. The unity of their group was threatened, though, when Junior, Beverly, and Cherry left in 1965.

Marrying His Sweetheart and Moving to America

Once those three left the group, Bob took the lead vocal position. But soon enough, Marley decided to leave the band and pursue a better life (at least financially) in America. Marley married his long-term girlfriend, Rita Anderson, on February 10, 1966. They moved to America, into a place near his mother’s home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Peter Tosh with Jimmy Cliff and Rita Marley in 1982.
Photo by Globe Photos / Mediapunch / Shutterstock

It was for a short period while he worked as a DuPont lab assistant as well as on the assembly line at a Chrysler plant in Newark. He went by the alias Donald Marley. If Marley ever considered starting a new life in America, his time there only convinced him otherwise. He didn’t like the fast pace of American life, nor the systemic racism, and he longed to be back home.

The Hottest New Thing in Jamaica

It didn’t take long for him to return to Jamaica and be reunited with Bunny and Peter. They agreed to rename their group as The Wailers and left their label to establish their own. Using his life savings, Bob established a record company called Wail ‘N’ Soul ‘M Records. He also recorded a single called ‘Bend Down Low’ for his group.

Bob Marley is seen playing table tennis at his home on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica.
Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

The single was pretty successful, becoming another local hit. Unfortunately, the record company didn’t run well and had to be closed in 1967. However, Marley’s early work shows that he was already plugged into the same humanitarian themes that later defined his career. His song lyrics pleaded for local gangs to tone down their violence before the authorities would respond with even more violence. The Wailers became the hottest new thing in Jamaica.

Becoming a Rastafarian

It was in 1966 and through his wife Rita (who had already converted) that Bob became acquainted with Rastafarianism. The movement is a doctrine based on selections from the Bible, with many members reinforcing nonviolence and the rejection of materialism. Ethiopia is considered the Promised Land.

Bob Marley with his hair whipped back, performing with a lot of energy.
Photo by Steve Joester / Shutterstock

Marley was attracted to and agreed with the teachings, and so he, Bunny, and Peter began growing dreadlocks and adding marijuana, the symbols of Rastafarianism, to their lives. Marley’s new beliefs redefined his approach to music, and the Wailers’ music changed. They became the pioneers of reggae, a new genre that was essentially a blend of rocksteady and ska. Marley himself became a Rastafarian icon.

Making History in Reggae

By 1972, the group earned a contract with Island Records and were on their way to the top. The group was now in London as Marley signed with CBS Records. They met Chris Blackwell, who licensed some of their Coxsone releases for his Island Records. The Wailers were offered an advance of £4,000 to record an album. By then, Jimmy Cliff, Island’s top reggae star, left the label, and they desperately needed a replacement.

Bob Marley is photographed here lying on a bed next to a soccer ball and his guitar case in London circa 1970.
Photo by Shangri-La / Kobal / Shutterstock

Blackwell saw the elements needed to catch the rock audience in him. Bob Marley was his guy. The Wailers then went back to Jamaica to record in Kingston, which resulted in the album ‘Catch a Fire,’ which marked the first time a reggae band had access to a modern studio. That also meant that they were treated the same way rock ‘n’ roll peers would be. History was being made.

But things were about to go very wrong…

A Defining Moment

Meanwhile, Jamaicans weren’t so keen on the new reggae sound of Catch a Fire. But still, by 1973, The Wailers were riding the wave. Marley still wasn’t a star, but he and the group received positive critical reception. Later that year, the album ‘Burnin’’ was released, which included the song “I Shot the Sheriff.” While The Wailers’ previous album wasn’t so liked in Jamaica, ‘Burnin’ found fans of both reggae and rock audiences.

Bob Marley was photographed performing at a London show in 1975.
Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

In 1974, a defining moment occurred in Marley’s life when Eric Clapton covered that song. Eric Clapton had been given the album by his guitarist George Terry, who thought he would enjoy it. Clapton was impressed and went ahead with recording the cover version of “I Shot the Sheriff,” which was his first US hit since “Layla” came out two years earlier.

Thanks to Clapton

Suddenly, things were different. Now, a white Western superstar musician was covering an original song by a small, humble Jamaican band. Who would have thought? Clapton’s cover of ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ was also a smash hit, and it led to millions of people eager to check out Marley’s original version as well. I guess we can say that a major part of Bob Marley’s success is on account of Eric Clapton.

Eric Clapton was photographed performing in 1975.
Photo by Rbt Stigwood Prods / Hemdale / Kobal / Shutterstock

While the early-mid ‘70s were definitive years in Marley’s rise to fame, they didn’t last too long. The Wailers were scheduled to open in 17 shows throughout the US for Sly and the Family Stone. But after four shows, the group was fired. Why? Because they were more popular than the acts that they were opening for.

Going Solo and Breaking Through

In 1974, Marley’s two best friends left the Wailers as they wanted to pursue solo careers. This left Marley as the surviving member of the Wailers, but despite the break-up, he continued recording as “Bob Marley & the Wailers.” He got a new backing band and even had his wife, Rita, providing vocals. In 1975, Marley got his international breakthrough.

Bob Marley at the Rainbow Theatre in London in 1977.
Photo by Graham Wiltshire / Shutterstock

For the first time, his first hit outside Jamaica was a live version of “No Woman, No Cry,” from the ‘Live!’ album. His breakthrough album in the United States came with the album ‘Rastaman Vibration’ in 1976, having reached the Top 50 of the Billboard Soul Charts. Marley was also aware of the power of his message, knowing that he had people listening to him. He started getting into politics.

Getting into Politics

By 1976, the world was starting to see Bob Marley as a symbol of Jamaica. And he even began getting involved in Jamaican politics, even though he was abroad. In Jamaica, he had become a political force, as he was devoted to easing the tensions in his country, but the attention he was getting wasn’t all good, despite his intentions.

Bob Marley is photographed here, holding up a portrait of Emperor Haile Selassie on stage.
Photo by Media Press / Shutterstock

By then, Jamaica had been independent of colonial power for only two decades. Resources were getting scarcer, and tensions were getting hotter. Every statement Marley made was intensely scrutinized. Political parties were begging Marley for his endorsement, knowing how much influence he had on people. It was becoming a burden on him, and his wife, and proved to be almost lethal…

An Attempt to Take Him Out

Although politicians begged him to speak for them, Marley refused, preferring to stay neutral in the conflict. He even opened up his home in Kingston as a “safe zone” for troubled youth to escape from the violent polarization that was going on in the streets. The Jamaican Prime Minister, Michael Manley, organized a free concert called “Smile Jamaica” in an attempt to ease the tension between two warring political groups.

Marley with Don Taylor behind the wheel and Carly Barrett, Seeco, and Aston Barret in the backseat on the way to CBS Studios in 1975.
Photo by Media Press / Shutterstock

But two days before the concert, on December 3, 1976, Marley, his wife, and his manager Don Taylor were shot at by an unknown gunman inside of Marley’s own home. Taylor and Rita sustained serious injuries but were thankfully able to make full recoveries. Bob Marley received only minor wounds in the chest and arm. But Marley proved to be braver than anyone…

Two Days Later, He Was on Stage

The assassination attempt on Marley’s life was believed to have been politically motivated, as many people felt that the scheduled concert was really just a support rally for Prime Minister Manley. Despite the shooting, the concert proceeded as planned, and amazingly, the injured and clearly brave Bob Marley performed as scheduled. It had literally been two days since he was shot.

Bob Marley is seen performing intensely on stage.
Photo by Globe Photos / Mediapunch / Shutterstock

When asked why he performed after being shot, Marley responded with: “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?” Can anyone argue with that logic? The members of a group called Zap Pow filled in as Bob Marley’s backup band for a crowd of 80,000 people, while members of The Wailers were either still missing or in hiding.

A Self-Imposed Exile

After that concert, Bob and The Wailers headed back to the U.K. in 1977. During two years of Marley’s self-imposed “exile” from his country, he poured his creative energies into making the album ‘Exodus.’ The album drew inspiration from the scriptural Exodus, his own leave of absence from Jamaica, and his belief in a return to the Promised Land.

Bob Marley is seen performing with intensity wearing a Jamaican flag-themed jacket.
Source: Shutterstock

When the album was finally released, the response was astounding. The album quickly hit the U.K. and U.S. charts, remaining on the UK chart for 56 weeks straight. The songs ‘Jamming,’ ‘Waiting in Vain,’ and ‘One Love/People Get Ready’ were hit singles. Exodus became one of Marley’s most celebrated albums, and the band was growing to be international superstars.

But things were about to go in another direction completely…

The Beginning of His Battle With Cancer

The hard truth about cancer is that it sneaks up on you. The warning signs start small and unnoticeable (or ignored), and it spreads. The Skin Cancer Foundation reported that back in 1977, Bob Marley had injured his toe in a soccer game. It was then that he noticed a small dark spot under his toenail. He wrote it off as a bruise, a simple sports injury.

A black and white photograph of Bob Marley looking a bit ill.
Photo by Globe Photos / Mediapunch / Shutterstock

But in reality, it was the first sign of acral lentiginous melanoma, which was cancer that would eventually take his life. Bob and the Wailers at that point were on their European tour. But Marley’s foot worsened. What he thought was a simple injury turned out to be something a lot worse.

Rastafarian… To a Fault

In July 1977, he finally went to get it checked out. The doctor told him that it was malignant melanoma and advised Marley to have his toe amputated. But Marley refused. Even though the procedure could have stopped the spread of the disease, he insisted that it would be against the Rastafarian belief, which states it’s a sin to cut one’s flesh unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Bob Marley on tour in 1980 sitting backstage relaxing.
Photo by Shangri-La / Kobal / Shutterstock

Marley clearly didn’t see this is essential, not realizing that this was a life-changing decision. The only medical treatment Marley did agree to was a skin graft, where the nail and nail bed were removed, and a skin graft was taken from his leg to cover the area. But as we know by now, nothing stopped Bob Marley. Despite his illness, he continued to tour and was hoping to start a world tour in 1980.

His One and Only Arrest

Bob Marley was Rastafarian true and true, and the only time he ever faced criminal charges for his love of marijuana was the time he was arrested in 1977 for possession of the drug. The spiritual use of cannabis is a large part of Rastafarian belief, so Marley definitely didn’t plan on stopping his hobby because of some minor arrest.

Bob Marley is seen sitting in the driver’s seat of his Ford transit.
Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

All the while, he was going strong and making groundbreaking music. The album ‘Uprising’ was released in 1980. The band completed their tour of Europe, where they played their biggest concert ever to 100,000 people in Milan, Italy. After the tour, Bob Marley went to the United States, where he performed two shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

A Powerful Concert, a Deteriorating Condition

Marley made a triumphant return to Jamaica, where he fronted the famous “One Love” concert, although conflict and polarization were still burning in the Jamaican air. Marley was looking to make a show of peace and unity. During his performance of the song Jammin’, he invited the two of the biggest rival political leaders onto the stage.

Bob Marley with Michael Manley and Edward Seaga holding their hands above their heads on stage at the One Love Peace Concert.
Source: Tumblr

As he held hands with both of them in front of a cheering crowd, he was making a powerful message. While his brain and his heart were doing just fine, his body was quietly going against him. The skin graft he did earlier didn’t work, and so Marley’s health was deteriorating as his cancer was spreading throughout his body. It would become crystal clear quite soon.

Collapsed in Central Park

By 1980, Marley’s condition got so bad that he collapsed while jogging in Central Park. But again, Bob Marley was a determined individual, and taking time off wasn’t in his repertoire. Two days later, on September 23rd, 1980, Marley performed in his last concert at the Stanley Theater (now called The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Bob Marley and his friend Diane walking away from the clinic in Germany, where he got his cancer treatment.
Photo by Monty Fresco / Daily Mail / Shutterstock

This was only two days after his collapse when he was brought to the hospital and learned that his cancer had spread to his brain. He was then forced to cancel the rest of his shows. The tour was canceled, and Marley sought after treatment via a controversial diet-based therapy in Germany. The “Issels treatment” was partly based on the avoidance of certain foods, drinks, and other substances.

He Never Made it Home

Unfortunately, the treatment didn’t work. After eight months of trying but failing to treat his advancing cancer, Marley decided to board a plane and come home to his country of Jamaica. But sadly, he never made it home. During the flight, his vital functions worsened, and his condition quickly spiraled. The plane stopped in Miami, and he was rushed into emergency care.

Bob Marley on the piano and ‘Family Man’ holding a guitar circa 1975.
Photo by Ian Dickson / Shutterstock

After landing in Miami, he was taken to the hospital immediately. Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981, at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami (which is now the University of Miami Hospital). He was only 36 years old. The melanoma in his body reached his lungs and brain, which essentially caused his death. His final words? He told his son, Ziggy: “Money can’t buy life.”

The Loss of a Leader

Marley’s remains were brought to Jamaica, as he wanted, and he was given a state funeral. 12,000 people came to view his body, and yet another 10,000 waited outside. The state funeral occurred on May 21st, 1981, which combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafari tradition. He was then buried in a chapel near his birthplace along with his guitar.

The last photo that Dennis Morris took of Bob Marley in 1980.
Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

The Jamaican Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, delivered the final eulogy, declaring: “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.” The song “Redemption Song” was also blared over the speaker. As you can imagine, many were weeping as the reality of the tragedy sunk in. The world had just lost a leader.

He Never Left a Will

The singer never got around to making a will, leaving his surviving family members in a series of lawsuits after his death. And let it be known that the reggae icon did not die a poor man and his family escaped hardship thanks to the wealth he left behind. As Bob Marley lived a humble life while promoting freedom for poor and oppressed people, he was sitting on millions.

Bob Marley is seen performing circa 1980.
Photo by Media Press / Shutterstock

The man who received the 1978 United Nations Medal of Peace left a legacy that has been tainted by the decades of lawsuits over his estate, which have been reported to be worth about $30 million at the time of his death. The lawsuits could have been prevented if he had left a will, but his Rastafari beliefs characterized lawyers and legal documents as “evil and tools of Babylon.” The lack of a will only end up with corruption and lawsuit fatigue.

Major Lawsuits Were to Follow

The result was that his family had to depend on the unrepresented Jamaican law to decide on the distribution of his wealth. His wife, Rita, received 10% of his assets and would be entitled to another 45% throughout her life. And the 11 children by seven different women ended up sharing the balance. As you can imagine, this didn’t seem fair to some family members.

Aston Barrett is photographed walking outside of the Royal Courts of Justice after suing the estate of Bob Marley.
Photo by Eddie Mulholland / Shutterstock

Marley’s business attorney, David Steinberg, and Marvin Zolt, an accountant, had convinced Rita to forge her late husband’s name to a series of documents, predating them to before he died. The plan was to move the control of the majority of Marley’s corporate holdings, his royalty rights, and his money to her. And yes, it’s completely illegal.

More and More Lawsuits

The scheme was eventually (and obviously) uncovered by one of Marley’s former managers. It led them down a long series of legal battles, which resulted in the two accomplices being found guilty of fraud and other illegalities, being forced to pay $6 million. Rita Marley confessed and stated that she was only following the advice of the attorney.

A court sketch of Rita Marley taking the stand during one of the court cases regarding his estate.
Photo by Priscilla Coleman / Shutterstock

She ended up losing her administrative control of Marley’s estate, which she had following his death and up until 1986. Meanwhile, more legal claims popped up from some of Marley’s children and their mothers. There was a claim by The Wailers and another from Cayman Music, which claims to own some of Marley’s recordings. As for Marley’s record label, Blackwell got royalty rights from Marley’s recordings.

Fighting Over Fish

It’s unfortunate that after spending his life spreading reggae music and a message of peace throughout the world, Bob Marley’s family has spent decades in one lawsuit after another. Rita Marley and nine of Marley’s children sued Richard Booker and two corporations he owned. Remember that Richard Booker is Bob’s half-brother. Booker operates musical festivals as well as a company that gives tours of the village where Marley was born and now buried.

Bob Marley in Ibiza in the ‘80s.
Photo by Sheila Rock / Shutterstock

Believe it or not, fish were at the heart of this legal battle. One of the mains targets was Booker’s effort to trademark the term “Mama Marley” for marketing goods and services, including “fish; fish and chips; fish cakes; fish croquettes; fish fillets; fish mousse; fish sausages.” Booker claimed that Bob Marley gave him permission to use the family name. After a year in court, the family fish fight reached a settlement agreement.

The House of Marley

Is this the legacy that Bob Marley would have wanted for himself and his family? I doubt it. But if he knew that not writing a will would lead to corruption of his estate and decades of expensive legal battles, he might have changed his mind. It’s also a good lesson for everyone: that too many people suffer from poor or non-existent estate planning. Two-thirds of adult Americans don’t have a will.

The Bob Marley Museum.

But besides all that, as of 2018, Bob Marley was the 5th top-earning deceased celebrity, according to Forbes. His estate is now named the House of Marley and is managed by four of his children: Rohan, Cedella, Stephen, and Ziggy. The rest of his heirs sit on a board and share the proceeds evenly.

His Proceeds and Heirs

The proceeds from House of Marley include the sale of products in more than 48 countries. There is the popular brand of headphones, Marley Natural cannabis, some smoking accessories, Get Together portable speakers, Uplift earphones, Marley Coffee, and Smile Jamaica earphones. All of these have profited in millions of dollars in sales per year.

Bob Marley is seen performing at his Lyceum show in 1975 while concentrating on his guitar playing.
Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

Some of his children, including Ziggy Marley and Cedella Marley, have become successful artists and musicians in their own right. Three years after Marley’s death, a compilation album was released with the title ‘Legend.’ It was a best-seller, reaching the top charts. In 1990, Marley’s birthday was declared a national holiday in Jamaica. His name was then inducted to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

All of His Kids

Bob and Rita married when she was 21, after already being a mom to a toddler. The two had three children together. And although they stayed married until his death at age 36, Bob had other children outside the marriage… as did Rita. Bob even adopted and cared for those children as his own. And one thing is for sure – they are a talented bunch.

Ziggy Marley with his brother Steve and sisters Cedella and Sharon sitting around the steps in the garden of a house.
Photo by Peter Stone / Shutterstock

The first son of Bob and Rita is David “Ziggy” Marley, who has been one of the more successful Marley heirs. He has a fruitful career in music and holds a voice similar to his father’s. He’s performed with a lot of his siblings musically, either as part of the Grammy-winning band, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers or in other collaborations.

Sharon and Cedella

Sharon (now Sharon Marley Prendergast) was born in 1964 and is Rita’s daughter from a previous marriage. She had been a long-time member of The Melody Makers, which was established in 1979 by her siblings Ziggy, Stephen, and Cedella. She left the group but continues to perform her own work. She is the curator of the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica.

Ziggy and Steve with Sharon and Cedella sitting in the living room surrounded by platinum and gold albums.
Photo by Peter Stone / Shutterstock

Cedella was born in 1967 and was the first daughter of Bob and Rita. After leaving The Melody Makers, she left the music industry completely and pursued a career in fashion. She ended up being the one who designed the uniforms for the 2012 Jamaican Olympic team. She also did designs for Puma and Barneys in New York.

Stephen and Robert Jr.

Stephen was born in 1972 and is the second son of Bob and Rita. He might just be the most successful of the Marley children as he’s an 8-time Grammy-winning musician and record producer. He worked with his siblings (with The Melody Makers and on some solo projects) as well as artists like The Fugees, Michael Franti, and Nelly.

Stephen Marley in concert in Las Vegas in 2016.
Photo by Mediapunch / Shutterstock

Robert was also born in 1972, but he is the son to Bob Marley and a woman named Pat Williams. Robert Jr. is one of the lesser-known brothers in the Marley family. He grew up in the home with Bob and Rita. He’s not a musician, but he works with his siblings on film and music projects. He chose to lead a private life, so there’s little public information about him.

Rohan and Karen

Rohan was born in 1972 to Bob Marley and Janet Hunt. Rohan is a musician and a former college and professional football player. He played for the University of Miami and later for the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Rough Riders. Rohan is also an entrepreneur who co-founded the Tuff Gong clothing line as well as the Marley Coffee business. He has five children with singer Lauryn Hill.

Rohan Marley at the Berlinale International Film Festival in 2012. / Cedella Marley and Karen Marley at the Marley film premiere in 2012.
Photo by Camilla Morandi, Shutterstock / Peter Brooker, Shutterstock

Karen was born in 1973 to Bob Marley and England native Janet Bowen, and similar to her half-brother, Robert Jr., Karen has kept her life out of the public eye. What we do know, however, is that Karen also grew up in Jamaica with her half-siblings. She runs her own fashion line with some clothes made from sustainably-sourced materials.

Stephanie and Julian

Stephanie was born in 1974 and is Rita’s daughter from another relationship. The father is unknown. She pursued the business side of the family business and is a director at the Marley Resort and Spa, which was a family vacation home in Nassau in the Bahamas. It was later converted into a luxury vacation resort.

Julian Marley is seen sitting backstage at his concert in 2004. / Stephanie Marley with Rita.
Photo by Ian Dickson, Shutterstock / Source: Pinterest

Julian, born in 1975, was the son of Bob and a woman named Lucy Pounder. Julian also followed in his father’s footsteps. He performed with siblings Ziggy, Stephen, and Damian, and also has some Grammy Award nominations of his own. Like his father, Julian is a devout Rastafarian.

There are only two children left in the Marley chain!

Ky-Mani and Damian

Ky-Mani was born in 1976 to Bob and table tennis champion Anita Belnavis. Ky-Mani is another popular reggae and dancehall musician, as well as an actor who starred in the Jamaican movies “One Love” and “Shotta.” He worked with musicians Shaggy and Young Buck, among others.

Ky-Mani Marley, Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, and Farruko were performing in 2019. / Cindy Breakspeare as Miss World 1976.
Photo by JLN Photography, Shutterstock / Monty Fresco, Daily Mail, Shutterstock

The youngest Marley is Damian, aka Junior Gong, who was born in 1978 to Cindy Breakspeare, a former Miss World. She was also a respected jazz musician. Damian is a famous reggae musician who won three Grammy Awards. He’s worked with all kinds of artists, including Nas, Mick Jagger, and Skrillex.

The Marley estate continues to generate over $20 million a year, meaning Bob Marley is one of the highest-paid deceased celebrities.

Charitable Man

This photograph shows just how amazing of a person Bob Marley really was. You already read about how he was trying to make a political change, but that wasn’t all he was concerned about. Marley was a very charitable man. This photo was taken by Dennis Morris during his first tour following Marley in 1974. Dennis commented on this photograph to Rolling Stone Magazine, saying, “Here he is on a shopping spree.”

Bob Marley on his tour in 1974 picking out a soccer ball and other items during his free time.
Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

He continued, “Whenever he had time off, what’d he always do was go to a sports shop and buy 20 footballs, 20 pairs of boots and whatever. I didn’t realize, but this was for the kids in Trench Town, back home. He was a very generous man.” Indeed, he was. These are the kind of actions other people should be following.