Everybody knows Bob Marley. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say that Bob Marley is known all over the world. Tuesday will mark 40 years of the day that cancer killed the Jamaican musician. His funeral in Kingston was attended by tens of thousands of people and Parliament delayed the budget debate for a week. In life he was already spoken of as the first superstar to come out of the third world. But his untimely death, due, at least in part, to the fact that his religious beliefs prevented him from receiving adequate treatment for his illness, ended up transforming him into a legend that has never faded. It still sounds today in the most remote places of the globe. In many countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia it is a myth far above the Beatles.
But despite the fact that between 1973 and 1981 he published 12 albums in the West (to which we must add Confrontation, released after his death), most of that success is due to a posthumous compilation, Legend. The album hit the shelves on May 8, 1984 and its entry into the charts was not very impressive at first, it barely reached number 58 in the United States, but it has not stopped selling since then.
In May 2014 he entered the Top 10 in the US for the first time, in reality it was due to a trap in which the musician’s heirs had nothing to do with it. To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of its launch, the Google Play platform put it on sale for a week for less than one euro. In theory, these sales should not have been accounted for – no record that costs less than three euros is counted – but Google Play had bought the 40,000 copies that it sold that week from the Universal record company for their full price.
In any case, he didn’t need a ruse to make history, either. This year Billboard He estimated that in the US alone it had placed almost 27 million copies. The album sold between 3,000 and 5,000 copies per week and had 500 on the list. In August 2020, 33 million copies were certified. That year 148,000 copies were recorded on vinyl. If there is something that nobody disputes, it is that Legend It is the best-selling reggae album in history.
Everything else has been discussed. Legend gives a partial overview of Marley’s career. It is true that includes political reading songs (Get up, Stand up, I shot the sheriff, Buffalo soldier or Redemption song) but in general the image it transmits is that of the cover photo of a smiling Marley in full color. The original version included 14 songs in its short versions, intended for the radio. Among them 10 of the 11 that entered the British charts. But it does not include his songs with the most direct lyrics, he corners his first albums and ignores the most political of the last, the pan-Africanist Survival (1979), despite the fact that it features so many huge songs that it could almost be taken for a greatest hits. Legend It has forged a myth, but it has also trivialized its music, which for many is synonymous with a beach bar.
And it was much more than that. Although he died at the age of 36, Marley left behind an extensive and convoluted discography, full of songs that go far beyond what appeared in Legend. Marley, with all its contradictions, took rock out of the first world. It was a star from the Caribbean that was addressing the entire planet. This is a chronological list of 20 other songs that did not enter that compilation, but could have. It runs through its entire trajectory, starting with Soul rebel Y How many times? two themes from his Jamaican era, although some others, such as Sun is shining, that appears here in the version of Kaya (1978) came from those years, before Chris Blackwell signed him for his label, Island and together they adapted their reggae to western taste.
Some, What Ride natty ride or Lively up yourself, They still sound raw and old, but even when it gets mystical or severe, Bob Marley’s songs have a comforting and deeply upbeat edge to them. Marley celebrated the defeat as a preview of a victory to come. And as he himself said in Trenchtown rock: “One of the good things about music is that it hits you but it doesn’t hurt you. So hit me with music. “
The author wants to thank Pedro Torquemada Alonso for his collaboration in the selection of songs on this list.