Marley’s legacy as a counter-culture troubadour is undiminished since his death in 1981 at the age of 36.
Marley’s impact cannot be doubted, both as the musician who broke reggae music into the mainstream and someone who became a symbol of hope for oppressed people the world over. A new musical aimed at children just debuted featuring some of his now classic tunes.
Even his infatuation with marijuana seems prescient given how the drug is now legal in Colorado and under discussion in other states.
It doesn’t take much digging to witness an amplification of his gifts and legacy, though, something common when great artists die way too soon.
Here’s Robert Palmer’s written tribute to Marley, who would have been 69 today, after the singer earned his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “No one in rock and roll has left a musical legacy that matters more or one that matters in such fundamental ways.”
Perhaps The Beatles might have something to say about that opinion.
The 2012 documentary Marley attempts to bring the singer’s life into sharper focus, but the film wasted a glut of great resources in the process. The documentary touches on Marley’s expansive definition of love when it comes to fathering children with different women but fails to fully explore how the singer’s Rastafarian mantras mesh with more sinister parts of that faith, such as belief by some members that whites are inferior to blacks.
It’s far better capturing the evolution of Marley’s sound and how it embedded itself into Western culture. It’s a journey that comes to mind on his birthday, a story that will stay relevant no matter how Marley’s political spirit and musical legacy is debated.