“I think he always felt like an outsider because he was a half-breed.”
– Danny Sims, Bob’s manager/producer.
Robert Nesta Marley, the legend known the world over as Bob Marley, was born in 1945 in rural Jamaica to an Afro-Jamaican mother and a white British father. Now, it’s interesting to think that the very man who stood for love, social change and unity faced rejection from very peculiar sources. Being born of mixed heritage presented a host of issues for him as a youngster as his local friends often referred to him as “white boy” and his white family later rejected him.
The 2012 biopic, Marley, explores in detail, the story behind the soulful king of reggae including his struggle with identity and coming to terms with the bigger issues in life. There are many lessons to be learned from the stories shared therein and many enlightening circumstances that make you stop and think about your own greater purpose.
His wife, Rita, shares insightful details about his identity, image and her first impressions of him:
“I didn’t think I liked brown-skinned men. I always dreamed of a guy – tall, black, handsome; every young girl’s dream in Jamaica is to have a tall black boyfriend. They would call Bob an outcast, ’cause you really don’t belong to [either side]: you’re in between, you’re black and white – so then, you’re not even black.”
Later on, he sought out his father’s family, the Marleys in search of work as they managed a very successful company. However, to his surprise they refused to acknowledge him as a Marley and had no other choice but to leave – broken. A former member of Bob Marley and the Wailers, noted that upon entering the store, all heads had turned to look at him because he bore such a striking resemblance to them.
It is believed that this rejection led to the infamous song, “Cornerstone“. The following video explores that very well as members of both sides of his family weigh in on these implications.
“I don’t have prejudice against myself. I’m not on the white man’s side, or the black man’s side. I’m on God’s side – the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.”
– Bob Marley
Thus, his quest to spread love and to share his voice to the struggle against the status quo was born. He no longer let himself be the victim of his circumstances, he owned who he was and wanted to share that with everyone. He had an interesting insight into how division and “differentness” were used as tools to separate people and realised this very corrosive concept needed to be eradicated and he began to do that with his constant declaration of One Love.
“He was able to do that. He was able to bring people together in that way. Half uptown, half downtown, half white, half black – it’s that marriage of everything. He just embodied it all in one person.”
– Cindy Breakspeare, Miss Jamaica 1976 & mother to Damian Marley