Reviews

40 years ago “Bob Marley” performed for the last time

By Ahmet Abdulaziz….

Undoubtedly, Bob Marley is one of the greatest musical sensations of the last century. He died young, yet he left his unerasable mark in the music world. He not only brought a new style in the field of music but also earned a name as a social reformer, who brought a number of social issues in his songs.

Bob died early at the age of 36, on 11th May 1981, of cancer. Knowing that his cancer had spread to most of his important inner organs, including the brain, he kept on producing and performing music, at full speed. His performance on 23rd September 1980 at the Stanley Theater (now the Benedum Centre for the Performing Arts) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, thus it became his last performance. Almost none of the packed music lovers, listening to him that night knew that they were watching the legendary singer for the last time. But he did know that most probably it could be his last performance.

Two days earlier from the concert, he had collapsed in Central Park, while exercising. He went to the doctor, where he was told that the previously diagnosed “a type of malignant Melanoma” had spread to his lungs, liver, and brain. The situation was too serious, and the promoter had proposed the shifting of the concert date further, but he refused to accept that offer and continued with his plan. His wife too was disturbed, but Bob was too committed to his concert the next day.

On the day of the concert, with hundreds and thousands of music lovers waiting for him to come on stage, the organisers were still somewhat worried about his health. The concert started and Bob Marley, in his unique style, performed for hours, singing the best of his songs one after another. Things were going smoothly and nobody thought that it was going to be his last performance, but in fact it was. He finished the concert by recording one of his best stage performances. Everybody was happy.

But later on, Marley’s health deteriorated. The cancer had started spreading fast inside his body. He was taken to the best of the doctors and medical facilities, but he could not get out of the trauma. It took some more months and Bob Marley took his last breath on 11th May 1981, at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital (later University of Miami Hospital).

Born on 6th February 1945, in British Jamaica, Bob Marley had a professional music career in 1963.  Along with his friends, he began his professional music career by forming Bob Marley and the Wailers band. Their debut album “The Wailing Wailers” released in 1965, brought him international recognition. The song “One Love/People get Ready”, had established him as a different reggae singer.

Bob Marley kept on stepping up his status in the music world, by releasing many more albums and solos. However, the song “No Woman, No Cry”, released in 1974, brought him an unprecedented reputation as a singer. This title alludes to telling a woman not to cry. However, outside of Jamaica, it has been usually been misunderstood to mean something like “if there is no woman, there is no reason to cry”.

On that particular night at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, too “No woman, No cry”, had made many music lovers cry, seeing Bob Marley singing this song repeatedly on stage. But that was not all, his song “Get up, Stand up”, had also made people feel the inner strength of the words of his songs. Even in his last performance on 23 September 1980, he had given strength to his fans, to “get up, stand up for your rights”.

In 1994, Bob Marley was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He was the first native of a developing country to receive this honour. Lately, in 2001, he was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Earlier in 1981, he was awarded the Order Of Merit, and the Peace Medal of the Third World in 1978.

It’s almost 40 years since the last stage performance of Bob Marley, yet the new generation still listen to his songs, just the way their parents and grandparents did.

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