The Jamaican legend will be honored at 'Africa Unite.'
By CRISTINA FLORES
The late legendary reggae musician Bob Marley would have turned 60 Sunday, and though rumors have been circulating that he's about to "Get Up Stand Up," the only thing certain to happen on his birthday is a celebration of his influence on musicians, society and the common man.
Hosted by The Bob Marley and The Rita Marley Foundation, "Africa Unite," is expecting a quarter of a million followers of the lyrical prophet to attend a month-long celebration in the capital of Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Marley, known for his socially charged anthems such as "Get Up Stand Up" and "I Shot the Sheriff," died of cancer May 11, 1981.
Associate professor Andy Hollinden, who teaches rock music in the '70s and '80s at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., says Marley was an unlikely candidate for international fame.
"For a Jamaican musician, the thought of becoming an international superstar, and he was really the first, to come out of Jamaica and achieve that status was just an impossible pipe dream," said Hollinden. "Kind of like the Beatles wanting to conquer America, it was a crazy notion."
Recent rumors that Rita Marley, Bob's wife, plans to rebury him in "his spiritual resting place" of Ethiopia, seem just as crazy and are, at the least, premature.
"She [Rita] has always expressed that she would love to see the day where he is laid to rest in Ethiopia, obviously Ethiopia was very close to his heart," said Nikki Barjon, publicist for The Bob Marley Foundation.
"However we've have never issued any kind of statement saying that this was something that was going to happen. It's really been blown out of proportion."
Born in 1945 in Rhoden Hall north of Jamaica, Marley became fascinated with the popular rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues music that was coming out over America's airwaves at the time. That fascination led Marley to mix his own style of music, a reggae-influence blend that he would one day be immortalized for.
Although Hollinden says he believes Marley didn't necessarily invent reggae; he did help bring its sound to the masses.
"For many years, reggae music was considered novelty music and people in America, especially, were never going to hear it -- we didn't even know Jamaica existed let alone that they had their own music," said Hollinden.
"Bob Marley was just kicking down that door in almost an Elvis Presley-like fashion. Bob Marley didn't obviously invent Jamaican music, but he was the face of Jamaican music. He was the guy that opened up all those doors."
But those doors didn't open automatically.
"I Shot the Sheriff" from Marley's 1973 "Burnin"' album is one of his best-known hits, it might not have been so if Eric Clapton hadn't covered it in 1974.