21 Interesting Facts About Bob Marley From Childhood To His Death

21 Interesting Facts About Bob Marley From Childhood To His Death

Bob Marley“, by Luke McKernan, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Robert Nesta Marley, popularly known as Bob Marley, was a famous Jamaican songwriter and musician. He is widely known for being one of the founding fathers of reggae music and a champion for human rights and social justice. Even though he was and is still one of the most celebrated humans on the planet, there are so many facts about Bob Marley that not so many people know about. We have compiled the most interesting ones for you.

1. His name was rearranged for a reason

When Bob Marley was born on February 6, 1945 in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Colony of Jamaica, he was named Nesta Robert Marley. However, some family friends informed his mother that the name “Nesta” sounded feminine. As a result, Bob’s mother rearranged his name to Robert Nesta Marley to make it sound more masculine. (Bob Marley: A Biography)

2. His nickname “Tuff Gong” had a meaning

Bob grew up in Trench Town, a Kingston neighborhoodthat’s often referred to as the birthplace of reggae music. Because of his toughness while growing up in the crime-ridden and poverty-stricken neighborhood, Bob was fondly nicknamed “Tuff Gong.” He would later name his record label “Tuff Gong” a celebration of the tough upbringing. (Bob Marley: A Biography)

3. He was a palm reader

According to his close friend and confidant Allan “Skill” Cole, one of the most surprising facts about Bob Marley is he was a palm reader before he became a musician. It is claimed that when he was four years old, his predictions while reading palms mostly came true. However, when he moved to Trench Town, he was introduced to Rastafarian way of life, which required him to drop his palm reading hobby. (Jamaica Gleaner)

4. He was bullied for being “white”

While growing up in Trench Town, Bob was bullied by his peers for appearing “white.” At the time, it was not so common to come across mixed kids like Bob, whose father was a British naval captain named Norval Sinclair Marley and mother a Cedella Booker, a Jamaican singer. Also, he grew up at a time when the issue of racial injustice was at its peak; the famous Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey had died just five years before Bob’s birth. Despite the bullying, Bob once defended himself by saying:

“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 created me and cause me to come from black and white.” (The Source)

5. He had several children from different women

One of the most surprising facts about Bob Marley is he had several children from different women. When he married Rita Marley, a Sunday School teacher at the time, Bob adopted her two daughters from previous relationships, and had four otherswith Rita. He also had at least eight more children with eight different women. However, rumor has it that Bob also fathered other unclaimed children. Those officially known are Imani, Cedella, Sharon, David, Robbie, Stephen, Karen, Rohan, Julian, Stephanie, Ky-Mani, Madeke and Darmian Marley. (BobMarley.com)

6. He was raised as a Catholic

Even though Bob Marley is remembered as a staunch Rastafarian, and one of the ambassadors of the now famous movement, he was raised as a Catholic. He only developed interested in Rastafari beliefs in the 1960s when he was away from his mother. When he returned to Jamaica from the USA, he officially converted to Rastafari, and grew dreadlocks as a symbol of his newly found faith. (The Words and Music of Bob Marley)

7. Was awarded a Peace Medal of the Third World

For his efforts in championing the rights of disenfranchised black people from across the world, Bob was awarded the United Nations Peace Medal of the Third World on June 15, 1978, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, USA. Bob had been accompanied by the Wailers band to perform at a concert at Madison Square Garden. (BobMarley.com)

8. He is still one of the highest-earning dead celebrities

Even though he has been dead for decades, Bob’s music still rakes in millions every year. According to Forbes Magazine, Bob Marley’s brand earned at least $3 million in 2020, making him the eighth highest-earning dead celebrity in the list that consists of the likes of the legendary Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Kobe Bryant. (Forbes)

“Bob Marley” by JeepersMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

9. He loved playing football (soccer)

His music aside, football played a major role in Bob Marley’s life. He was often seen juggling the ball in the fields, parking lots, and even in his own recording studio. He was a huge fan of Santos, a Brazilian football club that was home to the legendary Pele. Affirming his love for the beautiful game, Bob once told a journalist:

“If you want to get to know me, you will have to play football against me and the Wailers.” (Paste Magazine)

10. He was a lab assistant in the U.S.

When Bob Marley moved back in the USA in 1966 to reunite with his mother, he took up a job for DuPont as a lab assistant. He also worked at an assembly line at a Chrysler plant in 1969. (Delaware Online)

11. He was known as Donald Marley while in Delaware

After marrying his wife Rita, Bob and his new family moved to Delaware, where he reunited with his mother. While working on the assembly line at a Chrysler plant in Newark, Bob was popularly known as Donald Marley. Even though it is not clear why he chose the name Donald, his mother described him as “lost without his friends” while he was working at the Chrysler plant. She was referring to Bob’s move to the U.S., leaving his friends back in Jamaica.  (Rolling Stone Magazine)

12. The Wailers wasn’t the original name of Bob Marley’s band

Bob Marley’s famous band The Wailers was originally called The Teenagers back in 1963. The reggae band, made of Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Junior Braithwaite, Cherry Smith, Beverley Kelso, and Bob Marley, were also renamed to The Wailing Rudeboys, then The Wailing Wailers. Finally, they settled for the name The Wailers. Wailing, according to the band, was a reference to the tough environment they grew up in Trench Town. The band members proudly described themselves as “ghetto sufferers, born wailing.” (Billboard Magazine)

13. He survived an attempted assassination

In December 1976, Bob Marley was shot in the chest and arm by armed gunmen at his Hope Road residence. The politically-motivated assassination attempt also left four others with gunshot wounds, including his wife Rita Marley. The incident happened 48 hours before Bob was scheduled to perform at a concert to promote peace at a time when political tension and violence was high in Jamaica. Even though Bob remained neutral, some believed that he was tactically supporting the then prime minister Michael Manley and his socialist ideologies. Incredibly, all victims of the attempted assassinationsurvived, and the gunmen were arrested, tried and executed. (Midnight Raver)

14. He encouraged smoking cannabis for religious and medical reasons

It is no secret that Bob loved to smoke cannabis; it was a critical part of his Rastafarian beliefs. However, even as cannabis, popularly known as “herb” in pop culture, was considered illegal in many countries across the world, Bob continued to advocate for its legalization both in his music and interviews. His influence in promoting cannabis for meditation and medical purposes cemented his image among pot smokers and the pop culture in Hollywood. His image is now embedded on lighters, caps, T-shirts, ashtrays, flags, and so on. (YouTube)

15. He never won a Grammy while still alive

One of the most astonishing facts about Bob Marley is he never won a Grammy while still alive, despite creating global hits and record-breaking albums. However, in February 2001, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Also, in 2010, his Catch a Fire album was indicted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. (Caribbean Today)

16. He loved the BMW

His love for BMW’s – one of the many unknown facts about Bob Marley – had a hilarious story behind it. Even though Bob was known for his humble lifestyle, he bought himself a 1602 base model BMW, joking that the initials meant Bob Marley and the Wailers. He also owned a BMW Bavaria from the 70s, which was more luxurious than his first model. (YouTube)

17. He was diagnosed with cancer

The skin cancer diagnosis is one the saddest facts about Bob Marley. For a man who lived a life full of love, humanity, and positivity, being diagnosed with cancer was sadly the beginning of the end. He was 32 at the time. (The Guardian)

18. He refused to have his toe amputated

Contrary to popular belief, Bob Marley’s toe lesion was not as a result of an injury sustained while playing football. According to reports, he had a type of malignant melanoma, and the toe lesion was one of its symptoms. The cancer had already destroyed part of his body cells before manifesting itself as a toe lesion. Fearing the worst, doctors recommended that Bob’s toe be amputated to prevent the cancerous cells from spreading to the rest of his body. However, Bob turned down his doctor’s advice, claiming that amputation was against his beliefs as a Rastafari. (The Tribune)

19. Bob Marley’s final collapse

Following a successful tour of Europe dubbed the Uprising Tour, where Bob and the Wailers performed in front of more than 100,000 people in Milan, Italy, the band proceeded to the United States, and also performed at the Madison Square Garden. Later on, Bob collapsed in Central Park while jogging. He was rushed to hospital, where doctors discovered that the cancer had infected his lungs, liver and brain. Two days later, for the very last time, Marley held a concert at the Stanley Theatre in Pennsylvania. But because his condition was deteriorating, the rest of his Uprising Tour was cancelled. (BBC)

20. Bob Marley’s famous last words

After the cancellation of the Uprising Tour, Bob was admitted to the Josef Issels treatment clinic in Bavaria, Germany. He underwent an alternative treatment to cancer called Issels treatment, which practices the avoidance of certain drinks, foods and other substances. Eight months later, the treatment hadn’t proven to be successful, and Marley decided to leave for his home country of Jamaica. While on the flight to Jamaica, his condition grew even worse, and the journey was cut short. He landed in Miami, Florida, and was admitted to the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, where he breathed his last on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36. According to his son Ziggy Marley, one of the unknown facts about Bob Marley was his wisdom even at the face of death. His famous final words were: “Money can’t buy life.” (Live About)

21. Bob Marley’s was buried with a number of items

Following the shocking and untimely demise of the reggae music icon, Bob Marley was accorded a Rastafari-themed state funeral on May 21, 1981 in Jamaica. One of the many little-known facts about Bob Marley is he was buried with his trademark Gibson Les Paul guitar, a bud of cannabis, and a Bible opened at Psalm 23.

To this day, Bob Marley is considered one of the most influential musicians of all time and a global icon in the fight for equality and social justice. He was the type of person who was never afraid to express himself even if his words rattled a few people, especially in high-ranking government positions. A champion of peace and a symbol of love and humanity, Bob Marley’s legacy lives on. If you enjoyed reading these facts about Bob Marley, feel free to check out more from our blog.


  1. Bob Marley: A Biography: https://books.google.com/books?id=aNv2XuFP2-QC&pg=PA9#v=onepage&q&f=false
  2. Bob Marley: A Biography: https://books.google.com/books?id=aNv2XuFP2-QC&pg=PA9#v=onepage&q&f=false
  3. Jamaica-Gleaner: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130219/ent/ent3.html
  4. The Source: https://thesource.com/2018/02/06/today-we-celebrate-the-birth-of-reggae-legend-bob-marley
  5. BobMarley.com: https://www.bobmarley.com/family/
  6. The Words and Music of Bob Marley: https://books.google.com/books?id=QPZEqZHKq2AC&pg=PA16#v=onepage&q&f=false
  7. BobMarley.com: https://www.bobmarley.com/bob-marley-champion-for-peace-in-third-world-1978/
  8. Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/maddieberg/2020/11/13/the-highest-paid-dead-celebrities-of-2020/?sh=4092515a3b4b
  9. Paste Magazine: https://www.pastemagazine.com/soccer/bob-marley/bob-marley-and-the-beautiful-game-why-he-loved-soc/
  10. Delaware Online: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2015/07/05/delaware-backstory-lovin-bob-marley/29753145/
  11. Rolling Stone Magazine: https://books.google.com/books?id=QPZEqZHKq2AC&pg=PA16#v=onepage&q&f=false

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