10 Facts About Bob Marley On His 75th Birthday

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

For a lot of people, Bob Marley is reggae music. More than any other artist, Marley embodied the political righteousness and defiant joy inherent to the genre. The dreadlocked troubadour rose from the slums of Kingston, Jamaica to become a global superstar in the 1970s and an eternal ambassador of Jamaican culture. Nearly 40 years after his death in 1981, Marley remains one of the most iconic musicians in the world. To honor what would’ve been his 75th birthday (on February 6, 2020), here are 10 things you might not know about the reggae godhead.

1. Bob Marley was biracial.

Given Marley’s anti-colonial lyrics and strong Rastafarianism faith, many people assume the singer was black. In fact, he was the child of an Afro-Jamaican mother, Cedella Booker, and a white father, Norval Marley. The details of Norval’s life are sketchy. According to the BBC, he listed his birthplace as Sussex, England, when he enlisted in the Army in 1916. Due to medical issues that included urinary incontinence, Norval spent World War I serving in the Labour Corps. He later worked in Nigeria before arriving in Jamaica, where he met Booker while employed as plantation supervisor. Norval was about 60 when he and 18-year-old Booker married. The couple separated soon after Bob’s birth, and Norval died of a heart attack when the future superstar was just 10 years old.

2. Bob Marley got his start as a ska musician.

No, not like Reel Big Fish. When Marley started singing in the early 1960s, Jamaica was grooving to ska, the island’s first indigenous form of popular music. (Ska later evolved into rocksteady, which in turn became reggae.) Marley made his debut with a series of ska recordings for producer Leslie Kong’s Beverly label, including “One Cup of Coffee” and “Jude Not.”

3. Bob Marley lived in America for a while.

In 1966, after he’d begun recording with The Wailers, but before he made a name for himself outside of Jamaica, Marley went to visit his mother in America. She’d immigrated to Wilmington, Delaware, where Bob stayed for about eight months. During that time, he worked as a lab assistant for DuPont and toiled on a Chrysler assembly line. According to some, he lived in Delaware on and off through 1977, and the city of Wilmington hosts an annual People’s Festival 4 Peace to honor its one-time resident.

4. A Texas hitmaker helped to introduce BOB Marley to the world.

Bob Marley (1945 - 1981) the Jamaican born singer, guitarist and composer in concert.
Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

Johnny Nash, the Texas singer-songwriter behind the 1972 hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” played a major role in bringing Marley’s music to the masses. In 1965, Nash moved with his manager, Danny Sims, to Jamaica. In 1966 or ‘67, Nash heard Marley sing at a Rasta celebration and convinced Sims to sign the young Jamaican. Marley traveled to London in February 1972 to help record Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now album. Nash included three Marley originals on the LP, plus one song he wrote with Bob. When Nash left London to promote the album, Marley and The Wailers found themselves stranded in the U.K. During this time, they met Island Records head Chris Blackwell, who signed them to a career-making (and world-changing) deal.

5. Bob Marley wasn’t the first reggae hopeful on Island Records.

When Marley first showed up on Chris Blackwell’s radar, Island Records had recently parted ways with singer Jimmy Cliff, star of the 1972 reggae film The Harder They Come. Cliff wasn’t happy with his progress on Island, so he jumped ship for EMI. Blackwell was reportedly "devastated" by Cliff’s departure, but when he met Marley, he found another rebel-type character he could sell to white audiences.

“I was dealing with rock music, which was really rebel music, and I felt that would really be the way to break Jamaican music,” Blackwell said. “But you needed someone who could be that image. When Bob walked in, he really was that image.”

6. Bob Marley once opened for Bruce Springsteen—and stole the show.

In July 1973, Bob Marley and The Wailers played 14 shows at the famed New York City hipster hangout Max’s Kansas City. The headliner was a scrappy New Jersey guitar slinger named Bruce Springsteen. It sounds like an odd pairing, but Marley and the gang evidently had no trouble adjusting to their surroundings. Reviewing the show for Billboard, writer Sam Sutherland credited The Wailers with “neatly eclipsing” the future rock superstar.

7. Bob Marley survived an assassination attempt—then played a show two days later.

On December 3, 1976, seven gunmen stormed Marley’s home in Kingston and started shooting. Marley’s wife and manager were wounded, and the singer was shot in the chest and upper arm. The attack came two days before the Smile Jamaica Concert, which Marley had organized to ease political tensions in Jamaica. Marley wasn’t looking to endorse a candidate, but the ruling People’s National Party rescheduled the national election to capitalize on the event. As a result, Marley appeared to be supporting the PNP, and that likely led to the shooting. Nevertheless, an injured Marley took the stage on December 5—just two days after he was attacked—and played a now-legendary 90-minute set. Due to the risks associated with surgery, a bullet remained lodged in Marley’s arm until his death in 1981.

8. Bob Marley never really had a hit in America.

You’d think someone as popular and influential as Bob Marley would’ve scored at least a couple Top 40 pop hits. Alas, the closest Marley ever came was the 1976 single “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” which peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not that Marley was incapable of writing hits: The aforementioned Johnny Nash reached #12 with the Marley-penned “Stir It Up,” and British rocker Eric Clapton famously took “I Shot the Sheriff” all the way to #1 in 1974. It should be noted that Marley’s posthumous 1984 collection Legend is the best-selling reggae album of all time, with more than 15 million copies sold in the U.S. alone.

9. Bob Marley had a lot of kids.

Damian, Ziggy, Stephen, Kymani and Julian Marley, sons of Bob Marley, perform onstage at the "Roots, Rock, Reggae Tour 2004" in Vienna, Virginia.
Damian, Ziggy, Stephen, Kymani and Julian Marley, sons of Bob Marley, perform onstage at the "Roots, Rock, Reggae Tour 2004" in Vienna, Virginia.
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Bob Marley had many virtues, but fidelity was not one of them. He regularly cheated on his wife Rita during their marriage, which spanned from 1966 to Bob’s death in 1981 and produced three children: Cedella, David a.k.a. Ziggy, and Stephen. Bob also adopted two kids that Rita had with other men (Sharon and Stephanie). Officially, Marley is said to have fathered six more children outside of his marriage to Rita (Robert, Rohan, Karen, Julian, Ky-Mani, and Damian), all with different women. But many sources say he had at least two other kids, Imani and Madeka, who haven’t been acknowledged on Marley’s website.

10. Marley’s untimely death has sparked conspiracy theories.

Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981, of lung and brain cancer. The disease had spread from a malignant melanoma in his toe first detected in 1977. Doctors advised Marley to have the toe amputated, but apparently due to his Rastafarian beliefs, he refused. It’s a sad yet medically plausible story that not everyone accepts.

According to conspiracy theorists, the CIA injected Marley’s toe with cancer by giving him a booby-trapped shoe. This dubious story picked up steam in November 2017, when the website Your News Wire published an article about a 79-year-old CIA agent named Bill Oxley who supposedly confessed to killing Marley. Snopes did some digging, and it turns out there’s nothing to corroborate the story—or even the existence of Oxley. But the theory lives on, and in 2018, rappers Busta Rhymes and T.I. posted about the debunked story on Instagram.

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It


When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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10 Chance Meetings That Changed the World

John Lennon (left) and Paul McCartney (right) from The Beatles.
John Lennon (left) and Paul McCartney (right) from The Beatles.
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some call it fate. Others call it destiny. And some just brush it off as coincidence. But however you view it, life has a funny way of bringing people together at just the right place and time. Check out some of the most random historical encounters we could find—meetings that, had they not happened, would have resulted in a very different world today.

1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with Susan B. Anthony.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left) and Susan B. Anthony (right).
Wikimedia//Public Domain

The suffrage movement would have looked very different had Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony not met on a street corner in 1851. Although both Stanton and Anthony were fierce abolitionists, Stanton got involved in suffrage earlier. She launched the First Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 as a reaction to being denied a seat at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention because she was a woman. Similarly, Anthony, who was born into a family of abolitionists, turned her sights toward suffrage after being unable to speak at a temperance convention. Still, their meeting was entirely coincidental.

After Anthony traveled to Seneca Falls, New York—where Stanton lived—for an antislavery meeting, she and her friend Amelia Bloomer ran into Stanton on the street. Bloomer, a mutual friend of both, introduced them, and the two formed a near-immediate friendship. Because Stanton was a busy wife and mother, she needed someone to be the voice of the suffrage movement and to deliver her speeches on the road. That person became Susan B. Anthony. Together, this powerful duo would go on to launch a suffrage newspaper called The Revolution, found the National American Women Suffrage Association, and more—all because they happened to go for a walk at the same time.

2. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald with his wife Zelda Fitzgerald.
F. Scott Fitzgerald with his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You would think that the most iconic couple of the 1920s would have met in a speakeasy, or, at the very least, been introduced by some famous author friends. But instead, the couple that embodied the Roaring Twenties met in a pretty ordinary way: At a dance. In July 1918, 21-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald, then a soldier, was stationed at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, awaiting orders to fight overseas in World War I. Sick of having only his fellow soldiers for company, he decided to attend a nearby country club dance to blow off some steam. It was there he met Zelda Sayre for the first time.

Zelda was already the crown jewel of Montgomery society by that point and wasn’t initially interested in Fitzgerald, an aspiring writer. Still, Fitzgerald pursued the fiercely independent Zelda for two years, and finally convinced her to marry him after his first novel, This Side of Paradise, was picked up by Scribner in 1920. Though their marriage was famously tumultuous, they did inspire each other's work. F. Scott would even wind up lifting lines from Zelda's personal diary and including them in The Great Gatsby

3. Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Google founders Sergey Brin (left) and Larry Page (right).
Michael Nagle/Getty Images News

College tours aren’t normally life-changing—but in the case of Google’s founders, a walk around Stanford ended up changing the course of their careers (and had a pretty big impact on the rest of us). In 1995, Sergey Brin, then a second-year grad student in computer science, volunteered to be a tour guide for prospective students who had just been admitted to the school. By pure chance, Larry Page, an engineering major from the University of Michigan, ended up in his group.

Although the pair didn’t exactly start off as friends (they clashed during the tour and found each other “obnoxious”) it was a meaningful first impression. Several months later, when Page’s dissertation on the World Wide Web turned into a much bigger project involving a prototype search engine, he needed help building the system—which was originally named BackRub but, thankfully, was renamed to Google. The person he chose for the job? Someone who he had come to respect: his former tour guide.

4. Bob Woodward and Mark Felt (a.k.a. Deep Throat)

It turned out to be a simple package that helped turn Bob Woodward from a run-of-the-mill journalist into one of the men responsible for uncovering the most infamous scandal in presidential history. In 1970, Woodward was a lieutenant in his final year of Naval service, and one of his regular duties was to work as a courier delivering packages to the White House. One night, after spending a considerable amount of time in a waiting room for someone to come sign for a package, an older man came out to meet him. Woodward struck up a conversation with the man, and eventually learned that he was Mark Felt, an assistant director of the FBI.

Woodward, eager to advance in his career, asked for Felt’s phone number so that they could stay in touch. He reached out often while he transitioned from a military man to a journalist, with Felt acting as mentor and occasional anonymous source for Woodward's stories. Eventually, Felt would feed Woodward and his partner, Carl Bernstein, the information that helped uncover the Watergate scandal, which would lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 8, 1974.

5. Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison

An engraving of Frederick Douglass, circa the 1850s.
Engraving of Frederick Douglass, circa the 1850s.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator, was the largest abolitionist publication of its time—and Frederick Douglass just so happened to be a loyal reader. When Douglass heard that Garrison was going to give a speech at an antislavery convention in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1841, he decided to attend. But while he was there, a friend coaxed the shy Douglass to give a speech on his life story as a runaway slave in front of the attendees, which he reluctantly agreed to. Garrison, deeply moved by the unexpected speech, realized that Douglass not only had an incredible story—but a talent for speaking, as well.

Douglass's unlikely speech turned into another one two days later at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s convention in Nantucket, and Garrison took it upon himself to land Douglass a gig as a lecturer at the Society. He soon became Douglass’s mentor, introducing him to other influential abolitionists and later helping him to get his book published. Although the pair eventually became estranged due to differing interpretations of the Constitution, their early partnership helped Douglass ascend to national recognition, eventually leading to his fateful meeting with Abraham Lincoln in the White House. Not an honor often afforded to former slaves, Douglass spoke with the president about the unfair treatment of black soldiers fighting in the Civil War, leading to a sometimes strained but always respectful relationship between the two until Lincoln's death.

6. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

A photograph of Steve Jobs (left) and Steve Wozniak (right), the co-founders of Apple Computer Inc. xz
Steve Jobs (left) and Steve Wozniak (right), the co-founders of Apple Computer, Inc.
Tom Munnecke, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

iPhones, Macbooks, Apple watches, and more possibly wouldn’t exist if it wasn't for ... Bill Fernandez?

Fernandez was a mutual friend of Steve Jobs—whom he'd known since they attended Cupertino Junior High School—and Steve Wozniak, who lived on Fernandez's block. He thought they'd naturally hit it off.

Jobs was visiting Fernandez one day in 1971, and as they took a walk around the block, Fernandez saw Wozniak outside washing his car. He introduced the pair, and pretty soon, Jobs and Wozniak were fast friends themselves.

Jobs and Wozniak began hanging out and eventually started working on projects together. The first was blue boxes for phone phreakers (devices that people used to “hack” phones and make free calls). They quickly moved on to more respectable work, though, after joining the Homebrew Computer Club, a Silicon Valley-based club for computer hobbyists looking to make their own machines. From there, Wozniak built the Apple I in 1976—his first computer kit—and had Jobs help with the marketing. Soon after, the pair would work on the Apple II and formed Apple Computer, Inc. Fernandez would be one of the company's first employees.

7. John Lennon and Paul McCartney

A photograph of John Lennon and Paul McCartney at London Airport in 1968.
John Lennon (left) and Paul McCartney (right) at London Airport in 1968.
Stroud/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On July 6, 1957, a 15-year-old McCartney attended the annual Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete—not because he was a particularly active member of the church community, but because he hoped to find a girl there. With no girls to be found, he decided to listen to the music instead.

A high school band called The Quarrymen had just managed to squeeze themselves onto the schedule of events that day, and McCartney was immediately impressed by their sound. Once the set was over, McCartney had a mutual friend introduce him to the lead singer, John Lennon, so he could show off his stuff. After seeing McCartney’s (very impressive) guitar skills, Lennon invited him to join the band. And half of the Beatles was born.

8. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison

A photograph of Thomas Edison (right) and Henry Ford (left) examining Edison's incandescent lightbulb.
Henry Ford (left) and Thomas Edison (right).
Henry Guttmann Collection, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Thomas Edison was Henry Ford’s personal hero, but he never dreamed that they would become great friends. That all changed in 1896, however, when Ford attended the convention of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies in Brooklyn, New York. Edison was making his rounds at the event, and, much to Ford’s delight, had a brief conversation with him about his recently invented quadricycle, the first automobile Ford ever designed. (Ford was working at one of Edison's subsidiary companies at this time and had idolized the inventor since he was a boy.)

According to legend, Edison, fascinated by Ford's ingenuity, told him: “You have the thing. Keep at it.” Twelve years later, Ford—who would single out the chance meeting as an important inspiration for his career—introduced the Model T, and he and Edison eventually formed a deep friendship that would last the rest of their lives.

9. Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward

A photograph of The Duke of Windsor with Wallis Simpson their wedding day at Château de Condé in France.
Wallis Simpson with the Duke of Windsor on their wedding day at Château de Condé in France.
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Who knew that a weekend getaway would cause one of the most scandalous relationships in Great Britain’s history? Wallis Simpson, an American expat who came to England in the 1920s, was a social climber eager to rub elbows with only the most elite of British society. Previously married to a navy pilot, she and her second husband, Ernest Simpson, rose quickly through the ranks of the upper crust, and in 1931, they were invited to an exclusive hunting weekend at their friend Lady Thelma Furness’s home.

Lady Furness, who was Prince Edward VIII’s mistress at the time, could never have imagined that introducing Wallis and Prince Edward would doom her own relationship—and all because he and Wallis had a dull conversation about central heating. When Wallis allegedly called him out for essentially being a bore (a social crime of the highest degree), the prince was so enchanted by her feisty cheek that he (eventually) deemed it worthy of abdicating a throne for.

10. Sacagawea and Lewis & Clark

Sacagawea with Lewis and Clark.
Sacagawea acted as a guide for Lewis and Clark.
Edgar Samuel Paxson, Wikimedia//Public Domain

Sacagawea is well-known as explorer Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s translator during their Corps of Discovery Expedition, which explored the new Louisana Purchase, but the story of how she actually came to join the expedition is even more incredible. A member of the Shoshone tribe, she was kidnapped by a rival tribe, the Hidatsa, when she was a teenager and was brought to their settlement in South Dakota. She was then sold to a French-Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, who already lived with the Hidatsa. She was made to become one of his two wives and soon became pregnant with his child (polygamy was a Hidatsa tradition Charbonneau readily adopted, according to History.com).

By the time Lewis and Clark reached Hidatsa territory in November 1804 and began building their own settlement after establishing friendly contact with the tribe, Sacagawea was six months pregnant. Lewis and Clark met Sacagawea and Charbonneau during their stay and immediately recognized her value as a travel companion—she could speak both Hidatsa and Shoshone, and they could use her language skills to purchase much-needed horses from the Shoshone for the expedition. (She would translate Shoshone into Hidatsa and communicate that to Charbonneau, who would translate the Hidatsa into French and communicate that to a French- and English-speaking member of the Corps.) They waited for Sacagawea to give birth before continuing on their journey, and in 1805, the Corps of Discovery—which now included Sacagawea, Charbonneau, and their newborn son—departed. With Sacagawea's help, they would make it to the Pacific Coast and back with maps, specimens, and important information about the Louisiana Purchase.