Bob Marley, like Elvis Presley, was his music's greatest star — a bold, charismatic performer who expanded greatly reggae's popularity and whose loss at age 36 left the infectious yet hauntingly mystical Jamaican music with a massive void.
Born in Jamaica of a British Army captain and a Jamaican mother who wrote spirituals and sang in a local church, Marley also sang in church, but he soon became fascinated by the American rhythm and blues that he heard on the radio.
Marley began recording in the early 1960s, though he became so frustrated over how badly musicians were treated by Kingston labels that he moved to the United States for a few months in the mid-1960s, working at an auto assembly plant in Delaware.
Returning home, Marley embraced the Rastafarian religion, which reveres the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as the personification of God and looks to him to lead his people to the promised land of Africa, leaving the white capitalistic system behind in "Babylon." Rastas also consider marijuana a sacrament. This viewpoint, expressed in ghetto themes of hope and subjugation, became an essential part of Marley's approach to reggae — the oddly syncopated blend of African, Caribbean and R&B music.