Bob Marley on Racism: Echoes from Trench Town to the World

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Updated: Aug 21, 2023
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My mother played his music loudly in our home and was the first to introduce me to Bob Marley. I grew up listening to his inspiring music, and at such a young age, I did not know how influential it was. If you were to travel anywhere in the world, you would realize Bob Marley is a popularly known artist. Many respect him, and his music has a reputation for being a religion on its own. Bob Marley will forever be recognized for impacting Jamaican culture, Rastafari religion, political issues, love, unity, and equality.

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Bob Marley’s Influence and Legacy

Bob Marley helped introduce reggae music to the world, and he created what many believe to be the world’s most inspiring music. His life and music have acted as symbols for the real power of music, which is made with love and passion. He lived in Trench Town, one of Kingston, Jamaica’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Trench Town, both politically and socially, still maintains poverty and corruption. He struggled in poverty but, fortunately, found inspiration in music. Trench Town had many thriving local performers.

Marley and his childhood friend, Neville “Bunny” O’Riley Livingston, dedicated much of their time to music. While he worked on improving his singing abilities, he met Peter McIntosh, who played a significant role in his career. In 1963, Marley, Livingston, and McIntosh created the Wailing Wailers. The group became popular in Jamaica, but they battled financial difficulties. Marley then moved to the United States, where his mother was. Marley later returned to Jamaica and met with Livingston and McIntosh to form the Wailers. After scoring a contract with Island Records, the Wailers scored their big break in 1972.

Rastafari and the Spiritual Journey of Bob Marley

Marley began to explore his spirituality and developed an interest in the Rastafarian movement. Rastafari is an Africa-centered religion that is not only religious but also political. It began in Jamaica in the 1930s. Bob Marley was dedicated to ensuring that the world learned about Rastafari, which made it a global phenomenon. Due to his message on this religion, there are followers in Jamaica and worldwide. His message was also extended to scholars who educate the public on Rastafari. This phenomenon would only exist with such significance with Bob Marley.

Like no other, Marley is associated with smoking marijuana or “herb.” He did not just enjoy weed as a recreational habit but was also an enthusiast of the plant’s meditational, spiritual, and healing capabilities. One feature of the Rastafarian religion is the ritual use of marijuana. According to this religion, marijuana should not be used recreationally but instead for religious and medical purposes. The purpose is to benefit meditation and help the user better understand the nature of the universe.

Bob Marley on Racism: Messages from Trench Town

The spread of Jamaican culture and the Rastafarian religion is attributed to Bob Marley due to the lyrical rhetoric in his music. His lyrics contain messages that display the areas of class and Marley’s life in Trench Town. The messages in his music express his memories of racism, cruelty, violence, and poverty in Trench Town. The lyrics of Marley’s music also contain religious messages. These messages explore his beliefs in the Rastafarian religion. He also spread his spiritual and political messages by using the rhetorical strategies of humble language, words, and calming sounds. He publicized important political and social issues, such as the living conditions of Trench Town and the cruelty he witnessed.

Bob Marley achieved several accomplishments during his lifetime. Serving as a world ambassador for reggae music is one great accomplishment of his. He earned induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and sold over twenty million records. After his passing, his music remains broadly praised. As many artists channel their anger into their music, Bob Marley does the opposite. He filled every song and performance with love, even while his country suffered pain, an authentic example of unconditional love. The Bob Marley and the Wailers legend lives on; his music remains as essential as ever.  


  1. White, Timothy. “Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley”. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2006.
  2. Davis, Stephen. “Bob Marley: A Biography”. Greenwood Biographies. Greenwood Press, 2007.
  3. King, Stephen A. “Reggae, Rastafari, and the Rhetoric of Social Control”. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
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Bob Marley on Racism: Echoes from Trench Town to the World. (2023, Aug 20). Retrieved from