Photo courtesy of Island Records

News | 01.14.2022

Island Records: The Label That Made Bob Marley Famous (And Why It Ended Up Being A Messy Affair)

With fame comes danger, and Bob Marley knew that best.

Island Records has boosted the careers of many notable musicians and artists that we know and love today, like the late great Bob Marley. Although Island Records brought various artists up from across the globe, the label’s history began with a jazz album made in Jamaica

A young Englishman named Chris Blackwell released an album in 1959 of jazz standards called “At The Half Moon Hotel, Montego Bay.” The record featured blind Bermudan singer and pianist Lance Hayward. It wasn’t until 1973 that Blackwell began to form a partnership with Bob Marley, which would help the Jamaican singer become the Third World’s first musical megastar. 

That same year, Marley released his first two albums, “Burnin'” and “Catch a Fire,” which also gave credit to The Wailers, a band featuring Peter Tosh and Bunny ‘Wailer’ Livingstone. After the group made their legendary appearance on BBC2’s The Grey Old Whistle Test, the band solidified their name as Bob Marley & The Wailers. 

Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

However, Tosh and Livingstone left the group, and Marley continued performing under the name where he released “No Woman, No Cry” and albums like “Exodus, “Kaya,” “Survival,” “Uprising,” and “Confrontation.”

Marley ended up finding another backing band with brothers Carlton and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett on drums and bass, Junior Marin and Al Anderson on lead guitar, and Tyrone Downie and Earl ‘Wya’ Lindo on keys. Following the success of “No Woman, No Cry,” which made waves internationally, he then released his breakthrough record in the U.S. with the 1976 classic “Rastaman Vibration,” reaching Top 50 of the Billboard Soul Charts.

Marley’s fame resulted in some grave danger for not only himself but his family. Two days before the free concert called “Smile Jamaica,” which was organized to relieve political tension between the two parties, Marley, his wife, and manager Don Taylor were caught in the fire of a gunman inside his home.

Photo by Dennis Morris / Rolling Stone

Thankfully, both Taylor and Marley’s wife made a full recovery from their severe injuries. Marley himself suffered small wounds in both the arm and chest. There’s also speculation that the assassination attempt was motivated by political differences, seeing that the “Smile Jamaica” concert was meant to ease the tension between parties. There were also rumors that the concert was a type of rally to support Marley and his views. 

Injuries and all, a brave Bob Marley still performed at the concert as scheduled. According to Elite Daily, when the singer was asked why he chose to perform after an assassination attempt in his home, he answered, “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?”

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