33 Bob Marley Facts That May Surprise Even His Biggest Fans

Published November 1, 2017
Updated December 19, 2017

These fascinating Bob Marley facts reveal the man behind the legend and explain why he's beloved to this day.

Bob Marley Facts About His Origins
He was born Nesta Robert Marley, but his mother switched his middle and first name around after an immigration official said Nesta sounded like a girl's name.Andrew Putler/Redferns/Getty Images

Marley With Singers
He gave writing credit of "No Woman, No Cry" to his friend Vincent Ford so that Ford would be able to fund his Kingston soup kitchen. Gai Terrell/Redferns/Getty Images

Marley Sitting Down
Marley never won a Grammy until being honored with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement award in 2001. Chris Walter/WireImage/Getty Images

Marley Holding Guitar
In the early 1970s, the Wailers toured with Sly and the Family Stone as an opening act but were removed after just four shows because their performances reportedly upstaged the headliner.Ian Dickson/Redferns/Getty Images

Marley's Houses
Bob Marley grew up poor and after he found success he bought houses for several less fortunate friends in Jamaica.Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

Marley In Hat
Bob Marley discovered as a young child that he could read palms. His mother took it as a joke at first until some of the readings he did for neighbors and friends came true. Sigfrid Casals/Cover/Getty Images

Marley Performing
Marley lived in Delaware once in 1966 for about 9 months and worked at the DuPont Hotel in Wilmington, and then he and Rita moved back for a summer in 1969 where he worked at the Chrysler plant in Newark. Anwar Hussein/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bob Marley With Band
He owned a BMW, not because he particularly cared about the brand, but liked that it had the initials of Bob Marley and the Wailers.Ian Dickson/Redferns/Getty Images

Bob Marley Facts About Marijuana
His lasting legacy has helped to spawn the birth of the marijuana brand, Marley Natural. Tom Hill/WireImage/Getty Images

Burial Items Interesting Bob Marley Facts
After his death from cancer, he was laid to rest in Jamaica with a soccer ball, a bit of marijuana, a bible, and a ring given to him by the Crown Prince of Ethiopia.Gary Merrin/Keystone/Getty Images

Bob Marley Holding Soccer Ball
He was a huge soccer fan and briefly made Jamaican player Allan “Skill” Cole his manager. Marley also trained with Pele, returned from tours with soccer balls for local youths, and had his own team in Kingston called House of Dread. GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

Interesting Bob Marley Facts About His Youth
As a child, he was teased for his mixed-race origins and called "half caste" or "German boy." At first, it bothered him, but he later said it helped shape him into the man he was.Wikimedia Commons

Marley Singing
After a 1977 soccer injury, doctors discovered melanoma in his toe and one doctor recommended amputation but Marley refused because of religious reasons, and because it would hinder his ability to dance and play soccer. Another doctor soon told him the toe wouldn't have to be amputated.Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Bob Marley Facts About His Group
CBS Records signed Marley and the Wailers in 1972, just before the band was about to make it big, but lost faith in their potential and quickly abandoned the group.Vincent McEvoy/Redferns/Getty Images

Bob Marley Facts About His Funeral
Ten days after his passing, on May 11, 1981, Marley was given a state funeral attended by the prime minister as well as several hundred thousand spectators.Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images

Marley With Long Dreads
In recognition of Marley's inspiration to Zimbabwe's freedom fighters, the country's president invited the Wailers to perform at the country's official Independence Ceremony in April 1980.Jürgen & Thomas/ullstein bild/Getty Images

Marley Wearing Jacket
However, no one told the Wailers that the performance was for media and dignitaries only, and when fans stormed the gates to hear the music, they were tear-gassed, forcing the band to leave the stage. But, the next night, the band decided to return to the same stadium and hold a free show for 80,000 fans.Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images

Marley Swinging Hair Around
Marley's parents didn't stay together long and he was just five the last time he saw his father.Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images

Marley Under Bright Lights
Two days after learning that his cancer had spread throughout his body, Marley carried on with his scheduled performance in Pittsburgh on September 23, 1980. It would be the last show of his career.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marley With Finger Pointed Up
In 1978, the United Nations awarded Marley the Medal of Peace for his work in attempting to ease political tensions in Jamaica.Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images

Bob Marley With Long Hair Onstage
During the 1976 assassination attempt, Marley's wife, Rita, was hit in the back of the head by a bullet, but survived relatively unharmed, in part due to the fact that her thick dreadlocks had protected her.Keystone/Getty Images

Marley Singing With Long Hair
In Marley's early days, Kong Records exploited his artistry by paying him tiny sums for his work. He then told Kong's chief that he would make a lot of money from Marley's recordings one day but would never be able to enjoy it. More than a decade later, when Kong released a Wailers compilation against the group's wishes, Kong's chief passed away.Mike Prior/Redferns/Getty Images

Marley Holding Microphone
When Marley and the Wailers visited New Zealand in 1979, the indigenous Maori people greeted them with a traditional welcoming ceremony typically reserved for visiting dignitaries.Keystone/Getty Images

Marley With Eyes Closed
In 1976, he performed for a crowd of 80,000, despite having just been shot by political extremists in a failed assassination attempt two days earlier. When asked why he chose to perform, Marley said, “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking the day off, so how can I?”Wikimedia Commons

Marley As A Young Man
He had his first #1 single in Jamaica with the Wailers in 1964 with "Simmer Down" (first released in late 1963). It sold around 70,000 copies. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marley With Bandmates
His band with Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh was originally called the Juveniles, then the Teenagers, then The Wailing Rudeboys, then The Wailing Wailers, then just The Wailers.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marley On Stage
He was motivated to write more songs about political struggle after forming a bond with prisoners he met while spending a month in jail for marijuana possession. Vincent McEvoy/Redferns/Getty Images

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton was given Marley's album Burnin' by a friend and enjoyed it so much he decided to cover "I Shot The Sheriff."Wikimedia Commons

Marley With Gold Records
Since his passing, he's sold about 80 million albums. In 2017, he placed fifth on Forbes' annual list of the highest-earning deceased celebrities. Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images

Marley With Arms Spread
The first song he recorded was called "Judge Not."Erica Echenberg/Redferns/Getty Images

Marley In Blue Shirt
He left school early to take an apprenticeship as a welder, but later left after an injury when a piece of metal hit him in the eye.Michael Putland/Getty Images

Interesting Facts About Bob Marley
The record label Tuff Gong was set up by Marley and took its name from his own nickname. Brian Rasic/Getty Images

Ziggy Marley
His final words to his son Ziggy were “On your way up, take me up. On your way down, don’t let me down.” Ziggy wrote a song about it called “Won’t Let You Down."Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Bob Marley is one of those incredibly rare musical artists whose songs not only remain popular years, even decades after they were recorded, but have also become ingrained in our very culture.

In Marley's case, his music has stretched across the globe, influencing artists genres ranging from hip-hop to rock, pop, folk, and even country. Even if you've never owned a Bob Marley album, there's a good chance you know the choruses to hits like "Three Little Birds," "One Love," or "No Woman, No Cry."

With classic songs like these, Marley and his band, the Wailers, were largely responsible for bringing reggae music to the world stage. Fans around the world connected both to the Wailers' enticing rhythms and to Marley's lyrics, which often addressed moving political and societal struggles.

It was this kind of empathy and outspokenness that has helped make Marley not just a star, but an icon, long after his passing. It's now been 36 years since Marley passed away from melanoma at the age of 36, but he's left a legacy that will continue to be embraced for generations to come.

The fascinating Bob Marley facts above help reveal why the world will never forget this inspiring man.


After checking out these Bob Marley facts, celebrate his wisdom with these inspirational Bob Marley quotes. Then, have a look at the greatest Bob Marley photos ever taken.

Joel Stice
Joel Stice is a writer who enjoys digging into all things pop culture, history, science, and anything weird.