Bob Marley was a legendary reggae musician, taken from the world at far too young an age, but what was his first song?
The first song Bob Marley ever recorded was titled Judge Not. It was released in 1962 and was one of the earliest tracks Marley ever created. When it debuted, Marley was just seventeen years old.
Read on to learn more about the iconic musician that was Bob Marley.
Start With Ska
Almost four decades after his passing, Bob Marley was recognized as a cultural and artistic icon. His altogether quite short life left a huge and lasting impact on the world. He boasted deep ties to the development of reggae music, the lifestyle of the Rastafari, and spirituality. After his death, he was honored by his home country of Jamaica for his life and his work.
Bob Marley fell in love with music from a young age. The island of Jamaica proved a veritable breeding ground for creativity and expression. It’s long been known as a Caribbean paradise, alive with music, dancing, and soul. Marley first started playing music with friends when he was in elementary school.
Together with his closest friend, Neville Livingston, Marley started building a musical group. They experimented with various genres, particularly R&B that was coming out of America at the time. They also dabbled in ska, which had some rhythmic ties to reggae itself and was an upbeat, peppy style of music.
At fifteen years of age, Marley was regularly performing with his friends as part of a large group. They focused primarily on vocals and harmony, especially considering none of them could play instruments. Fortunately, they fell in with an already-established local artist, who would ultimately teach Marley to play guitar.
Once Marley had perfected his musical talents, he set his sights on recording music. His first ever song was recorded in February 1962, around his seventeenth birthday. This track was titled Judge Not and followed more a ska rhythm than reggae. While it didn’t see too much success, it served as a foundation for the musical legend we know today.
You can hear this song below, in a video taken from YouTube.
Bob Marley’s Jamaican roots shone through in earnest throughout the sixties. He converted from Catholicism to Rastafarianism and started growing out his dreadlocks. At the start of the 1970s, a new sound began originating on the island of Jamaica.
It was a new kind of music, slower than ska but still just as positive and upbeat. Marley fell in love and decided to focus his attention on the fresh genre. He worked with music producer Leslie Kong, who at the time was speculated to be one of the key creators of the sound.
The reggae started to flow, as did Marley’s success. He worked with world-famous songwriter Jimmy Norman in New York, penning fresh content. While attempting to make a name for himself outside of Jamaica, Marley continued to experiment further. He tried fusing reggae with pop to break into the U.S. market and resided for a while in London.
Marley’s studio albums became commercial successes, and some of his most iconic music was beginning to emerge. Although the late seventies would prove to be a turbulent time for Marley, he continued recording some incredible tracks.
Some of the most iconic were: Three Little Birds (1977), Buffalo Soldier (1978) and I Shot The Sheriff (1975). In 1977, Marley was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer, and in 1976, he survived an infamous assassination attempt. It’s alleged that the attack that left him and his wife wounded was politically motivated.
However, two days later Marley would be up in concert, performing as scheduled. Following the attack he left Jamaica, declaring self-exile. This would be the start of Marley’s final years, and it would be an almost painful closing journey.
His cancer diagnosis from 1977 returned to haunt him. Although he’d taken surgical precautions years prior, it had silently spread throughout his body. His final performance would take place in September 1980, and by May of 1981, Bob Marley had passed away.
He left an incredible legacy, with a fan base that would remain true for decades to come. In terms of family, Marley had fathered at least eleven children throughout his life. Some of his sons would also go on to become musicians, following in his footsteps.