Bob Marley, who would have turned 74 on February 6, always felt at home in South Florida. The reggae legend, who died in Miami in May 1981 at age 36, owned a home in Southwest Miami-Dade and did some of his finest work in the Sunshine State.
With his career taking off internationally, Marley did some of the recording sessions for his Rastaman Vibrations album at Criteria Studios in Miami in 1975. He also hung out in Miami a lot with friend Noel “King Sporty” Williams, a singer he knew from the 1960s.
Marley and Sporty wrote Buffalo Soldier, a salute to black soldiers who fought in the American Civil War. That song appears on Marley’s Confrontation album, released in 1983.
Sporty’s wife, soul singer Betty Wright, was opening act for Marley on several of his shows.
Related: Happy 74th Birthday to Bob Marley
Marley had been a Green Card holder since the 1960s and lived for a time in Delaware where his mother resided with her American husband. He returned to Jamaica in the late 1960s and resumed his career with The Wailers, a harmony group he co-founded in 1963.
When Marley and his band performed at the Miami Jai Alai venue in August, 1978 it was their first concert in South Florida. According to the Miami Herald report, Marley “felt at home on the Miami Jai Alai Fronton stage, his hair flying, holding nothing back. He leaped, kicked and careened across the stage like some manic marionette, his vocals on Rastaman Vibration and Rebel Music radiating the energy of outrage, the insistence of love.”
When he died from cancer at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, Miami, the Miami-Herald described him as “an almost Messianic figure in the Caribbean, West Africa, and Europe. The first superstar from the Third World.”
The Marley family continued to have a presence in South Florida after his death. His mother Cedella lived in the area for many years; she died in Miami in April, 2008 at age 81.
Other members of the family, including his son Stephen, now reside in South Florida.