May 11 marked 36 years since the death of Bob Marley. The reggae superstar died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami (now University of Miami Hospital) at age 36.
Marley spent a lot of time in South Florida where his mother Cedella Booker and her family lived after moving from Delaware. Here is where he co-wrote Buffalo Soldier with singer/producer Noel ‘King Sporty’ Williams, another Jamaican who called South Florida home for many years.
The song was recorded by Marley in 1978 in Miami but Sporty had previously cut a version for himself and released it. The Marley edition came out on Confrontation, an album released by Island Records two years after his death.
King Sporty died in 2015 in Miami at age 71.
Buffalo Soldier saluted African-American soldiers who fought in the Indian Wars during the late 19th century. The song’s video featured Rastafarian ‘soldiers’ (including members of British reggae band Aswad) in military gear from that period.
Interestingly, Marley never had a large African-American following. His final US tour in 1980 was aimed at breaking him in that elusive market. The previous year, he performed at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.
Marley’s family maintains ties to South Florida. Some of his children live here and promote the annual Nine Mile festival and recently launched Kaya Fest.