Despite the economical struggles during this time, by 1972 Bob received his “big break” when The Wailers got the opportunity to record their first full album Catch a Fire. They signed with Island Records, leading to several successes including an opening act for Bruce Springsteen and landing a spot in Britain’s top 40 with “No Woman No Cry.” Although the politically empowering lyrics gained large crowds of followers, the movement was not without conflict. In 1976, a group of people attempted to assassinate Bob and the Wailers during a pre-show practice; he survived a shot to the sternum.
Bob remained strong after the incident and continued furthering his music career and spreading his message to listeners. He recorded several more albums including Exodus, Kaya, Survival, and Uprising, each infused with thematic elements of love, peace, and unity. His achievements gave him the opportunity to see the world and play for fans in numerous countries, but through it all he never lost sight of his home in Jamaica.
In 1977 doctors discovered cancer cells in Bob’s toe, but due to religious beliefs he did not accept treatment. Over the years the cancer spread throughout his entire body and he became severely ill. In his last days of life he attempted to return home to Jamaica, but passed away before he completed his trip; he was only 36.
Bob earned many awards throughout his life including the Peace Medal of the Third World from the United Nations, the Jamaican Order of Merit, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was the first international music star to represent Third World hardship through his career, originating from his Jamaican roots. Bob’s remains a Reggae legend to this day and his message is still alive not only in Jamaica, but across the world.
“Love the life you live. Live the life you love.”