Bob Marley: An extraordinary day
Forty years after the death of reggae singer Bob Marley, British writer and dub poet, Benjamin Zephaniah, remembers the day Jamaica came to a standstill for the singer’s funeral.
Bob Marley was laid to rest on the 21 May 1981, 11 days after dying from skin cancer.
The extraordinary day saw the island come together to mourn their most famous son – and to celebrate his life and work. He was more than a singer and writer to the people of Jamaica, he was a national hero and prophet with his beliefs in peaceful resolution and Rastafarian religion.
For days leading up to the funeral, tens of thousands of people filed past his body and on the day, thousands lined the streets of Kingston while the 12,000 capacity National Arena was jam-packed.
The outpouring of emotion on the day was unprecedented in Jamaican history with some comparing it to the kind of atmosphere at JFK or Martin Luther King’s funeral.
As Benjamin recalls with some of the people who were in Jamaica that day, everything stopped – even the Government’s budget statement was delayed by a week on the direction of the new Prime Minister.
The singer’s hits could be heard right across the island as sound systems pumped out songs like No Woman, No Cry, I Shot the Sherrif and One Love. Meanwhile two of his sons danced and the Wailers and the I3s performed.
Among those remembering this extraordinary day – I3s singer Judy Mowatt, reggae musician Michael Ibo Cooper, reporter Robin Denselow and Edward Williams who was a 13-year-old boy living in Kingston at the time.