21 May: Burying Bob Marley

The funeral for Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley was half religious ceremony, half rock concert on 21st May, 1981.

An estimated 100,000 people are believed to have seen Marley’s body lying in state, and the announcement of Jamaica’s national budget was postponed by several days to accommodate his funeral. The casket contained his red Gibson Les Paul guitar, a Bible opened at Psalm 23, and a stalk of ganja placed there by his widow, Rita.

In this episode, The Retrospectors uncover the Rastafarian tensions underlying Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s eulogy; explain why this moment of national commemoration also meant coming to terms with some national guilt; and consider how the Marley family subsequently used Bob’s image on everything from earphones to cannabis…

Further Reading:

‘Bob Marley’s funeral, 21 May 1981: a day of Jamaican history’ (The Guardian, 2011): https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/apr/24/bob-marley-funeral-richard-williams

‘In Short – ‘I was there’: Bob Marley’s death, 1981’ (BBC Radio 5 Live, 2017): https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2xyVnT65ltGwggk3zrc8yyG/i-was-there-bob-marleys-death-1981

‘Excerpt from “Marley” (Universal Pictures, 2012): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTx868LW–8