Reggae legend Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley died of cancer on May 11th 1981 at the age of 36. The illness stemmed from an innocuous toe injury sustained during a football game in May 1977. Due to his Rastafari belief that the body must remain “whole”, Marley refused to have his toe amputated even after doctors found a form of malignant melanoma – a less common and very dangerous form of skin cancer – in the wound in July of that year. Despite his distrust of medical doctors he let an orthopaedic surgeon perform a skin graft on his toe but that didn’t stop the cancer’s growth and it eventually spread to his lungs, liver, stomach and brain.
Marley collapsed while jogging in New York’s Central Park after playing two shows as part of his autumn 1980 Uprising Tour. The tour was cancelled, but Marley played one last concert at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 23rd 1980. The most famous live version of “Redemption Song” was recorded at that concert.
Towards the end of his life, Marley sought the help of German physician Josef Issels, who offered him an alternative treatment for the cancer. The “Issels” Treatment is based on holistic principles and involves eliminating certain substances from the diet, having specialised vaccines and vitamin supplements, and chelation and enzymatic therapies, not unlike the work Dr Gabriel Cousens is currently doing in Arizona.
The method is unapproved in the UK and deemed ineffective by the American Cancer Society.
Marley died shortly afterwards during a stop-over in a Miami hospital whilst on his way back to Jamaica from Germany. It is thought that the brain tumour killed him but the lung and stomach cancer also played their parts.
The star refused to write a will because he believed that doing so would go against the Rastafari belief that life is “everlasting” and ferocious legal battles between Marley’s children ensued as a result of this.
To this day, Bob Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music in the world and is considered a hero by many, especially those with a penchant for cannabis. The singer-songwriter is also hailed for helping the spread of Jamaican music and the Rastafari Movement, of which he remained a committed follower till his death. In 1994 Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2001 he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.