His music has influenced several generations for at least four decades, and his empire continues to grow exponentially since his death. That’s why it should come as no surprise that Bob Marley has been ranked at number eight on Forbes list of The Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities Of 2020.
According to the list, the Marley family has been extremely innovative with the legend’s legacy and this year raked in US $14 million. It’s not just his music, which accumulated a billion streams around the world, that continues to feed his family but the family’s merchandising effort as well. The well-known brand, House of Marley, has a line of speakers, turntables, and headphones. They’ve also added T-shirts and lighters, which have brought in over $3 million.
Marley, who died in 1981 of cancer, is considered one of the founding fathers of reggae and was largely responsible for helping the genre to gain worldwide recognition. His following when he was alive and after death could rival any mainstream artist alive today. The singer, songwriter, and musician is held in high regard by Reggae lovers, and his music was famously known for fusing elements of reggae, ska, and rocksteady. He’s also revered among the Rastafarian community.
Marley’s debut studio album The Wailing Wailers in 1965 cemented his place in the genre as the single “One Love/People Get Ready” became globally popular. They would go on to produce 11 albums.
Following his death, the album Legend, which was released in 1984, became the best-selling reggae album of all time. He is also ranked as one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with estimated sales of more than 75 million records worldwide. In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone has ranked him No. 11 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
This year Marley would have celebrated his 75th birthday, and the Marley family in collaboration with Universal Music Enterprises, have been releasing a year’s worth of content to celebrate the phenomenal singer’s legacy. A brand new animated music video for “Redemption Song,” including various events and parties surrounding Grammy week, was released on his birthday, February 6. They’ve also released a series of mini-documentaries, called Bob Marley – Legacy, which also started in February.
A New ‘Redemption Song’ Video has also been released, and some archived footage of Rita Marley’s interviews have been included. The video also featured new interviews with the other two members of the Marley backup singers, the I-Threes, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt. The short documentary-style video explores the formation of the I-Threes, and gives some deeper understanding of some of Marley’s hits like “No Woman No Cry” and “Redemption Song.”
His deep wisdom and passion for spirituality continue to attract new listeners, which means that the Marley estate will not be slowing down anytime soon. His children and their offspring have also been rising in the genre and are now well-known names. It’s clear that the Marley dynasty will provide for generations to come.
Some other notable names on the list include Prince (US $10 million), Kobe Bryant (US$ 20 million), and Micheal Jackson, who topped the list with earnings of US $48 million.
Marleys Legend Back At Number One
Marley’s discography has seen a spike in streams during the lockdown. In the first three months of the year, Marley reportedly accumulated over 1 billion streams around the world. Globally, his streaming numbers surged up 23.2% in April. Songs like “Burnin’ & Looting” and “War” resonate with the current racial unrest and social injustices prominent today.
His music champions for social justice, a seemingly dystopian goal of the African American community for centuries. It is so relevant now in the continued fight for racial equality and may be the reason for the surge.
Marley’s timeless music has historically been a place of solace for people around the world, especially during times of civil unrest. His records are known for being laced with conscious messages surrounding spirituality and morality and social and political satire.
In “I Shot The Sheriff” from 1976, Bob takes justice into his own hands against authorities. Its symbolism is not lost on the current prevalence of police brutality in the United States and other parts of the world.
“Sheriff” was a metaphor for wickedness and can be interchanged with any oppression you’re facing at the time.
“I Shot The Sheriff’ is like I shot wickedness. That’s not really a sheriff, it’s the elements of wickedness. The elements of that song are people been judging you, and you can’t stand it no more, and you explode, you just explode.”
This likely echoes the recent cries of many black Americans and people around the world facing racial discrimination or being wrongfully judged by the color of their skin.
Bob Marley’s words, should be history now, but instead have become the epitome of relevance today. The same issues outlined in his songs are still prevalent in our current society, even if swept under the rug.
With the onset of protests for social justice happening across the globe and the concurrent quarantine period, more people are looking to his music for wisdom and empowerment.
In “War” from 1976 quoting the great Haile Selassie I, Marley sings:
“Until the philosophy which holds one race / Superior and another Inferior / Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned / Everywhere is war / Me say war”
“That until there are no longer / First-class and second-class citizens of any nation / Until the color of a man’s skin / Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes / Me say war / That until the basic human rights / Are equally guaranteed to all / Without regard to race / Dis a war”
Marley’s music has always spoken to us in a way that makes us want to change ourselves and the world. It brings comfort but challenges us to see things as they really are and to take action, which keeps his music, though timeless, also relevant today most of all.
Almost 40 years after his death, his albums are chart-toppers on Billboard. His album Legend is the second longest-charting album in chart history coming in at No. 37 this week on the Billboard 200 in its 630th week on the tally.
Currently, an extension of that record, Legend: The Best Of Bob Marley And The Wailers, is sitting comfortably in the coveted No. 1 spot on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart for 23 consecutive weeks.
And it couldn’t be more fitting during the year-long celebration to mark the 75th anniversary of the singer’s birthday. He was a man of the people and sang for the people, and left behind a legacy that continues to astound generation after generation.
He spoke out for justice, racial equality, and championed for “one love” and unity. Amid the political and racial tensions in the world today, it’s no wonder his music has had a huge boost in streams considering its authenticity and social awareness.