Bob Marley’s musical legacy may be waning 30 years after his death as Jamaica’s youth prefers dancehall to reggae, but the singer remains a cult, if highly commercialised, figure.
Marley has become a merchandiser’s dream, with everything from shoes to snowboards bearing his image, but his friends say it would be tragic if his message of justice for the oppressed gets lost to corporate greed.
“He was never about commercialism,” one friend, Herbie Miller, told AFP. “Money was not his greatest motivation.”
For loyal fans of the Third World’s first pop superstar, who died from cancer at the age of 36 on May 11 1981, this year’s milestone anniversary is not about grieving but about celebrating.
“His music was so full of life, it doesn’t seem right to mourn him,” 24-year-old Bernadette Hellwanter of Vocklabruck, Austria told AFP as she toured the Bob Marley Museum in the Jamaican capital Kingston.
Nickia Palmer stopped briefly to peer at a photo of the dreadlocked legend playing his trademark Gibson guitar.
“The first performance I ever did was at Mount Vernon high school in Fairfax, Virginia and it was ‘No Woman No Cry’,” recalled the 33-year-old Jamaican singer, who has spent most of his life in the United States.
Fans flock to the museum, an English-style building where Marley lived and wrote many of his songs.
Tours are also conducted daily in the village of Nine Mile in rural Saint Ann parish where Marley was born in February 1945 and where a mausoleum now provides his final resting place.