February 6 this year would have been Bob Marley’s 73rd birthday. As a teenager, I remember seeing him tooling around Kingston in his BMW, which he declared stood for “Bob Marley and the Wailers.” I saw him perform live a few times, the most memorable being Reggae Sunsplash at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay. Bob passed “early,” although I once heard an interview with someone who said Bob had told him he would die at age 36, which he did. He was a mystic, a Natural Mystic:

“There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air;
If you listen carefully now you will hear”

Like JFK, MLK, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Bob was one of those people who you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard of his death. I had just arrived at a meeting at the Jamaica Employers’ Federation on Ruthven Road in Kingston. “Bob Marley has died” the chair of the meeting announced, as we sank into our seats and silence. A great man had passed, but we had no idea then how much greater he would become.

Bob Marley’s music lives on to inspire millions throughout the world. Wherever I travel, Bob is there – the buses in Dar es Salaam emblazoned with his likeness, blaring his music; Marcello, our musician guide in Rio whose knowledge of English is little more than the lyrics of all Bob’s songs; on T-shirts in curio shops in every Caribbean island. I don’t know if Bob set out to be great, to leave a legacy. What I do know is that he spoke his truth fearlessly, inspiring and continuing to inspire freedom fighters and those who seek liberation from the torture of their own souls. Despite leaving this earthly plane decades ago, he lives.

Bob has been an inspiration to me in moments when I am challenged, afraid or hurting. These Bob Marley songs in particular, usher me through such moments into joy. Try reading the lyrics as poetry for a different experience and perhaps deeper meaning – I have included the link to the lyrics for each song.

Wake Up and Live!
Click here for lyrics
Isn’t this the prescription for a happy life – recognise the ups and downs, keep it simple, keep moving towards your vision, come together (you can’t do it alone) and just live?

“Life is one big road with lots of signs,
So when you riding through the ruts, don’t you complicate your mind;
Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy
Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality, yeah!
All together now:
Wake up and live”

Get Up Stand Up!
Click here for lyrics
This song reminds me how important it is to be grounded in my values and to do the right thing, In moments when I feel to give up, his “Don’t give up the fight” refrain urges me forward for another day, another try.

Sun is Shining
Click here for lyrics
Despite the mournful melody, Bob sings that no matter what, the sun shines – even on a sub-zero winter day in Toronto, I can sing:

“Sun is shining the weather is sweet
Make you want to move your dancing feet”

So Much Trouble In The World
Click here for lyrics
I find myself wailing the first line of this song whenever I read some terrible news. Then I get to this refrain, and I know what to do – switch off the news and take action, no matter how small:

“All you got to do: give a little”

Three Little Birds
Click here for lyrics
There is no song that lifts my spirits like “Three Little Birds”, providing solace, comfort and hope that the sun will rise, the light will shine, and things will get better.

“Don’t worry, ‘bout a thing
Cause every little thing gonna be alright”

What are your favourite Bob Marley songs? How do they inspire you?

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