Bob Marley tried to `black up` to fit in: New book

Updated: Dec 05, 2010, 09:54 AM IST

London: He spoke against racism in his songs, but reggae legend Bob Marley`s angst over his mixed-race background led him to "blacken" his trademark dreadlocks with shoe polish.

A new book `I&I: The Natural Mystics: Marley, Tosh and Wailer` claims that the Jamaican-born icon was insecure over his race and desperately wanted to fit in, reported a website.

In the book, his widow Rita Marley recalls how her husband, born to a white father and a black mother, asked her to "rub shoe polish in his hair to make it more black, make it more African."

The author, Colin Grant, interviewed some of the singer`s relatives and those close to him for the book, which will be published in January.

Among those featured are Marley`s late mother, Cedella Booker and Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, which released most of his music.

"When Marley moved to Trench Town in Kingston aged 13 he was thought of as a white man and would have got a lot of grief for that," said Grant.

"His father was a so-called white man who moved in white circles, and it was unusual to marry a black lady. But he did. It`s interesting that Marley went on to do that as
well. He married a very black lady, Rita, and that was a time when people married up and out of colour. He did exactly the opposite," added Grant.

Grant added that while this part of Marley`s life was well known in Jamaica, it is the first time that the extent of his insecurities and prejudices he faced has been revealed.

Marley was born in 1945. His father, Norval Sinclair Marley, was a white Jamaican of English descent.

The `Get Up Stand Up; hit-maker once said of his background, "Me don`t dip on nobody`s side. Me don`t dip on the black man`s side not the white man`s side. Me dip on God`s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black
and white."

Marley, who died in 1981 was at the height of his fame in the mid-70s when he was diagnosed with cancer.

It was while living in Trench Town that he met Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, both of whom are also featured in the book. The trio formed the band `The Wailers`, whose most famous songs included `I Shot The Sherriff` and `No Woman No Cry`.

After the band broke up in 1974 Marley continued recording as `Bob Marley And The Wailers` with a new backing band, and released the classic album `Exodus`, which included the hits `One Love`, `Jamming` and `Waiting In Vain` as well as the title track.

He died of cancer in 1981 aged just 36.

PTI

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