Bob Marley: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Jamaica's Greatest Export

Scott Rutherford

Today would have been reggae legend Bob Marley's 69th birthday.

Fans can only speculate what the Jamaican-born singer, guitar player and ambassador of all things reggae and Rasta might have accomplished if his life hadn't been cut short in 1981 at the age of 36. As it stands, he is largely credited with putting Jamaica on the map, increasing both the island nation's tourism and its many exports. Some go so far as to consider Marley a savior.

In honor of the legend's birthday, here are 10 little known facts about Bob Marley:

10. Bob Marley was buried with a Bible. Most fans - and even some casual fans - already know that he was buried with his famous Gibson Les Paul guitar and some marijuana bud. However, Michael Burke of the Jamaica Observer recounts having seen the Good Book in the Jamaican legend's other hand during his viewing.

9. February 6 is not Bob Marley's birthday, at least officially. Sure, he was born on Feb. 6, 1945, but his mother had trouble registering his birth. Bob Marley's official birth certificate lists April 6, 1945 as his official birth date. Of course, this shouldn't worry fans - if anything, it's a perfectly good excuse to celebrate Marley's birth twice.

8. Bob was of mixed parentage. Bob is highly regarded among those of African heritage for championing views on racial equality. The African delegation to the UN awarded him the United Nations' Peace Medal of the Third World in 1978 in large part because of his outspoken stand on racial issues. Marley's mother was a Jamaican of African descent. However, his father - whom Marley barely knew - was an Englishman.

7. Marley's sons served as altar boys. While their famous father is renowned for his Rastafarian beliefs and practices, some of his children served in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Bob Marley is also known to have attended services in the traditional Christian church.

6. In 2006, London, England awarded a "Blue Plaque" - a permanent plaque honoring places where famous events have occurred - to Ridgmount Gardens, where Marley briefly lived while kicking off his music career. This is just one of many times Marley was appreciate much more after he left than while he was actually among us. While he was actually living there, officials were bent on kicking him out for public marijuana use.

5. Speaking of the marijuana, for which Marley is known to even the most casual observers, Bob held to the belief that "herb," as he referred to MJ, was much more than a recreational drug. He believed that it has medicinal and spiritual qualities. He and other Rastafarians often discussed the Bible while under the influence of herb. Marley believed that herb could bring about world peace because, he said, "When you smoke, you don't want to war."

4. Bob Marley was an impressive athlete. By all accounts, he was an excellent footballer (soccer player, for those of us in the United States). He was a top-notch midfielder with excellent ball handling skills. In fact, Marley loved soccer so much that his contracts insisted that he have access to a football pitch (again, soccer field for those of us in the States).

3. Bob Marley likely would have lived longer if he hadn't rejected doctors' advice that he have surgery to amputate his toe. Doctors discovered a malignant melanoma in the toe while treating a soccer-related injury in 1977, but Marley refused to have the toe removed on religious grounds. The tumor led to his death four years later.

2. People all over the world loved the music of Bob Marley & the Wailers, but it didn't receive any love from the Grammy awards during the reggae star's lifetime. Marley was posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Like London, the Grammys were just a little slow to pick up on his brilliance.

1. We have a small piece of hit metal to thank for exposing the world to Bob Marley's music. Although he was a good student, Marly dropped out of school to pursue a career as a welder. While still an apprentice, he was hit in the eye with a piece of metal. Had that not happened, for all we know, Bob Marley might be enjoying his birthday today after retiring from an obscure factory instead of continuing to have a profound influence on the world through his music 32 years after his death.

[Photo courtesy of Kirk West]