What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sure, that stands to reason. But if you nearly died from a gunshot wound, you’d be entitled to take some time off, y’know, life to get patched up and recover.

Tougher than he looked. Picture: Marley (Roadshow)

Not so Bob Marley, as we learn in exhaustive, exuberant new documentary Marley directed by Kevin Mcdonald and featuring talking heads like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Jimmy Cliff, Ziggy Marley and many more.

We’ll get to the near death experience in a moment but first must point out a few other topics one could devote 600 words to after watching Marley. Rita Marley: Guardian Angel to the Kaya Casanova, Who Invented Reggae? Three Beats then the Heartbeat, Big Tree, Small Axe: How Bob Marley and The Wailers Chopped Down The Music Industry, Stevie Wonders What Bob Looks Like and Bob’s Babies: 11 Wailing Children to 7 Ladies.

But today class, we’re going to hone in on What Bob Did Next: When The Going Gets Tough the Tuff Get Gong.

In 1976, 31 year old lionhearted reggae champion Bob Marley, survived an assassination attempt in Kingston when gunmen came to a recording studio and unloaded a flurry of bullets.

Some context, Bob Marley and The Wailers had agreed to put on a free concert, Smile Jamaica, on December 5th, 1976. Jamaica was having its share of problems at the time, gangs were killing each other and despite the positive, emancipatory power of reggae music, political tensions were taut like a rubber band pulled within a splinter of breaking.

As the Smile Jamaica concert approached, rumours spread there would be violence, people were going to “shoot up the concert’” and Marley himself may be targeted. Naively, Bob aligned himself with Michael Manley’s People’s National Party (PNP), affiliated to Castro and Russia and a direct opponent to the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), headed by Edward Seaga and backed by nefarious types at the CIA.

You couldn’t blame Bob.

He just wanted to put on a concert that embodied the words he sang: “One love, One heart, Let’s get together and feel all right.” He wanted to cause irie, not ire. But Manley used Marley’s inadvertent endorsement to call an early election.

The rubber band snapped.

Leading up to the concert, Marley and his band rehearsed every night at 56 Hope Road, Trench Town, a sanctuary where nobody was anybody’s enemy and everybody just played soccer and made music.

Each evening, two secret service agents had been guarding the place, ensuring it was safe haven. But on December 3, just two days before the show, the guards didn’t turn up. So much ganga was being smoked it’s unlikely anyone noticed.

Late in the evening, three intruders (and one outside) burst into the kitchen, firing rounds that hit Marley, his street-smart manager Don Taylor and Marley’s wife and guardian angel Rita.

Blood flowed “like ketchup,” according to Rita. She felt claret trickling down her chin. One gunman shouted to another ``Everybody dead?’’ “Ja mun, everybody dead.’’ It wasn’t a professional hit, but as The Wailers Artistic Director Neville Garrick says gruffly, it was “As professional as (a hit gets in) Jamaica.”

Amazingly, nobody actually died. They were rushed off to hospital as the news filtered through Trench Town and beyond that Jamaica’s hero, a man who was becoming more powerful than the government, was lucky to be alive.

The Smile Jamaica concert was in doubt though and two days later crowds were still waiting, hot, bothered and a little disillusioned five hours after Bob Marley and The Wailers were due on stage.

As night fell, the red, green and black flags did too. People were starting to accept that Marley was recovering from the brazen attack and he wouldn’t be able to make the show.

But the man dubbed Tuff Gong lived up to his name.

Flanked by friends and family, he arrived on stage looking pale and saturated in emotion, not so much fighting back tears as welcoming their cleansing properties.

80,000 people roared.

Marley showed the crowd where the bullet had entered his body and where the lead would stay, inside his left arm for the rest of his life. He looked like he could topple at any moment but refused to let “the evil spirits” win.

He swung his Rastafari dreadlocks around, gathered himself, sung out “Cast away that evil spirit YO!” just as his band struck up and played a scorching, defiant set that included No More Trouble, Get Up Stand Up and Rebel Music.

By proving whatever didn’t kill him made him stronger, Marley showed Jamaicans their strength was limitless. As Rita remarked “He not afraid.”

Marley (Roadshow) now showing at Cinema Nova, Carlton, Dendy Newtown, Palace Chauvel, Luna, Leederville, Fremantle Luna on S.X and Hobart State.


Most commented


Show oldest | newest first

    • TChong says:

      09:02am | 07/07/12

      Bob was as cool as.

      also shows that political machinations arent always what they seem, regardless of when or where - a CIA funded anti commie Labour organisation - a jamaican equivalant of the DLP ?

    • Steven Hill the actor says:

      02:10pm | 07/07/12

      Zero tolerance for rasicm. Get the message.

    • John says:

      04:56pm | 07/07/12

      But if racism is directed at whites, then the world doesn’t care. The communists that own the western banks, western media and the western politicians, keep on pushing the line that white people are the racists and for minority’s to vent their frustration(racism) at whites for so called racist crimes which have been invented and marketed like war propaganda by the communist western media.
      So essentially anti-racism movements, are anti-white movements.

      Ask you self this question how many people have been charged with hate crimes if the victim was white? The communists have patented the idea that racism is basically a white issue and that minority’s are essentially immune to committing racism.

      If one it to look at all the facts, again we find reserve is the reality. The communists love to twist reality, turn fiction into truth and reality in fiction. The less conscious minds tend to be buy into the communist propaganda.

    • Al B says:

      09:26am | 07/07/12

      Should have steered clear of the political cartels, Bob!

      Oh yeah and our aleague football clubs here need more rasta flags ...ya hear? smile

    • T says:

      01:20pm | 07/07/12

      What an amazing man, we need more people like him to stand up and be heard in our world.

      I only wish i had been born to see this.

    • Say it isn't so says:

      01:37pm | 07/07/12

      Now I am going to have Bob Marley playing in my head all day, thanks mon!

    • Freethrow says:

      01:56pm | 07/07/12

      Legend, don’t think theres any other way to describe Bob Marley.

    • Babylon in Canberra says:

      02:33pm | 07/07/12

      Bob Marley became the symbol of black west indian consciousness, ironic really, not just because he had a British father, but more because he was bullied at school for being white. Just goes to show what a load of claptrap the concept of racism truly is.

      Bob Marley didn’t invent reggae, but he and his Pommy producer Blackwell? Sent it global.

      Marleys connection to Australia is smoking dope with David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu. It was an experience that David never forgot and it was to inject some of the values and the music into young indigenous Australians. Recently I toured the top end of Australia. Of course I had been there before, but this time thanks to a local, I stayed away from the resort, tour bus and tourist traps. I was amazed to find Indigenous Australian reggae, lifting up the voice of protest, but this time Babylon was the Gillard Government in Canberra.

      If Bob Marley was alive today he would be horrified to hear the details of the new and improved Gillard Government Intervention, where two blokes sharing a beer in the NT can mean possibly prison if one of those mates is black.

      Even Amnesty International has called the Gillard Governments Aboriginal policies “ethnic cleansing.”

      If Bob knew the details of the Gillard Malaysian concentration Camps for Asylum seekers, my bet is he wouldn’t be a Gillard supporter.

    • roger, over and out says:

      04:46pm | 07/07/12

      Live for yourself and you live in vain
      Live for others and you live again
      bob marley

    • bob marley top ten quotes says:

      04:52pm | 07/07/12

      Editorial Staff · almost a year ago

      10 Awesome Bob Marley Quotes

      - “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”

      - “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

      - “Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect -and I don’t live to be- but before you start pointing fingers… make sure you hands are clean!”

      - “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”

      - “Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”

      - “Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.”

      - “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”

      - “You may not be her first, her last, or her only. She loved before she may love again. But if she loves you now, what else matters? She’s not perfect – you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break – her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyze and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”

      - “Don’t Gain The World & Lose Your Soul, Wisdom Is Better Than Silver Or Gold.”

      - “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”


Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more



Read all about it

Sign up to the free News.com.au newsletter