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Bob Marley: The Untold Story Paperback – June 7, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086547852X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865478527
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The usual tropes of pop stardom attain a mythic resonance in this lively biography of the Jamaican reggae demigod. Journalist Salewicz (Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer) draws an earnest portrait of Marley: his Rastafarian creed—he worshipped the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie—was unusually flamboyant; his marijuana use was probably heavier than other pop stars' and, per the Rasta sacrament of spliff-fueled Bible reading, certainly more sanctimonious; his feuds with managers, escalating to flourished pistols and beatings, were more operatic. His politics were weighty—his embroilment in Jamaican party rivalries in the 1970s prompted an assassination attempt—as was his canonization as an icon of black empowerment and countercultural protest. Salewicz's profile is full of piquant yet troubling details—Marley was apparently present at the lynching of his would-be assassins—and insights into the rough Jamaican surroundings that gave Marley's music its edgy desperation and millennial fervor. He is agnostic about whether Marley was the reincarnation of Christ—against Marley's uncanny prophecies were his adulteries and occasional wife beating—but gushes faithfully about the music, which he calls tantalizingly world-shaking in its scintillating essence. Salewicz's profile is as gritty, entertaining, and starry-eyed as Marley himself. Photos. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Faster, fuller, and fairer than [Stephen Davis’s Bob Marley or Timothy White’s Catch a Fire] . . . Salewicz admires Bob Marley deeply without deifying him.” —Robert Christgau, Barnes & Noble Review

“Chris Salewicz’s account of the life of the late, great Robert Nesta Marley contains a raft of never-before published interviews with scores of people who knew the reggae singer. Indeed, Salewicz—a respected journalist whose Joe Strummer biography is also well worth a read—got to know Marley in 1979, and it’s this authenticity that sets the book apart from other biographies about the man and the legend. From Bob’s humble beginnings in Nine Miles to the years in Kingston and the fame, fortune and untimely death in 1981, Bob Marley: The Untold Story is the definitive account of the man and the myth.” —Steve Richards, The Independent

“Chris Salewicz, who worked for the NME throughout the 1970s, is well versed in the details of Marley’s ascent. What makes his book worth reading, however, is his grasp of Marley’s Jamaican background. Salewicz interviewed him in Kingston in 1979 and has clearly spent a lot of time since tracking down friends and relatives, many of whom have not been tapped before . . . [Salewicz] invades and illuminates Marley’s privacy more effectively than previous biographers.” —Robert Sandall, The Sunday Times (London)

“Chris Salewicz’s obvious knowledge . . . delivers the bulk of this literary epitaph on the rasta man. Those insights help the tome along at a reggae beat and, to Salewicz’s credit, the reportage is evenly balanced between pro and con, making this an enjoyable, if at times disturbing, read . . . Whatever we know of Bob Marley’s life will always remain open to conjecture, but at the very least in Salewicz’s biography, we can take a step closer to what went on behind closed doors, in between the pleasure and pain. For Marley/ reggae fans, this work will probably stand the test, whereas for the uninitiated, it will serve as a meaty introduction to the ‘legend’ of Trench Town.” —Teri Louise Kelly, The Independent Weekly (Australia)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Hardcover, seven page Introduction,four hundred and ten pages of the book proper, two pages of sources, plus index. There are sixteen pages of b&w photos Marley, mostly as an adult, with band members, family, and friends.

The author, Chris Salewicz, has written a good, insiders look into the life, music, and era of Bob Marley. He not only interviewed Marley (in 1979), but has interviewed many people who knew Marley well during various stages of his life. This book has many details that are missing from other books on Marley.

Starting with his youth and humble beginnings, the author writes in a style that's makes for easy reading, and continues from his days as a local singer, to putting together his own band, a recording contract, and international stardom. From there the book ends with Marley's death in 1981.

But what makes this particular book interesting is the day-to-day detail Salewicz inserts throughout. Reading this informative and interesting book is almost like coming upon Marley for the first time. With background on the island of Jamaica as a starting point, we're immersed in island life-Jamaica style. The author sets the scene in writing a background of the various styles of music that came to Jamaica (most notably U.S. r&b), and how these styles were assimilated into the Jamaican culture. The background on Marley's early life (walking to school in his uniform for instance) is in juxtaposition to the later Bob Marley recognized for his music and his politics. We also get a glimpse into Jamaican recording studios and Marley's first attempts at recording. We also learn about Rita (real name Alvarita) Marley, and how she came to play a large part in Marley's life, about Marley's peace efforts, the attempt on Marley's life, and,much more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mochilla on August 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book with great interest. It is my first Marley biography so I don't have much to compare it with. But I know the music very well, which is where this writer lost points with me. He wrote that "Buffalo Soldier" was about Native Americans who fought in the US Civil War. This demonstrates a profound, unforgivable misunderstanding of the song and, indeed, The Marley Canon. It's like saying Dylan's "Maggie's Farm" is about picking grapes in a vineyard. The book also suffers quite significantly from the author's inability to understand patois - and his apparent inability to find someone who does. These elements seriously undermined my appreciation and trust in an otherwise fine and well researched biography.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Mastrogiacomo on April 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm a complete Wailers fan - have virtually all their recordings and I still listen regularly. Saw them live in Philly in 1979. I've read much about Marley over the years and was always uncomfortable about his hyper-iconic/religious status (thanks mainly to the clueless rock media). This book proves that much like any other pop megastar, Bob was a severely flawed person. His attitudes towards women and his penchant for violence were particularly troubling. However, the author also wisely decides to focus much of the book on the actual MUSIC - how it evolved, what Marley and his mates contributed, the creative process, and the workings of the Jamaican music industry. This makes it a must-read for any reggae fan, and in the end illustrates that Bob Marley was truly one the most talented and soulful musicians to ever grace a stage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Interview on August 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting history, jammed with events, names, and places that give a lasting impression of Bob Marley's life and music. It keeps moving, has good background material with each new chapter, and has lots of musical information. It's great reading; after reading it, it's the kind of book you keep for reference - all in a compact format with an excellent index. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I usually look at the pitures first and when this author said in one pic that Rita was in the "far left" of that picture an eyebrow went up...THEN the authos says that Bob was born on a WEDNESDAY!!!!! Dear mr. Salewicz..Nesta Robert Marley was born on a Tuesday!... Then I had to put the book down! I wasted my cash on this on!!!
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Format: Paperback
Being a big reggae and Bob Marley fan, I bought this book, my first Marley biography, to learn more about his life, music and beliefs. The first 100 pages or so are very good, offering lots of introduction, context and a bit of history on Marley's childhood. But the next 200 pages or so get way too dense, and hundreds of artist's names, dates, recorder's names, etc are thrown at you mercilessly by the author. The reading gets a bit taxing, because the story doesn't seem to progress at all - you are stuck in a vortex of tons of information and not much of a narrative, which can be a bit daunting to read, and soon you get a bit tired of reading names and names and dates. However, the last 100 pages (or so), once Bob Marley & The Wailers are a well known outfit, are exceptionally well written and offer fast-paced narration and stuff so entretaining it's hard to put the book down - the back stages of the gigs, the ups and downs of fame, how Bunny and Peter continued life after The Wailers, Bob's view on a number of subjects - and it doesn't stop until the very last page.

Of course, maybe stating that a musician's biography is too music-orientated may be a bit weird, but when you've got a story to tell that's as good as Marley's, there are a lot of other components to consider as well - what it means to be a rastafari, the use of drugs, the meaning of "Babylon", poverty, politics, heavy sociological context, fashion, war, the lot, which I think are all under explained and under exposed in the book. In the final part of the book, the author kind of concludes that Bob Marley became an icon - but given the information it gives throughout the book, that statement sort of doesn't add up, because there's a few patches of information missing on the real implicancy taht Bob's job had beyond music alone.

It's a good read anyway, and I look forward to reading other Marley bios as well.
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