Bob Marley’s Funeral- A day in Jamaican history


Bob Marley was buried 21 May 1981 in his birthplace of Nine Mile, St. Ann. He was 36 years old.

His bronze coffin was carried to the top of the highest hill in the village and placed in a temporary mausoleum painted in the colours of red, green and gold, the colour of the Rastafarian religion. Bob Marley was buried with his red Gibson Les Paul guitar, a Bible opened at Psalm 23, and a stalk of ganja placed there by his widow, Rita.

The announcement of the country’s national budget was postponed by several days to accommodate Marley’s state funeral. Invitations had to be sent out, the mausoleum had to be constructed, and security had to be organised at the National Arena, where the main ceremony would be held. And the prime minister, Edward Seaga, had to prepare his eulogy.

On the day before the funeral, the coffin was placed in the arena, a large, gymnasium-like building. The lid was open and the public – an estimated 100,000 of them – were allowed to file past to take a final look. Marley’s head was once more covered with dreadlocks; but this was a wig which covered his bald skull, his own hair having been lost during his treatment for cancer in New York, Miami, Mexico, and finally the Bavarian clinic of Dr Josef Issels, following the diagnosis of a malignant melanoma four years earlier. The casket was carried into the hall on the shoulders of a score of white-jacketed guards of the Jamaica Defence Force.

The Guardian
Bob Marley at 56 Hope Road

The day of the funeral began with an hour-long service for family and close friends at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity on Maxfield Avenue, presided over by His Eminence Abuna Yesehaq, the church’s archbishop in the western hemisphere, who had baptised Marley in New York the previous November, just after his last triumphal concerts at Madison Square Garden. Bob’s baptismal name was Berhane Selassie – “Light of the Trinity”.

Despite Bob Marley’s association with different Rastafarian houses, including The Twelve Tribe Of Israel, Bob did not claim any of the houses because he believes Christ was black and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia as the black messiah and rebirth of Christ.

Bob Marley playing football

Bob Marley’s funeral was a State Affair, attended by the dignitaries all over the world and including the government of Jamaica and the Prime Minister and Opposition leaders.
Cedella Booker closed the service. Accompanied by two other women, she delivered “Amen” – written by Curtis Mayfield, whose music had inspired Marley’s earliest efforts – in a powerful voice as her listeners swayed to the rhythm.
Then the musicians put down their instruments, lifted the coffin on to their shoulders and carried it through the hall and out into the roadway, where it was placed in a hearse, ready for the 50-mile journey to the place where Marley’s life had begun.


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