Blue Plaques

MARLEY, Bob (1945-1981)

Plaque erected in 2019 by English Heritage at 42 Oakley Street, Chelsea, SW3 5HA, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Circular blue plaque to Bob Marley 42 Oakley Street in Chelsea, the former home of singer and songwriter Bob Marley

All images © English Heritage

Profession

Singer and songwriter

Category

Music and Dance

Inscription

BOB MARLEY 1945-1981 Singer and Songwriter lived here in 1977

Material

Ceramic

Bob Marley was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He is commemorated with a blue plaque at 42 Oakley Street in Chelsea, where he lived in 1977. It was while living here that he and The Wailers finished recording their iconic album Exodus.

Black and white photograph of Bob Marley
Bob Marley pictured in 1978, the year after his stay at 42 Oakley Street © Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo

BOB MARLEY IN LONDON

Bob Marley fled to London in 1976 after an attempt on his life in his home country of Jamaica. While in London he and his band The Wailers recorded Exodus. The album featured some of their biggest hits, including ‘Jamming’, ‘Waiting in Vain’, ‘Three Little Birds’ and ‘One Love’. It was during the band’s residence at the four-storey terraced house at 42 Oakley Street that the later stages of the recording and production of the album were carried out.

The band lived together at number 42 from February or March 1977 until about June of the same year. According to Marley’s long-time manager, Don Taylor, the musician’s habit while living here was to rise late and play football with his bandmates in Battersea Park for what was left of the morning before going to the studio, where he would often remain until the early hours.

Marley told the music journalist Vivien Goldman while living at Oakley Street that he regarded London ‘as a second base’. As a refugee from Jamaican violence he particularly appreciated the fact that the police did not carry guns. He went out socially, meeting the London band The Clash, and later referred to the burgeoning London punk scene in the song ‘Punkie Reggae Party’. This was also the time when Marley was in a relationship with the Miss World 1976 winner, Cindy Breakspeare. At this time Rita Marley – his wife who remained in Jamaica – felt that her husband was ‘really living in London’.

Black and white photograph of Bob Marley in London in 1977
Bob Marley pictured in 1977 at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court after being fined for possession of cannabis © Maurice Hibberd/Evening Standard/Getty Images

MUSICAL CAREER

In the early 1960s Bob Marley had formed his first group, The Wailing Wailers. They were well known in Jamaica and were at the vanguard of the new musical style of reggae. The Wailing Wailers became The Wailers when brothers Aston and Carlton Barrett joined in 1970 and the group had their biggest hit in Jamaica so far with ‘Trenchtown Rock’ (1971). They began to attract international attention, and were eventually signed by Island Records, a London-based company with Jamaican roots. In 1973, after the departure of two band members, the group changed their name again, to Bob Marley & The Wailers. Not long after, the band had their first major international hit under that name with ‘No Woman No Cry’ (1975).

As the 1970s wore on, Marley’s songs became increasingly political in their content, often focusing on the turmoil then prevalent in Jamaica. Two days after the attempt on his life – in which he was shot twice – he performed a 90-minute set at the Smile Jamaica Concert. By 1980 he enjoyed a global following and his music became closely associated with anti-colonial and human rights movements. Most notably, The Wailers played at the Zimbabwe independence celebrations in April 1980. Marley released his tenth and last studio album, Uprising, the following month.

On 11 May 1981, while en route to Jamaica, Bob Marley died of cancer in a Miami hospital at the age of just 36. He received a state funeral in Jamaica on 21 May 1981 and was buried with his guitar near his birthplace in Nine Mile.

Photograph of Bob Marley performing on stage, playing guitar
Bob Marley performs live at the Rainbow Theatre in London in June 1977, towards the end of his time at 42 Oakley Road © Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns/Getty Images

Nearby Blue Plaques

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