Today marks what would have been Bob Marley’s 75th birthday, an extraordinary milestone for an even more extraordinary man whose contributions to the world take many forms. But it’s Bob’s music and activism that are often most tangible. Both were integral in helping African nations unseat the oppressive European colonial governments they had lived under for decades. One of the best examples of Marley’s immense influence in Africa was the country of Rhodesia gaining its independence from England in 1980 and becoming Zimbabwe.
Bob Marley’s music — a song titled “Zimbabwe” appeared on The Wailers’ 1979 album Survival — played a key role in inspiring ZANLA (Zimbabwe National Liberation Army) forces to resist colonial rule and eventually overthrow the government. And so, as Forbes reported in 2015, two Zimbabwean businessmen, Gordon Muchanyuka and a nightclub owner named Job Kadengu, went to Jamaica to ask Bob to play on the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence just as the clock struck midnight on April 18, 1980. While Marley’s manager didn’t want him to, Bob insisted and even paid for the entire production.
After performing a short set in the early hours of April 18 during the independence celebration at Rufaro Stadium in Harare, Bob Marley and The Wailers — consisting of drummer Carlton Barrett, bassist Aston Barrett, guitarists Junior Marvin and Al Anderson, keyboardist Tyrone Downie, percussionist Alvin Patterson and vocalists The I-Threes including Bob’s wife Rita Marley — returned to the same venue the following evening to perform another concert.
That night the band played a set full of classics like “Natural Mystic,” “Positive Vibration,” “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” “Lively Up Yourself,” “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Exodus” and of course “Zimbabwe.”