(Editor's note: This is the last in a five-part series on the Bob Marley Tour in Jamaica)
OCHO RIOS, Jamaica - A jogger and fitness devotee, Bob injured his toe playing soccer in 1977. When it wouldn’t heal, he went to a doctor who said the singer was suffering from malignant melanoma – skin cancer. The doctor recommended amputating the toe.
Although his medical records were never made public, it is believed that Bob underwent a skin graft instead of amputation. But the procedure did not stop the spread of cancer. By the end of 1980, Bob Marley’s health began deteriorating at an alarming rate.
While performing in September 1980 in New York, Bob collapsed on stage. It was discovered this time around that the untreated cancer had spread to the rest of his body, including his brain. There is speculation that he underwent controversial last-minute cancer treatment in Germany under holistic physician Josel Issels to try and save his life.
That is where some family members say that Bob was poisoned by the doctor because of Bob’s outspoken revolutionary stances. After all, someone had tried to shoot Bob in Dec. 3, 1976. Bob, his wife Rita and his manager were all wounded when bullets were fired on his Kingston home.
In Germany, the reggae star soon realized that his cancer was terminal. He wanted to return home. On the flight from Germany to Jamaica, Bob’s condition became so critical that the plane had to land in Miami. On the morning of May 11, 1981, at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, Bob died.
The stone mausoleum where Bob is entombed with his red Gibson Les Paul guitar (some say it was a Fender Stratocaster) is filled with candles, photos, notes, flowers and other mementos from fans. The singer left a dozen or so children from six or seven different mothers.
Buried in the mausoleum beneath Bob Marley is his half brother who was accidentally killed by police in Miami. “Bob Marley died in Miami. His mother died in Miami. Hs brother died in Miami,” Fozzie says. “I am not going to Miami.”
The controversy didn’t end with Bob Marley’s death. He died without a will which spawned court actions for years. The ownership of Bob’s body also was disputed. Several years ago, Bob Marley’s widow Rita wanted to move his body from Jamaica to Ethiopia.
“The Jamaican government stepped in and said his body couldn’t be moved because Bob Marley is a national treasure,” Fozzie says.
A strong advocate of freedom and “One Love” for all people, as well as a famed ganja smoker, Bob Marley left behind a lasting legacy and a wealth of music – 104 songs and 21 albums. I don’t know what the poor boy from the slums of Jamaica whose estate grew to the millions would think of the massive mausoleum and all the people who are making money off him, his life and his death.
Bob’s last words as reportedly spoken to his son Ziggy were, “Money can’t buy you life.”
Those words also are disputed. Maybe the truth about this reggae superstar is buried somewhere in all the untruths. And it might not matter anyway.
Bob Marley lived. He died. And his legions of loving fans keep his music, message and memory alive.
Read the whole series here: