Revisiting Bob Marley’s 80s hits on the anniversary of his death

Virgin Radio

11 May 2023, 10:44

Bob Marley performing

Credit: Getty

Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Marley is considered one of the pioneers of reggae, bringing the sound of Jamaica to the forefront of the worldwide music scene.

On this day (11th May) in 1981, Marley passed away after being diagnosed with a rare type of skin cancer, but not before leaving behind an incredible musical legacy. 

Tying together his music with his spirituality, Marley became known as a Rastafari icon, and alongside his combination of reggae, ska and rocksteady styles, it created a unique blend of song creation so unique to him. 

He recorded much of his back catalogue with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, becoming a member of The Wailers. 

They had their first international hit when Johnny Nash covered their track Stir it Up in 1972, and while they were big names in their native country, they started racing up the global charts with the album Catch A Fire in 1973. 

While both Tosh and Wailer left the band in 1974, Marley continued under the same name, and had his first taste of UK singles success a year later with the signature tune, No Woman, No Cry. 

Marley’s career started to pick up proper traction in the UK throughout the late 70s, and he even recorded his album Exodus in London to infuse the songs with some British rock.

Just a few short years after his death in 1981, Marley’s greatest hits album Legend was released in 1984, and it was a historical moment for the late performer. Legend became the best-selling reggae album of all time, and Marley's impact on music was felt well into the 80s too. 

To celebrate the life and incredible work of Bob Marley on the anniversary of his death, Virgin Radio 80s Plus will be playing the tracks that dominated the decades. 

Could You Be Loved 

Released in 1980, Could You Be Loved was Marley and the Wailers’ first UK top 5 single, and was the first track from their twelfth and final album, Uprising. 

It’s said that the song was written while The Wailers were travelling together and experimenting on a guitar, and from those humble beginnings came a top 10 hit across Europe. 

Considered one of Marley’s signature hits, Could You Be Loved has featured on a number of ‘best of’ lists, including one from Rolling Stone. As fresh and current as it sounded on release, Could You Be Loved even got a new official music video in 2022. 

Three Little Birds

Potentially Marley’s most recognisable track, Three Little Birds was released in 1980, and reached the top 20 in the UK.

Many fans believe Three Little Birds was inspired by the birds that he used to see while writing tracks at his home, with others believing it was a reference to the singers of reggae group I Threes. 

While the inspiration is debated, there’s no doubt that Three Little Birds made its mark in music, with numerous cover versions by different artists being released over the decades. Marley’s son Ziggy covered the track for 2004 film Shark Tale, while Monty Alexander and Maroon 5 also tried their hand at the classic song.

Buffalo Soldier

Two years after his death, Buffalo Soldier was finally released as part of Confrontation, the first posthumous album featuring Marley. 

Written with Noel “King Sporty” Williams, the song refers to the Native American wars of 1866, with Marley using the history as a symbol of black resistance, and the tune became a stand-out political track for the singer. 

Buffalo Soldier landed at number four in the UK charts - Marley’s highest charting single.

One Love/People Get Ready

Moving into a more ska sound, the final 80s UK charting hit from the late performer was 1984’s One Love/People Get Ready. 

One Love was originally released as part of The Wailer’s debut album in 1965, but was re-recorded as part of a 1970 medley All in One. 

One Love also appeared on their Exodus album and recorded as One Love/People Get Ready, with its release in 1984 designed to help promote Marley’s greatest hits record, Legend.

Virgin Radio 80s Plus will be playing Bob Marley’s hits all throughout today (11th May) to celebrate his life and legacy.

You can listen to Virgin Radio 80 Plus HERE. You can also listen on DAB+ in London and Central Scotland and on smart speakers across the UK, as well as via the Virgin Radio UK app.