Released: May 8, 1984
Charted: May 19, 1984
Peak: 5 US, 112 UK, 23 CN, 14 AU
Sales (in millions): 15.0 US, 2.52 UK, 31.3 world (includes US and UK)
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
All songs written by Bob Marley except where noted otherwise.
Total Running Time: 51:01
4.776 out of 5.00 (average of 18 ratings)
Quotable: “The standard by which all other reggae albums are judged.” – VH1’s Ultimate Albums
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
“Ask someone to name a reggae artist, and the first name that comes to mind is always Bob Marley.” NO “For many Marley embodied the music to the exclusion of all other artists.” PR He was born in Jamaica in 1945 to a white man and black woman. As a teenager, he started working and recording with the Wailers, who most prominently included Bunny Livingston (later Wailer) and Peter Tosh.
“Often called Reggae 101,” VU Legend is “the classic Marley album, the one that any fair-weather reggae fan owns.” AMG “To many, this compilation is the reggae album,” NO setting “the standard by which all other reggae albums are judged.” VU This “is the best-selling reggae album of all time” NO with more than 12 million copies sold in the U.S. and 30 million worldwide. In the UK, it logged 12 weeks at #1. Stateside, its #26 peak came decades after its release, showing the album’s longevity. It “is an essential part of any collection.” NO
When Legend came out, “America was bopping to self-indulgent tunes by artists from Madonna to Motley Crue [so] Marley’s simple messages seemed destined for oblivion. Instead, Marley’s hypnotic pleas for social and political justice for the impoverished would seduce the material world” VU and find “an audience ready for music with meaning.” VU “The beauty and simplicity of Marley’s music was as important as his message” AMG and Legend is full of “songs of spirituality, longing, and sacrifice” VU with “relaxing island rhythms that make your soul dance.” ZS
This is “the rare ‘best of’ that really is an artist at his best.” TL “It gives a doubter or casual fan anything they could want.” AMG The collection “exposed virgin ears to a new genre of music and propelled Bob Marley to a figure of almost mystical proportions. But more than anything else, Legend was a classic coda to the excellence of Bob Marley and the Wailers. … and it forever cemented their status… as legends.” VU
Catch a Fire (1973)
Bob Marley & the Wailers were signed to Island Records in 1972 and released Catch a Fire, which would include a reworked version of Stir It Up, a song first recorded by them in 1967. Johnny Nash, an American reggae/pop singer who had a #1 U.S. hit with “I Can See Clearly Now,” recorded the song in 1973, taking it to #12 in the U.S.
This would be Marley, Tosh, and Wailer’s last album together. The album featured two of Marley’s best-known works – Get Up Stand Up and I Shot the Sheriff. Marley wrote both with Esther Anderson, his companion through 1973, RS-161 She said she “was teaching Bob how to be a rebel, based on what I learned from living with Marlon Brando for seven years.” SF-160 The song became Amnesty International’s theme song. VU
In 1974, Eric Clapton’s chart-topping version of “I Shot the Sheriff” would give Marley & the Wailers their greatest exposure. Anderson said the line “every time I plant a seed he said kill it before it grow” came out of Marley wondering why she hadn’t got pregnant and her explaining that she was on the pill. SF-161-2 Lee Jaffe, who was living with the Wailers in Kingston at the time, says the song came about as a joke with Marley saying “I shot the sheriff” and Jaffe responding, “but you didn’t get the deputy.” SF-162 He said “it came out of western movies, which Jamiaicans really love. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was always plaing somewhere in Kingston.” SF-162
Natty Dread (1974)
Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left after Burnin’, disappointed with how much Marley was being spotlighted and over-commercializing reggae music. The brothers Aston “Family Man” Barrett on bass and Carlton Barrett on drums, who’d worked on the previous two albums, gave the album some consistent players. His wife Rita and backup singer Marcia Griffiths, who’d also worked on previous albums, teamed with Judy Mowatt to form the backing trio the I-Threes.
Their “positive exortation’s sing-along chorus of ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ helped make” SF-185 No Woman, No Cry one of Marley’s most notable songs. The version on Legend is a live recording from July 1975 which adds “more humor, warmth and sex appeal than the original.” TL
The Legend compilation skips Marley’s next album, 1976’s Rastaman Vibration, but serves up a generous helping of cuts from Exodus with the title cut, Waiting in Vain, Jammin’, “the irrepressible Three Little Birds,” TL and One Love/People Get Ready, “an international anthem for unity.” VU All five were top-30 hits in the UK. The 2002 deluxe edition also adds Punky Reggae Party, which was released initially as the B-side of “Jammin’.”
Most notable during this era was an assassination attempt on Marley. In an effort to ease tension between warring political groups in Jamaica, the prime minister, Michael Manley, organized “Smile Jamaica,” a free concert. On December 3, 1976, two days before the concert, an assassination attempt was made on Marley’s life. He and his wife and manager were wounded inside Marley’s home, but made full recoveries. It was considered a politically-motivated protest from those who saw the concert as a support rally for Manley.
Marley left Jamaica for England at the end of 1976 and recorded Exodus and Kaya while living there. Satisfy My Soul is another song, like “Stir It Up,” which dates back to the pre-Island days of the Wailers. Meanwhile, Is This Love “shows off [Marley’s] ability to make polyrhythm into melody.” TL Easy Skanking, another cut from Kaya, is featured on the 2002 deluxe edition of Legend.
1979’s politically-charged Survival is the second Island-era Marley album to not be represented on the Legend collection. However, 1980’s Uprising, one of Marley’s most religious productions, is showcased with Could You Be Loved, a top-5 hit in the UK, and “the meditative Redemption Song” AMG is Marley’s “rallying cry for emancipation from tyranny.” VU
Marley had been diagnosed with a malignant melanoma under the nail of one of his toes in July 1977. Doctors advised that he have the toe amputated, which he refused because it was against his religious beliefs and would have hampered his performing career. In May 1980, he was in New York to perform shows at Madison Square Garden and collapsed while jogging in Central Park. At the hospital, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his brain, lungs, and liver. He died a year later on May 21, 1981, at age 36. The posthumous Confrontation album was released two years later. It included “the painful cry of Buffalo Soldier,” VU the album’s sole representation on the Legend collection.
First posted 5/8/2012; updated 5/10/2021.