Bob Marley passed away 30 years ago today from complications of malignant melanoma (cancer) of the big toe. He was 36.
Marley, an avid soccer player when he wasn’t touring, injured his toe playing soccer at the start of his European tour. Marley continued with his tour even though he was diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma.
Marley’s album Uprising was released in May 1980. One of the singles, “Redemption Song”, is believed to be Marley’s way of coming to terms with his mortality. Marley never really took his cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. He believed in the powers of ganja (marijuana) and he smoked it religiously.
After playing two sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Marley’s took ill as the cancer metastasized (spread) throughout his body.
Against the advice of his doctors, Marley flew to the Bavarian clinic of Josef Issels, where he received a controversial type of cancer therapy partly based on avoidance of certain foods, drinks, and other substances.
After the experimental therapy (and smoking copious amounts of ganja) failed to heal him, Marley flew to Miami, Florida (considered his second home) where he sought aggressive, traditional cancer treatment to save his life.
But it was too late.
On the morning of May 11, 1981, Marley died of multiple organ failure at Miami’s Cedars of Lebanon hospital (now called University of Miami hospital). The cancer that started in his big toe had spread to his lungs and brain.
Marley’s last words to his oldest son, Ziggy Marley, was “Money can’t buy life.”