A Jamaican lawmaker is asking the country’s parliament to name reggae legend Bob Marley a national hero, an effort that comes amid growing nationalism in English-speaking Caribbean countries that are distancing themselves from their colonial past.
Lawmaker Lisa Hanna’s proposal would make the iconic singer a national hero, a title already held by seven Jamaicans, including black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey and the country’s first prime minister, Alexander Bustamante.
It comes months after Barbados bestowed a similar honor on pop singer Rihanna at a ceremony in November in which the island severed ties with the British monarchy and created a republic – a process that Jamaica also considering.
“Bob Marley deserves this recognition because he lived a very short life that transformed the thinking of people around the world,” Hanna told Reuters in an interview at his office in Kingston.
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It is not immediately clear when parliament will vote on the measure. Hanna hopes it will be approved in time for the country’s 60th independence anniversary on August 6.
Marley was born in 1945 in the rural parish of St. Ann to a white English father and a black Jamaican mother.
At the age of 12, he moved to Trench Town in Kingston, where he and musicians Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh developed what would become a world-renowned reggae sound. Marley died in 1981 of melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
His rise to fame helped create a positive image for Jamaica, which at the time was in the throes of a deep political divide that resulted in violent street clashes and gunfights between gangs with opposing ideologies.
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“It was the possibility that Jamaica could have a superstar in the midst of poverty and violence,” said Matthew Smith, a Jamaican historian at University College London.
Marcia Griffiths, who sang with Marley for years, including on classic tracks like “No Woman, No Cry,” also supports Hanna’s proposal.
“Bob is a legend and an icon who has done so much for the world,” she said in an interview.
“The power and strength of music can change the world, and that’s why God gave us a man like Bob.”
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