What was the cause of Bob Marley’s death?

It’s a fairly tragic consequence of celebrity culture that when musicians die, conversations rapidly shift away from their life and legacy and invariably towards the circumstance of their deaths. This cycle has repeated countless times across music history, mutating into conspiracy theories often invoking the phrase “forever 27”. It was a conversation Bob Marley, who died at 36, actually didn’t shy away from, once declaring: “I don’t believe in death, neither in flesh nor in spirit.”

It was his spiritual beliefs that ultimately gave rise to conspiracy. His music explored Rastafarianism, unity, and material and spiritual poverty, making him a countercultural icon. Going the way of similar artists before him, some assumed this made him a political target. After a failed assassination attempt in 1976, the American Embassy wrote: “Reggae Star Shot: Motive probably political.”

Only a year later, Marley was diagnosed with a form of cancer after a malignant melanoma was found under his right great toe. There is a widely circulated theory that a shoe he’d be given was “tainted with cancer”. The supposed CIA agent who confessed to this, named Bill Oxley, was later found by the debunking site Snopes to have never been in CIA records. And if that isn’t convincing enough, the story ran on a conspiracy site connected to David Icke.

Marley’s religious beliefs meant he chose not to have the toe amputated. He continued touring after the nail bed was removed, and he went through a gruelling skin graft, but his illness worsened throughout his 1980 world tour. Although he’d tried to avoid it, the tour was cancelled after he collapsed while jogging. He was flown to Germany to undergo a specific, diet-based treatment – but it was decided he should fly home to Jamaica after eight months with little progress.

His condition deteriorated rapidly on the plane, so he was rushed to a Miami hospital. His last words to his son Ziggy were: “On your way up, take me up. On your way down, don’t let me down.”

When did Bob Marley die?
After landing in Miami, Marley was taken to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, where it was discovered the melanoma had spread to his lungs and brain. He died on May 11th, 1981. The outpouring of grief extended across the globe, and his impact in Jamaica was so vast the government postponed a debate on the budget for a week because of his funeral.

He was later buried in Jamacia on May 21st 1981. In his casket sat his beloved guitar, a bud of cannabis, and a Bible, opened permanently at Psalm 23: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

How did Bob Marley die?
Marley died from brain cancer after suffering from acral lentiginous melanoma, although certain groups remain convinced the CIA killed him. His lyrics: “Get up, stand up,” are now often invoked by cancer charities to urge people to seek medical help if they notice changes to their skin.

Marley’s preferred treatment methods were informed by his religious beliefs, but ultimately couldn’t slow the spread of cancer. When he did succumb to cancer, Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga said: “He was an experience which left an indelible imprint with each encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation.”

How did Bob Marley get cancer?
The kind of cancer Marley was diagnosed with was a rare, fasting-growing skin cancer. Though typically associated with fairer skin and UV exposure, the kind Marley has was not well-linked to UV exposure.

Although preventable when caught early, Marley’s decision to go an alternative medical route meant the cancer spread to his brain and lungs. The theory he was “poisoned” with cancer is unfounded.

Where is Bob Marley buried?
After his death, Marley’s body was taken for burial in a mausoleum in Nine Mile, Jamaica, which remains a popular tourist destination for fans looking to connect with the place where Marley’s musical career was born.

He was laid to rest in his iconic blue denim, a Bible resting in one hand and a guitar in the other. Thirty thousand people came to mourn Marley publicly. Marley’s band, The Wailers, were joined by other Jamaican musicians as they performed at the funeral, and his sons danced just like he did on stage.

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