One Love | On Bob Marley’s birthday, what are the conspiracy theories around his death - was he assassinated?

Bob Marley’s death in 1981 immediately began discussions of a conspiracy regarding his demise - not helped by the assassination attempt he endured.
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Today would have marked music icon Bob Marley’s 79th birthday, had it not been for a melanoma that took his life at the young age of 36 back in 1981. His death was widely mourned throughout both the musical community and the social justice community, given his numerous efforts to bring peace to Jamaica and his overarching influence internationally.

That influence and political endeavours form some of the strongest conspiracy theories surrounding the late reggae artist’s death, with many still unable (or unwilling) to believe that Bob Marley suddenly died at a young age at what many considered the height of his fame.

With the release of “One Love,” due in UK cinemas next week, some are wondering if the film might indeed tread the water with a couple of these theories, in particular his involvement in Jamaican politics. He was, after all, subject to an assassination attempt in 1976.

So what are the most long-standing conspiracy theories about Bob Marley’s death? Be warned, these are incredibly speculative and by no means reliable (as conspiracy theories usually go), but make for some interesting points as we celebrate Bob Marley’s birthday - and the release of his long-awaited biopic.

What are the conspiracy theories about Bob Marley’s death?

Cancer Conspiracy

The official cause of Bob Marley's death was listed as melanoma, a form of skin cancer, which had metastasized to his brain and other organs. However, some conspiracy theories suggest that Marley's cancer was intentionally induced. It's theorized that his political influence and outspokenness made him a target for assassination and that cancer may have been deliberately introduced into his body through a contaminated pair of shoes or a botched assassination attempt in 1976.

Involvement in Jamaican politics

Bob Marley was deeply involved in Jamaican politics and was seen as a unifying figure during a time of political turmoil in the country. Some conspiracy theories speculate that Marley's involvement in Jamaican politics, particularly his efforts to broker peace between warring political factions, made him a target for assassination by those who opposed his influence or sought to maintain the status quo of division.

There are also theories that elements within the Jamaican government or security forces may have been involved in Marley's death. Some speculate that Marley's advocacy for social justice and his criticism of government corruption made him a target for elimination by those in power.

CIA Involvement due to international influence

Another theory suggests that the CIA, which had a history of involvement in Jamaican politics during the Cold War era, may have played a role in Marley's death. It's alleged that Marley's political activism and growing international influence posed a threat to American interests, leading to covert actions to neutralize him - almost akin to another influential pop culture figure, John Lennon.

Was Bob Marley part of an assassination attempt?

There was indeed an assassination attempt on Bob Marley’s life; in December 1976, just two days before a planned free concert called "Smile Jamaica" organized by the Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley's People's National Party (PNP), armed men attacked Bob Marley's home in Hope Road, Kingston. Marley and several others, including his wife Rita Marley, were injured in the attack. 

Though Marley himself was only grazed by a bullet, his manager Don Taylor and several others were more seriously wounded. The gunmen were believed to be politically motivated, as the concert was seen as an endorsement of Manley's government, which faced opposition from rival political factions.

Despite the attempt on his life, Marley went ahead with the concert, which was intended to promote peace and unity in Jamaica. His decision to perform despite the risks further solidified his status as a symbol of resistance and hope. However, the incident fueled speculation about the motives behind the attack and its potential connection to broader political tensions in Jamaica at the time.

Will “One Love” address these conspiracy theories or the assassination?

With the film being an honest account of Bob Marley’s life, we can more than safely assume that a number of the conspiracy theories we’ve highlighted will not be in “One Love.” However, given that the assassination attempt on Marley occurred, we would imagine that moment of his life will be in the film.

When is “One Love” out in UK cinemas?

“One Love” will be released in UK cinemas on February 19 2024, with limited advance screenings taking place in selected theatres on Valentine’s Day 2024.

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