#39: Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley and the Wailers
City: Edmonton, AB
Radio Station: CJSR
Peak Month: July 1983
Peak Position in Edmonton ~ #3
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube: “Buffalo Soldier”
Lyrics: “Buffalo Soldier”
Robert Nesta Marley was born in 1945 in a village in Jamaica. His father died at the age of 70 when Bob Marley was ten-years old. While he was in primary school, Marley became friends with Neville Livingston, and they began playing music together. Livingston’s father and Marley’s mother had a child together, and the two boys ended up living under the same roof in Trenchtown, in Kingston, Jamaica. Marley and Livingston formed a band with Peter Tosh called the Teenagers, and renamed as the Wailing Rudeboys, and eventually the Wailers. Neville Livingston went by the stage name Bunny Wailer. Bob Marley released his first non-album single, “Judge Not”, in 1962. The Wailers first commercial success was a number-one hit in Jamaica in 1964 titled “Simmer Down”. During the Sixties, Bob Marley & the Wailers released fifty singles. Some of these include covers of the Tom Jones song “What’s New Pussycat?” and the Bing Crosby hit “White Christmas”. In 1967, the Wailers released “Stir It Up“, which was successfully covered in 1968 by Johnny Nash.
In 1973, Bob Marley & the Wailers recorded “Get Up, Stand Up”, which climbed to #33 on the Dutch pop charts and #49 in New Zealand. His song, “I Shot The Sheriff” was a minor hit on the UK pop chart in 1973. It became a number-one hit in 1974 for Eric Clapton. In 1975, Marley’s live recording of “No Woman, No Cry” eventually became a number-one hit in New Zealand, #2 in Iceland and the UK, #5 in Ireland, #6 in Finland, #7 in Denmark and Scotland, and a Top 20 hit in Australia, France, Italy and Sweden.
In 1976 Rastaman Vibration was a Top Ten hit on the Billboard 200 Album chart in the USA, and a Top 20 album release in France, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. A single from the album, “Waiting In Vain” was a Top 30 hit in the UK. Another track, “Jamming”, became a #9 hit in the UK and #10 hit in Spain. In 1976 Rolling Stone magazine named Bob Marley & the Wailers as the Band of the Year.
In 1977, the title track from the Exodus album, “Exodus”, peaked at #14 in the UK. Exodus was a #8 charting album in the UK. In 1978-79, the album Kaya climbed to #4 in the UK, #6 in New Zealand and Norway, and #14 in Sweden. It was ranked #12 album for the year 1978 in Australia. From the album came “Is This Love”, which has peaked at #7 in Scotland, #8 in New Zealand and Norway, #9 in the UK, #11 in Australia, #16 in Sweden and #18 in Hungary. Another track, “Satisfy My Soul” was a Top 30 hit on the UK pop chart. In 1980, “Three Little Birds” became a number-three song in Spain. In 1999 Time Magazine named Exodus as the Album of the Century.
In 1979, Bob Marley & the Wailers released Survival. It peaked at #10 in Norway, and made the Top 20 in New Zealand, Sweden and the UK. His 1980 album, Uprising, topped the album chart in New Zealand, and made the Top Ten album charts in Austria, Norway, Sweden and the UK. From the album came “Redemption Song”, a top 30 single in the UK. Marley’s single release of “Could You Be Loved” was a massive international hit. It peaked at #2 in the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland, #3 in Belgium and Ireland, #5 in the UK, #6 in Spain, #10 in France and Norway, #11 in Sweden, and #12 in Finland (in 1990).
In 1981 Bob Marley died on May 11th from malignant melanoma which spread to his brain and his lungs. There was a state funeral for Bob Marley in Jamaica on May 21st. The president of Jamaica, Edward Seaga, said in his eulogy, “His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. His sharp features, majestic looks, and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds. Bob Marley was never seen. 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.” Over the years, Marley’s death was the subject of many scenarios. Dr. Cleland Gooding writing in the Tribune in the Bahamas, wrote “It’s been 30 years since his death; and there have many rumours and speculation about the cause of death. Did he really die from a brain tumor? Or other nefarious causes? Like the CIA? Poison in his boots etc? Bob Marley’s medical records were never made public. However from several sources I managed to piece together the story of his illness and death from Metastatic Skin Cancer (Melanoma).”
In the past decades a CIA agent for 29 years, 79-year-old Bill Oxley, confessed to being involved in an assassination attempt on Bob Marley. Two days before a festival in December 1976, Bob Marley was shot in his home located on Hope Road. The gunmen managed to shoot him, his wife Rita, and his manager sustaining several injuries. Marley shocked the world after quickly recovering from his injuries, two days later performing at the Smile Jamaica Festival. A mysterious American man visited Marley as he prepared for his performance on December 5, 1976. The man then proceeded to give Marley a pair of shoes, and when the singer tried them on, he stated was pricked by a wire or nail. Was this deathbed confession to clear Oxley’s guilty conscience? Or to brag about his achievement? Or a story the CIA wants to put out to the general public to add to agency lore?
In 1983, a posthumous album was released titled Confrontation. The album sold well in Austria, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. A lead single from the album was “Buffalo Soldier”.
“Buffalo Soldier” was cowritten by Bob Marley and Noel “King Sporty” Williams. Born in Jamaica in 1943, King Sporty released his first recording at the age of 22 in 1965. He moved to Florida and experimented with reggae, funk, disco and electronic music. A ‘Buffalo Soldier’ is the nickname given by Native Americans to black US cavalry regiments fighting the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Sioux, and other ‘nations.’ The name was embraced by the troops, who were well acquainted with “the buffalo’s fierce bravery and fighting spirit”. The Buffalo Soldier’s duties were settling railroad disputes, building telegraph lines, repairing and building forts, and otherwise helping settlers colonize lands taken from Native Americans. They were also tasked with protecting the colonizing settlers from Native Americans. The ‘Buffalo Soldier” was “taken from Africa, brought to America.” In the song, Marley sings about the cruel irony of deploying one subjected people to remove another.
“Buffalo Soldier” peaked at #3 in Edmonton (AB), and #7 in Hamilton (ON). Internationally, “Buffalo Soldier” climbed to #3 in New Zealand, #4 in the UK, #10 in Norway, #14 in Austria and #29 in Finland.
In 1999, a track from Kaya titled “Sun Is Shining”, climbed to #1 in Iceland, #3 in the UK, #4 in Denmark and Scotland, #6 in Spain, #7 in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland, #8 in Finland and Norway, #11 in Italy and New Zealand, and #12 in France.
In 1984, a track from the Exodus album, “One Love/People Get Ready”, climbed to #1 in New Zealand, #2 in the Netherlands, #4 in Belgium, #5 in the UK, and #6 in Ireland.
In 1991 a box set album, Songs of Freedom, included the track “Iron Lion Zion”. The single climbed into the Top Ten in Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. It also sold well in Austria and Germany. In 1999 Lauryn Hill remixed Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” and recorded a duet. The single became an international hit. It climbed to #1 in New Zealand and Romania, #3 in Norway, #5 in the Netherlands and Sweden, and a Top 20 hit in France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and the UK.
In 2001, Bob Marley posthumously received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One of his best selling albums is the compilation Legend. It has peaked at #1 in the Netherlands and the UK. It also charted in the Top Ten album charts in Austria, Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the USA; and #11 in Canada, Finland and Germany.
Over his life, Bob Marley fathered eleven children from seven women. This included three from his wife, Rita Marley. A Bob Marley festival in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1995 is one of many events that continue to celebrate Marley and his music. For many years there was an annual Marley Tribute night in Long Beach, California. “He is to us what Mahatma Gandhi was to India and Martin Luther King Jr. was to (Americans),” Ingrid Riley, a reporter for the Kingston, Jamaica newspaper Daily Observer, told the Los Angeles Times.
Kenneth Freed, “Bob Marley Festival Spreads Some ‘Rastaman Vibration’ : Anniversary: Jamaica concert marks the 50th birthday of the late reggae icon and poet-musician,” Los Angeles Times, February 13, 1995.
Howard Campbell, “King Sporty is Dead,” Jamaica Observer, January 7, 2015.
Dr. Cleland Gooding, “A Death by Skin Cancer? The Bob Marley Story,” Nassau Tribune, Bahamas, April 17, 2011.
Richard Williams, “Bob Marley’s funeral, 21 May 1981: a day of Jamaican history,” Guardian, April 24, 2011.
Silkie Jasso, “Ex-CIA Agent Claims Bob Marley was Assassinated,” Rare, 2019.
Jason Toynbee, Bob Marley: Herald of a Postcolonial World, (Polity, 2013).