Miles-tones

Marley's Ghost: Bob Lives In More Than Just Dorm Rooms

Thirty years ago today, Bob Marley passed away from cancer at the young age of 36. According to one joke, it took three days to bury him because his coffin kept jammin'. Bada bum.

That's not even our favorite. Earlier this year, Dan Turner, press secretary to Mississippi Governor and possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate Haley Barbour, resigned after getting busted for emailing off-color jokes like this to his colleagues: "[In] 1982, Jamaica issued a Bob Marley commemorative stamp... Actually, it was a combination stamp and tiny rolling paper." (It was probably the ones about Janet Reno and the Japanese nuclear-plant meltdown that got him canned, though.)

Even at 36, Marley was already somewhere between a national hero and demigod in his native Jamaica when he died. Since then, he's become an icon of a different kind - a symbol of binge-drinking, ballcap-wearing college students who have turned his posthumous 1984 anthology Legend from a simple greatest-hits compilation into a long-running frat-boy joke.

The University of Texas includes a copy of Legend in every freshman-orientation packet (or so we have heard), and The Onion has explored the phenomenon in a couple of hard-hitting, hilarious articles. How much this has been blown out of proportion is debatable - Stylus magazine has an interesting take in this 2007 article - but the stereotype has inspired at least one Facebook page, albeit one with only 69 fans. Heh.

Assuming it is, though, the only group of people who are bigger Marley fans than suburban stoners, hands down, is musicians themselves. Besides reggae's ambassador to the world, Marley was without question one of the most gifted songwriters of his time, and today is one of the most-covered songwriters of our time.

As a tribute, Rocks Off compiled a dozen or so of the best covers we found on YouTube earlier today from all across the pop, rock, soul, R&B, reggae and hip-hop spectrum. Even bluegrass. By the way, we have no idea how much ganja it takes to forget the words to "One Love," Matisyahu, but we're guessing Marley himself would be impressed.

First up is something from the man himself, Marley and the Wailers live at the first of their two visits to Houston's Music Hall in May 1976 and July 1978.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray