BY Stephen Nartey, 1:00pm February 27, 2024,

Here is how Bob Marley died – the mystery explained

Bob Marley/Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The enigma surrounding how reggae icon Bob Markey died engaged the thoughts of fans after the new musical biopic “Bob Marley: One Love,” hit the theaters. The documentary film explored the later years of the legendary reggae singer.

It also delved into his self-imposed exile from Jamaica after a 1976 assassination attempt and his return for the historic One Love Peace Concert in 1978. Despite Marley’s growing global popularity in the late ’70s, he faced a private health battle.

Diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma, a form of skin cancer, in 1977, Marley continued to perform and record music but declined a primary form of treatment. The illness eventually spread, profoundly affecting Marley’s health.

The reggae legend died at the age of 36 in 1981. But, many are of the view that melanoma shouldn’t have killed Marley. Speculation among music enthusiasts was rife about the potential outcomes had he pursued different health choices, according to Biography.

But, here are the key details surrounding his cancer diagnosis and its impact on the iconic musician.

Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is a rare form of skin cancer that specifically occurs on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or underneath nails. It comprises only 5 percent of new melanoma diagnoses annually, as per a September 2022 article from the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.

Unlike other skin cancers linked to sunlight exposure, ALM is not believed to be associated with ultraviolet rays. However, its exact cause remains unclear. Dermatologists suggest that trauma to the affected area, pressure on the feet, and genetic factors may play a role.

Marley’s initial diagnosis of acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) occurred in July 1977, following medical attention sought for what he perceived as a soccer-related injury. During Marley’s time, effective treatments for acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) were limited, with surgery being the primary option, as noted by the AIM at Melanoma Foundation.

When doctors found cancer on Marley’s right toe, they proposed amputation, but Marley declined due to his adherence to Rastafarian beliefs. Instead, he consented to the removal of skin and tissue around his nail bed, which was then replaced with skin from his thigh.

Following his diagnosis, Marley didn’t attend regular follow-up appointments, leading to the metastasis of his cancer. Chemotherapy, though available, was generally ineffective against melanoma cells, as highlighted by AIM at Melanoma. Marley sought treatment at various cancer-specialized clinics, including the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

In the autumn of 1980, Marley collapsed during a jog in Central Park, leading doctors to realize that his cancer had spread extensively, affecting his lungs, brain, and liver. As reported by The New Yorker, a physician at Sloan Kettering remarked that Marley had an unprecedented amount of cancer.

Despite a grim prognosis of only a few months to live, Marley underwent radiation therapy to reduce tumors in his lungs and liver. Marley’s last performance with his band, the Wailers, took place on September 23, 1980, in Pittsburgh, despite his declining health.

He continued seeking treatment, but his body weakened significantly, with even his trademark dreadlocks becoming burdensome. reports that Marley fought the disease for another eight months, trying alternative treatments at Dr. Josef Issels’ clinic in Germany. When these efforts proved futile, Marley opted to return to Jamaica for his final days. However, his condition deteriorated during the flight, necessitating an emergency landing in Miami.

Marley passed away on May 11, 1981, due to complications from his illness, at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Florida.

He was honored with a state funeral in Jamaica shortly thereafter, where hundreds of thousands of grieving fans paid their respects, ensuring his enduring musical legacy.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 27, 2024


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