Bob Marley house honoured with blue plaque
Reggae legend Bob Marley has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque at the west London home he shared with his band the Wailers.
He joins a list of musicians and composers including John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Freddie Mercury and Mozart who have been honoured with a plaque.
The musician and songwriter lived at 42 Oakley Street in Chelsea in 1977, having fled to the UK from Jamaica following an assassination attempt the previous year.
It was while living at this address that the band finished recording their famous Exodus album, which featured songs including Jamming, One Love, Three Little Birds and Turn Your Lights Down Low, and propelled Marley to global stardom.
One of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Marley was diagnosed with skin cancer that same year. He died just four years later in 1981, aged 36, at the height of his fame.
His plaque was unveiled at the four-storey terraced house on Tuesday by Rastafarian poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah and broadcaster David Olusoga, who described the star as “a cultural icon who blazed a trail for other black artists”.
Zephaniah, who wrote to Marley when he was younger and visited him at the house, said the plaque recognised “a worldwide superstar”.
“This matters because there are not many black or Asian people who have blue plaques and we need more because we know they’ve made a great contribution,” he told Sky News.
“His lyrics inspire us to keep fighting, even when we’re down they tell us to get up and stand up for our rights. He tells us that we are all important, it doesn’t matter where we come from and most importantly in times like this, when you can really feel that things are going in strange directions politically and culturally, he reminds us that ‘Everything’s gonna be alright’.
“Keep fighting and in the end good will overcome evil and we really need messages of hope right now.”
The unveiling comes at the start of Black History Month.
Currently, only 4% of the plaques across the capital are dedicated to black and Asian figures from history, and English Heritage is working to change that.
“This is partly explained by the low number of public nominations fulfilling the blue plaque criteria and by the all too frequent lack – or relative inaccessibility – of historic records establishing a definitive link between the person in question and the building in which they lived,” English Heritage said.
“Marley is a case in point, being absent from the sources usually used to confirm addresses, such as electoral registers and phone directories.”
Marley’s plaque was approved after evidence was re-examined.
“The most tantalising piece of primary evidence arose from Marley’s arrest for possession of cannabis on 10 March 1977, along with his bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett,” English Heritage said.
“On the court records, Barrett’s address is given as 42 Oakley Street, and though Marley’s is cited as 27 Collingham Gardens, anecdotal evidence suggests that he may have given this address – where his backing singers were staying – in a bid to prevent the police from searching Oakley Street for drugs.
“The unanimous recollection of those who were contemporary witnesses is that Oakley Street was both the band headquarters and Marley’s own primary address at this time.”
London’s blue plaques scheme was founded in 1866, and celebrates the links between notable figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked.
There are more than 900 plaques across the capital, with many similar schemes across the UK and around the world.