Sept 23, 1980: Bob Marley’s Final Show

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The concert album of the final show by Bob Marley

Suffering from cancer, Bob Marley and his band The Wailers embarked on his Uprising Tour, named for his May 1980 album release suffused with his Rastafarian faith. He completed a European leg of dates before heading to America.

According to a 2010 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by reporter Scott Mervis, promoter Rich Engler got a call from Marley’s booking agent the day before the show at Pittsburgh’s Stanley Theatre on this day in 1980. “Bob is not feeling very well,” Engler was warned. The next morning, Engler got another call. “They’re headed there, but I would be surprised if he plays.”

Marley had been diagnosed with a melanoma in his toe three years earlier. He was advised to have the toe amputated but refused to do so as it violated his Rastafarian beliefs. The cancer had since spread through his body.

After Marley and his group and crew arrived for the soundcheck at about 2 pm, Engler spoke to the reggae star “who was looking depressed and ill,” the article reports. (A few days earlier, Best Classic Bands contributor Rob Patterson had interviewed Marley in New York City for the second time and found him gaunt and subdued, as opposed to ebullient and magnetic the first time they talked.) Engler asked, “Are you going to play?”

“Mon, I wasn’t going to,” Marley answered. “but I’m going to for my band and everybody. It’s a sold-out show. I’m going to do it.”

And he did it royally, Engler recalls, describing the 20-song concert as “magical. I remember ‘Redemption Song’ more than any other, the passion that he put into it, I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” A live album from the show, Live Forever, was released in 2011.

The rest of the tour was canceled. Marley died on May 11, 1981 in Miami, Fla., in the midst of trying to fly from Germany, where he had been undergoing an experimental naturopathic treatment, to his native Jamaica.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Live

Best Classic Bands Staff

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