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Bob Marley house awarded English Heritage blue plaque

Bob Marley (PA)
Bob Marley (PA)

Reggae superstar Bob Marley has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque, which marks the west London address where he and his band the Wailers lived in 1977.

The plaque, unveiled on Tuesday at 42 Oakley Street in Chelsea, has been in the planning process for a long time, because Marley was not registered in phone directories or electoral registers – an issue which is common among historical figures of colour.

Out of more than 900 blue plaques across London, only 4% are dedicated to black and Asian individuals.

In 2015 English Heritage, which manages more than 400 historic buildings and cultural sites across the country, established a working group to reinvestigate the addresses of noted ethnic minority figures.

Research by English Heritage revealed a court record of Marley’s arrest for cannabis possession in 1977.

Bob Marley arriving at Marylebone Magistrates' Court in 1977
Bob Marley arriving at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court in 1977 (PA)

Though he gave a different address, it is speculated that Marley did so to prevent the police from searching the house in Oakley Street – where his band-mates were staying – for drugs.

Other anecdotal reports from witnesses suggested the house was the band’s headquarters and Marley’s primary address.

The plaque was unveiled by Rastafarian writer and poet Benjamin Zephaniah and introduced by historian and broadcaster David Olusoga, who is also a blue plaque panel member.

Blue plaques commemorate the link between a location and an individual who was regarded as “eminent” in their field.

Their achievements should have made an “exceptional impact in terms of public recognition”, and they must have been dead for at least 20 years.

Other musicians to have received the honour include John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and Mozart.

While living at the house in Chelsea, the band finished recording their famous album Exodus, which featured some of their biggest hits, including Jamming, Three Little Birds and One Love.

Zephaniah, said: “It’s very difficult to say what Bob Marley would have said about this plaque, but he did once say, ‘Live for yourself, you will live in vain, live for others, and you will live again’, so I’m quite sure he would say that this is for his people and his music.”

Mr Olusoga said: “Bob Marley was the first superstar to emerge from the developing world. More than a brilliant musician, he became a cultural icon who blazed a trail for other black artists.”

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