Today In History: Bob Marley Dies

May 11, 2018 | Matt

May 11, 1981


Today in 1981, legendary reggae artist Bob Marley died of malignant melanoma under one of his toenails. His death was a blow to the music world and the world at large.

Marley was counseled by doctors to amputate the toe, but Marley chose not to, on religious grounds and also out of fear that it would limit his ability to perform. The nail and nail bed were removed, and doctors grafted skin from his thigh onto the area. He was very sick, but kept touring.

The last ever Bob Marley concert was at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 23, 1980. While jogging through Central Park two days earlier, Marley had collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. There, doctors informed him that his cancer had spread to the brain.

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The cancer continued to spread to multiple areas of his body. He canceled the tour and sought treatment from a controversial Bavarian physician named Josef Issels. The “Issels Treatment” was an alternative medicine regimen that Issels claimed could cure the uncurable. Marley received the Issels Treatment for eight months, fruitlessly. He decided to return to Jamaica.

On the flight home, he was hospitalized during a Miami layover. He died in the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. He was only 36 at the time of his death. His last words to his son Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life.”

Marley was one of the most influential musicians in modern history. His iconic songs and image will be with us for a long time.

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