The Killing Hope Project, Jamaican edition

Steve Kelly recently offered a comment that included a song by Bob Marley and the Wailers, called Judge Not,  which you can hear below.

Marley died of melanoma at age 36, in 1981. My immediate thought, however, was that his death was probably faked.

So I sought out the Wikipedia piece on Marley, looking for clues and contradictions. But, before we go there …

The CIA did it

I long ago I read of Marley having been targeted by the CIA, and probably given cancer by that diabolical outfit. I’ve long since distanced myself from such ideas, as I frankly don’t think the Agency is in the killing business as much as the fake killing end of it. Maybe that’s naive, but it seems that throughout my life when someone famous dies, the Agency is implicated. I take this to be a sign that the death in question, be it JFK, Bill Hicks or John Lennon …  or Bob Marley … was fake.

So let’s go down that rabbit hole first. Here’s an article called Conspiracy Theory Thursday – Was Bob Marley Killed by the CIA? It is a nice recounting of the evidence. (I will refer to it as “CTT” from here out.) There we learn that Marley was given a gift of a pair of boots, and that when he tried them on he shrieked in pain. Embedded in the boot was a piece of copper that, CTT theorizes, was treated with a carcinogen*. Later we learn that this toe was stepped on in a soccer match (Marley was an avid footballer), and at that time he learned that the toe was cancerous. He refused to have it removed, citing his Rastafarian beliefs. It spread throughout his body.

While this was going on, he received treatment from Dr. Josef Issels, a German physician who promoted alternative cancer therapies. The CTT site says that Issels was a “colleague” of Joseph Mangele, a German war criminal who was being “protected by the CIA.” Marley was given injections that included THX, a cell therapy treatment. Marley is said to have believed that Issels was poisoning him at his time of death.

Marley with Issels

This is a photo, said to be one of the last of Marley alive. That’s Issels on the left, and Marley on the right, said by CTT to be “Shrunken and ailing,” said to have been reduced to 70 pounds at death. However, the Marley in this photo does not look ill to me, and looks heavier than that, maybe even healthy.  His face is full. The whole of the photo is a little disquieting, with two well-lit people on the left, two in darker shades on the right, the man seated next to Bob distracted and amused by something off to his left, Marley looking at us. I want to say fake, or composite photo done in a darkroom. I cannot be sure, of course. It just doesn’t fit perfectly, as a real photo would. Maybe readers will point out the discomfiture I am feeling. Issels, by the way, is really, really white.

[11/6/19] As I view this photo after three days, it appears that Issels was added in a darkroom. After all, if Marley was not ill, he would have no reason to know Issels, and no encounters. So one would have to be invented. But then again, Isssels could have been a hire, brought in to fill in the backstory behind the death. If this is a composite photo, it is a very good one.

CachexiaSo Marley was wasting away due to cancer? For comparison, to the left is a man suffering from cachexia, or wasting. Indeed his body has shrunk, and 70 pounds might be a good guess as to his weight. It’s hard to tell with Marley above, but the relaxed posture of the arms in his lap appears to me to be healthy, that is, the arms are not wasted away as are the man’s on the left. They are, of course, concealed, but I have to ask, if Marley was in cachexia, why is he not in bed with feeding tubes, as is the man to the left? That’s the whole idea, that the body is no longer thriving and is in need of artificial support.

By the way, the woman next to Dr. Issells is Alpharita Marley, Bob’s wife. I don’t know who the man seated next to him is, but Marley fans might tell me. I don’t recognize him from any album covers of the Wailers, but I never followed that group.

The CTT site is giving us typical rabbit hole stuff, following the old adage that if we ask the wrong question, the answer does not matter. The question that CTT is asking is if the CIA killed Marley, infecting him with cancer. It says that’s not unheard of, that in fact, “…one of the 600 attempts by the CIA to kill Fidel Castro involved placing highly toxic poison thallium salts in his shoes.”

… 600 failed attempts? And they got Marley with just one? If indeed the CIA tried and failed to kill Fidel Castro 600 times, then they are the clowns of the Intelligence world. The supposed attempts on Castro’s life, which never happened, were set up to make it appear to the Cuban people that their enemy, the U.S., was also Castro’s enemy. This ruse kept Castro in power.

The correct question, then, is not to ask if the CIA killed Bob Marley, but rather, if anyone did. Did Marley die on 11-May 1981? I doubt it. The means of death is so contrived. Other means are easier, as in small plane crash, car accident, hunting accident … but Andy Kaufman-style cancer at a young age and failed alternative therapies … nah.

Bob Marley simply exited, stage left, and took on a new identity in a new location. He’s probably, at age 74, still with us. From my reading, his major vice was marijuana. That does not kill a man. It just makes him boring. Pray you don’t encounter Bob in a coffee shop in Belize or London one morning. You’ll be smiling and trying to make a break … “OK, I gotta go now, nice talking to you, and I’ll look into this Rastifiwhatever crap, first thing tomorrow. Gotta go now. OK?”

*The theme that CIA has weaponized cancer has long been pushed on us, going all the way back to the fake death of Bill Hicks. Judyth Vary Baker, surely a spook, wrote a who book on the subject, called “Me and Lee.” It was all about making cancer a weapon. I think the threat is used merely to create fear, giving the agency an aura of secret power. I doubt they know how to inject people with cancer.

The attempt on Marley’s life

Wikipedia makes no note of any conspiracies involving cancer, but does describe an odd incident, as follows:

On 3 December 1976, two days before “Smile Jamaica“, a free concert organised by the Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley in an attempt to ease tension between two warring political groups, Marley, his wife, and manager Don Taylor were wounded in an assault by unknown gunmen inside Marley’s home. Taylor and Marley’s wife sustained serious injuries but later made full recoveries. Bob Marley received minor wounds in the chest and arm.[52] The attempt on his life was thought to have been politically motivated, as many felt the concert was really a support rally for Manley. Nonetheless, the concert proceeded, and an injured Marley performed as scheduled, two days after the attempt. When asked why, Marley responded, “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?” The members of the group Zap Pow played as Bob Marley’s backup band before a festival crowd of 80,000 while members of The Wailers were still missing or in hiding.

Gunmen, one a known (but nameless) CIA agent (according to CTT), attempted to murder Marley. They only slightly wounded him, but his wife and manager sustained serious injuries, and later made full recovery. Marley went on to play in a concert even as his band mates went into hiding. Another botched assassination!  Three guns, three victims, none dead, all fully recover, and their primary target has only a flesh wound.

More likely there were no gunmen, no one was shot, and there were no recoveries from serious wounds to be had. The event appears staged, perhaps as a way to bring Marley to high public profile, giving him a martyr image, foreshadowing his early death.1976 was an election year, and there were over a hundred rumored deaths, with Jamaican soldiers reportedly massacring five Jamaican Labor Party supporters. This event would identify Marley with the JLP, create sympathy.  It had to have been staged for that reason.

Jamaica in the 1960s and 70s was a deeply divided country, with riots and uprising. There wore two factions, probably more, with one said to be backed by the CIA, the other by the Soviets and Fidel Castro. Far more likely, the island was infiltrated by agents provocateur, with controlled opposition taking hold of leadership and high-profile positions of power and influence. In this environment, Marley would have been called up as a musical icon to develop a following. Staging an attack on him would serve to make him famous and to identify him with those feeling persecuted by the Jamaican government.

His “death” would serve two purposes – one to deflate his followers, killing hope. The other was just today mentioned by AB over at Fakeologist:

If you’re done producing music, best to die quickly to keep raking in the dough. If you can’t die naturally, and why would they, it’s best to simulate the death for the same future riches.

The CIA was involved in destabilization efforts, perhaps in Jamaica, but also in the U.S. This would have been in the mid-70s, a time when we know the CIA was behind musicians in Laurel Canyon, Operation Chaos. Making Marley into the object of scorn by US-backed agents would endear him to the Jamaican public. In the same manner, John Lennon was held up to be an icon of a pro-freedom youth movement in the US, in the world, and was (fake) killed a year before Marley. Set them up, kill them, kill hope. Create a leader to corral all of the opposition, and “kill” that leader, and the movement dies.

Marley’s early life

Bob Marley is half black, half white. His mother Cedella’s family tree does not go back far. After Marley’s father, Norval Marley, died at age 70*, when Bob was ten, she remarried a man named Edward Booker. He too is of no special note, although coincidentally a novel by Marlon James called A Brief History of Seven Killings, a fictional account of the fake shooting above, won the 2015 Man Booker prize. That really is a coincidence, I think.

Norval MarleyNorval Marley’s background is traced by all the way back to Rye, Sussex, England in 1743. The Marley name is in the peerage as well, though I don’t know what to make of that seemingly endless list of names. To the right is a photo of Norval Marley. Does a person get more British than that? All he needs is a pith helmet and manservant.

Norval Marley met and married Cedella Malcolm in 1944, when he was 64 and she was 19. Cedella is listed as a Jamaican writer and singer. Son Robert Nesta Marley was born one year later in 1945. Norval apparently abandoned the family, and is rumored to have had a military career after that, attaining the rank of Captain. But details of his life are sketchy.

Two interesting things about Norval Marley – he is said to have suffered incontinence as an adult, i.e., a bedwetter. That would surely limit a man’s advancement in the military. The other is that he is said to be of Syrian Jewish descent. Does this make Bob Marley Jewish? Wikipeida says he was raised Catholic and converted to Rastifarian, but in Jamaica he would have almost a requirement if he wanted to develop a musical following. Rastifarianism is the island’s principle religion. Interesting to note: Bob’s son, Ziggy Marley, is married to an Israeli Jew, and has spoke of converting to Judaism himself. Maybe that is a fait accompli.

So was Bob Marley Jewish? The evidence is inconclusive, but enticing. And anyway,  I admire the Jewish race, or whatever it is. But it is interesting where Jewish lines turn up.

Marley lineage

*, by the way, says the Marley’s dad was 74 when he died, not 70. That is a clerical error Wiki should fix. The image above is Thomas Marley, as far back as I can go at in the Marley’s Sussex, England line.

The musical career

So, operating on the assumption that Marley was juiced, and selected to be a Jamaican reggae star and icon, the question needs to be asked … how was he “discovered” and how did he rise to fame?

Bob in 1962, at age 17 or 18, was brought to the attention of music producer Leslie Kong by singer Jimmy Cliff. As the story goes, 14-year-old Cliff walked into Kong’s record store one night and suggested he start making records. That’s all believable, I suppose, as talent finds a way. But isn’t it odd that Jimmy Cliff, age 14 in 1962, managed to book a 17-year-old Marley to a record deal? I won’t say it is impossible or even unlikely, but it is stirring my suspicion that Marley was selected for fame. However, from this discovery by a 14-year old to his “death” in 1981, Marley’s career was prolific. I cannot say that he was not worthy of fame, but I suppose someone else could have been chosen for the part.

(I wish I could find the quote, but I remember a rock promoter one time saying he could take any kid off the street and make him a star.)

Marley started as a solo act, and later formed a group that eventually would become the Wailers. He is said to have made 11 albums, but I count 12 with one additional in 1983 after he died.  Maybe


Marley, if still alive, would be 74 years old, whereabouts unknown. He had eleven children by seven women, one adopted and one said to be from an affair that his wife Rita had. Perhaps he lives in England, as he did live and record music there 1976 to 1979. Perhaps during that time he was scouting a new location and identity, as he might have known by 1979 that he was scheduled to die in 1981.

Just for fun, to end this piece before it mushrooms and becomes even more a time sink, here are the two versions of a Marley piece called No Woman No Cry. First, Marley:

And now, Joan Baez:

Baez, herself part of Operation Chaos, did this cover on the Marley piece, and in my opinion, ‘whited it up’, having both the beat and the words, but losing the flavor. It sounds like a song that could be chanted by everyone in a Baez singalong, something white people do.

I did not set out to write so much about Bob Marley, but isn’t it interesting how a little digging leads to a lot of uncovering? Bob Marley, from appearances, and of course, subject to the usual missed evidence and wrong avenues, appears to have been of Jewish origin by a British father who impregnated a young Jamaican singer. He then was lifted to fame by a 14-year-old boy, three years his junior. He got a record deal, formed a group that took on international fame. On the way to fame there was an attempt to murder him, and his death is shrouded in mystery, veiled in unlikelihood. He appears to be just another musician who faked an early death and now lives in obscurity, cashing royalty checks.

3 thoughts on “The Killing Hope Project, Jamaican edition

  1. Several years ago I ran across an article showing how Marley (and the whole Haile Salessi/Rastafarian thing) was a tool of the world bank/IMF. More recent searches for it proved fruitless, so it appears Google buried it. Might be a useful rabbit trail to follow.


    1. I don’t find anything, but it would not surprise me that World Bank would get someone out in front to act as controlled opposition. This piece was getting far bigger than I intended, more work than I wanted to do on a 1981 fake death. Austerity and the conflicts in Jamaica during that time would be a whole ‘nuther direction but I welcome any input on the matter.

      [I did learn that the Marley estate is now worth $130 million.]


  2. Bill Graham did his best to promote reggae music in the bay area in the 70’s but us white kids could not have been less interested. Pop music is about fantasy projections and relating to the stars on stage. White kids could love the Temptations, for example, because the rhythm and syncopation and lyrics were close enough, even if the faces were black, and the fine threads and choreographed two steps looked “cool”. Besides, it was the black artists singing upbeat lyrics for the most part* while whitey was complaining about everything in his lyrics. We all needed a break from time to time. Soul acts were of an American culture. Graham was casting seeds on barren soil.
    The natty dreads, indecipherable accents and the promotion of the weed with roots in hell turned a lot of people off reggae in suburbia. That jazz did catch on in England as it fused itself into the new wave movement through something called Ska. In time, anyone I knew who did get into reggae (I did in my 40’s) had no concern for Solomon and Sheba, weed (we drank) or the political shenanigans. It was something different, sick as we were by then of complaint rock and the same playlists.
    Marley/Manley? I wonder if the name is an offshoot of something like Marlborough.
    In any event, this is a fine example of why the British Commonwealth holds onto the Caribbean. They have supplied the crown’s American colonies with black leaders for some time, though this guy didn’t quite fit and that may have been one contributing factor to his early reassignment. Plus, of course, “dying”, as they used to say of a then moribund Elvis market, was the best career move he ever made.

    *That said, the Temps did have their fair share of musical gripes. “I Wish it Would Rain”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, “I’m Losing You”… maybe that’s what made them crossover stars?


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