Attempted assassination of Bob Marley

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Bob Marley assassination attempt
LocationHope Road, Kingston, Jamaica
Coordinates18°01′11″N 76°46′47″W / 18.019615°N 76.779832°W / 18.019615; -76.779832Coordinates: 18°01′11″N 76°46′47″W / 18.019615°N 76.779832°W / 18.019615; -76.779832
DateDecember 3, 1976; 44 years ago (1976-12-03)
8:30 p.m. (Eastern Time)
TargetBob Marley
  • Bob Marley
  • Rita Marley
  • Don Taylor
  • Louis Griffiths
PerpetratorSeven armed gunmen (mainly Lester Coke)
MotiveAttempt to halt the "politically progressive" music of Marley

The attempted assassination of Bob Marley occurred in Jamaica on December 3, 1976, when seven armed men raided the house of reggae musician Bob Marley two days before he was to stage a concert in an attempt to quell recent violence. Politicians from across the political spectrum hoped to capitalize on Marley's support. While Marley remained neutral, many viewed him as tacitly supporting the prime minister Michael Manley and his democratic socialist People's National Party.[1] Marley and three others were shot, but all survived. The gunmen were caught, tried, and executed.

Concert and election controversy[edit]

Bob Marley claimed to be uninvolved in Jamaican politics and had originally agreed to play one song on the condition that the concert wasn't political. However, after Manley moved the elections up to December 15, both parties considered Marley's concert scheduled just ten days before to be an endorsement for the PNP.[2]

Assassination attempt[edit]

At 8:30pm, on December 3, 1976, two days before the Smile Jamaica Concert, seven men armed with guns raided Marley's house at 56 Hope Road. Marley and his band were on break from rehearsal. Marley's wife, Rita, was shot in the head in her car in the driveway. The gunmen shot Marley in the chest and arm. His manager, Don Taylor, was shot in the legs and torso. Band employee, Louis Griffiths took a bullet to his torso as well. There were no fatalities.[2]

Bob Marley told concert chairman Trevor Philips that the leader of the Jamaican Labour Party Edward Seaga - Manley's only opponent - was alleged to have ordered his bodyguard, Lester "Jim Brown" Coke, to be present during the shooting. Nancy Burke, Marley's neighbour and friend, recalled hearing Wailers percussionist Alvin Patterson, say "Is Seaga men! Dem come fi kill Bob!" After the shooting, numerous reports indicated that the gunmen returned to Tivoli Gardens, a neighbourhood loyal to the JLP and home to the notorious Shower Posse.[3]

After the shooting, the American embassy sent a cable titled "Reggae Star Shot: Motive probably political". In the cable, Ambassador Gerard wrote:

"Some see the incident as an attempt by JLP gunmen to halt the concert, which would feature the "politically progressive" music of Marley and other reggae stars. Others see it as a deep-laid plot to create a progressive, youthful Jamaican martyr to the benefit of the PNP. Those holding the latter view note that the four persons shot, three of them including Marley, only suffered minor wounds."[4]

Timothy White, the author of Catch a Fire, claimed that information he received from JLP and PNP officials as well as US law enforcement officials led him to believe that Carl Byah "Mitchell", a JLP gunman, was contracted by the CIA to organize the Marley shooting and that Lester Coke, aka Jim Brown, led the charge on Hope Road.[4]

Don Taylor, Marley's manager, claimed that both he and Marley were present at court in which the gunmen who shot Marley were tried and executed. According to Taylor, before one of the shooters was killed, he claimed the job was done for the CIA in exchange for cocaine and guns.[5]

The Smile Jamaica Concert, headlined by Bob Marley & The Wailers, was held on December 5 at National Heroes Park, Kingston, Jamaica.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Why Marley's performance at Smile Jamaica matters MIDNIGHT RAVER". MIDNIGHT RAVER. 5 December 2014. Archived from the original on 14 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b Gane-McCalla, Casey (2016). Inside The CIA's Secret War In Jamaica. Los Angeles, CA: Over The Edge Books. ISBN 978-1-944082-07-9.
  3. ^ Gunst, Laurie (1995). Born fi' Dead. Payback Press. ISBN 9780862415471.
  4. ^ a b White, Timothy (2006). Catch A Fire. Holt Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0805080865.
  5. ^ Taylor, Don (1995). Marley And Me: The Real Bob Marley Story (1st ed.). Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books. ISBN 978-1569800447.