Bob Marley: from Jamaica to Chelsea

Ever wondered why one of Bob Marley’s most iconic albums is called Exodus? If not here’s a brief excerpt of the incredible and tragic story that forced Bob Marley to flee from Jamaica to England to save his life.

The Exodus

1976 was a crucial year in the life of the most iconic reggae artists of all times. In a very tumultuous period for Jamaica, when a state of Emergency was declared due to growing inequality in the society, Bob Marley announced plans to organize a concert to try and calm spirits down and dwell violence. Although politically neutral this was taken by many as tacitly supporting the main party. On December 3, 1976, two days before the Smile Jamaica concert, seven men 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. Astonishingly, there were no fatalities.

This led Marley to flee Jamaica and go to London. His album Exodus was inspired exactly by this tragic event.

Where did Bob Marley live in London?

Bob Marley lived in London on a self-imposed exile from 1976 to 1979 and during these three years he changed a few houses, living in Bloomsbury, Kennington/Brixton, Notting Hill and Chelsea. The house where he recovered after the assassination attempt was in Chelsea at 42 Oakley Street, were an English Heritage blue plaque will soon be installed.

BOB Marley CHelsea house

The one-bedroom flat on Oakley Street, off King’s Road, was where Marley composed his hit “I shot the Sheriff”. He soon after moved to another acquaintance's home in Old Church Street, Chelsea, where he was joined by members of his band The Wailers. When they were not recording they would make the short trip over the Albert Bridge to play football in Battersea Park. Bob Marley composed the huge hit in this very house.

It was while living in Chelsea that Marley and the Wailers finished recording Exodus, the album which featured Jamming and One Love.

The historian David Olusoga, a trustee of English Heritage and blue plaques panel member, said he was particularly excited by the Marley plaque. Marley, he said, remained “one of the most loved and most listened to musicians of the 20th century. He was one of the first superstars to come from a developing country. He is one of the most famous faces in the world, one of the most recognisable faces in the world, and he blazed a trail for other artists from developing countries.”

Learn more about the connection between Bob Marley and Chelsea in a unique immersive walking tour organized by Unexpected London: Chelsea Unexpected Tour.