How nobody knew Bob Marley was sick at his final gig before he died

·3 min read
Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley gives the last concert of his French tour at Le Bourget. The event was the biggest concert France has ever seen. (Photo by © Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/CORBIS/Sygma via Getty Images)
Bob Marley performing in Le Bourget, Paris, in 1980 (Getty)

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On 23 September 1980, legendary reggae singer Bob Marley played his final show - despite having cancer which had spread to his brain.

The Jamaican star received a tremendous reception at the Stanley Theatre, in Pittsburgh, after putting on a memorable concert with his band the Wailers.

Marley died eight months later on May 11, 1981, in a Florida hospital aged just 36.

None of the audience had noticed he was unwell a no-one thought this would have been his final concert. 

Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley gives the last concert of his French tour at Le Bourget. The event was the biggest concert France has ever seen. (Photo by © Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/CORBIS/Sygma via Getty Images)
This was the last concert of his French tour. (Getty)
Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley gives the last concert of his French tour at Le Bourget. The event was the biggest concert France has ever seen. (Photo by © Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/CORBIS/Sygma via Getty Images)
Bob Marley died from cancer in 1981. (Getty)
Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley gives the last concert of his French tour at Le Bourget. The event was the biggest concert France has ever seen. (Photo by © Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/CORBIS/Sygma via Getty Images)
The event was the biggest concert France has ever seen. (Getty)

Marley had collapsed just two days before the concert in Central Park, New York City, during a run.

He was taken to hospital and doctors told him his melanoma, which had been diagnosed previously, had spread to his brain, liver and lungs.

Marley decided to go ahead with the concert at Stanley Theater (renamed Benedum Center), performing hits including “No Woman, No Cry”.

Rich Engler, who ran DiCesare-Engler Productions, had organised the show but was unsure it would take place after being told Marley was not feeling well, tribelive.com reported.

He said: “I found out many years later that he’d collapsed earlier in Central Park while he was exercising."

Engler said Marley looked “ill” and “really emaciated” and he had told him he didn’t have to do the show if he wasn’t feeling well.

But the reggae icon said he had to do the show to earn money for his cash-strapped band, Engler added.

He said when Marley got up on stage “the Stanley Theatre rocked like it never had before.”

Bob Marley performs in Le Bourget, near Paris, during the last concert of his French tour. Attended by 50,000 fans, it is the biggest concert ever organized in France. (Photo by Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma via Getty Images)
Bob Marley performed in France just a few months before his final concert in the US. (Getty)
Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley gives the last concert of his French tour at Le Bourget. The event was the biggest concert France has ever seen. (Photo by © Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/CORBIS/Sygma via Getty Images)
Marley spent his formative years in Kingston ghettos where he turned to music. (Getty)
Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley gives the last concert of his French tour at Le Bourget. The event was the biggest concert France has ever seen. (Photo by © Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/CORBIS/Sygma via Getty Images)
Marley founded the Wailers alongside the late Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. (Getty)

David Meerman Scott, who attended the event when he was 19-years-old, captured the moment with his camera.

Marketing specialist Scott tweeted last year: “40 years ago today, September 23, 1980, I shot the only known photos of Bob Marley's last concert.

“I’d never brought a camera to a show before. And I don’t know why I did — I think it was karma, or the cosmos, or the universe talking to me.”

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Born in 1945 in the rural Jamaican town of Nine Mile, Marley spent his formative years in Kingston ghettos where he turned to music.

His roots in early ska evolved into reggae when Marley became a Rastafarian, and with hits such as “No Woman, No Cry,” he eventually became an international superstar.

Marley founded the Wailers alongside the late Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh.

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