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Bob Marley 'blacked up with shoe polish to be more African'

entertainment Updated: Dec 05, 2010 20:10 IST

Bob Marley was so angst-ridden over his race that he used shoe polish to blacken his hair, a new book has revealed.

I&I: The Natural Mystics: Marley, Tosh and Wailer highlights how the Jamaican-born reggae legend struggled with insecurities over his mixed race as son of a white father and a black mother.

Marley's widow Rita is quoted in the book as saying that her husband was so aware of bullying for having a fairer complexion that he asked her to 'rub shoe polish in his hair to make it more black; make it more African'.

Author Colin Grant interviewed some of the singer's relatives and those close to him for the book, released in January. These include Marley's late mother Cedella Booker and Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, which released most of his music.

"When Marley moved to Trench Town in Kingston aged 13 he was thought of as a white man and would have got a lot of grief for that," the Daily Mail quoted him as telling The Guardian.

"His father was a so-called white man who moved in white circles, and it was unusual to marry a black lady. But he did. It's interesting that Marley went on to do that as well. He married a very black lady, Rita, and that was a time when people married up and out of colour. He did exactly the opposite," he added.

Grant added that while this part of Marley's life was well known in Jamaica, it is the first time that the extent of his insecurities and prejudices he faced has been revealed.

It was while living in Trench Town that he met Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, both of whom are also featured in the book. The trio formed the band 'The Wailers'.

After the band broke up in 1974, Marley continued recording as 'Bob Marley And The Wailers' with a new backing band, and released the classic album 'Exodus', which included the hits One Love, Jamming and Waiting In Vain as well as the title track.