It's something like a phenomenon: Legend, the collection of Bob Marley and the Wailers' 10 top 40 hits in the UK, still stands as one of the best-selling albums of all-time. From number of copies sold to number of weeks on the charts, Legend exists in the same rarefied air as such perennial best-sellers as Eagles' Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Digging beneath the surface of warm, reggae grooves and life-affirming lyricism exists a complicated history along the way. Going under the hood of Legend in five eye-opening facts.
1. Legend was the work of one man determined to sell Bob Marley records
When Island Records founder Chris Blackwell hired Dave Robinson to run UK operations in the early '80s, he was tasked with putting together a Bob Marley greatest hits compilation. Going through Marley's sales history, he was shocked to see that the numbers didn't exactly line up with the legacy. His best-selling album in America at the time was Exodus, which sold 650,000 in America. "Record companies can -- just like a documentary -- slant [their subjects] in whatever direction they like," Robinson told Phoenix New Times in 2014. "If you don't get the demographic right and sorted in your mind, you can present it just slightly off to the left or the right. I thought that was happening and had restricted his possible market. My vision of Bob from a marketing point of view was to sell him to the white world."
2. Dave Robinson's wife Sue was instrumental in shaping Legend
Behind every man is an exasperated woman doing all of the real work. When Robinson was excited to present his idea with the title The Legendary Bob Marley, his wife Sue suggested a better one: Legend: The Best of Bob Marley. She'd also help him with sequencing, going for long drives and listening to the songs in different orders. "The running order is so crucial," Robinson explained. "Some people like to do it chronologically, and I think that's all rubbish. When you're doing a greatest hits, you have to get it to work. It has to get to the end and you want to put it back on again."
3. Paul McCartney was used to soften Marley's image
At the time of Marley's death of cancer, most Americans only knew him as the pot-smoking musician seen on a notorious 60 Minutes segment, "The Rastafarians." Watch a clip of it above. While retooling Marley's image for America, a music video was made for song "One Love." The visual cast Marley as a loving family man, and featured a cameo by Paul McCartney as a crafty but effective co-sign.
4. Legend took some time to take off in America
Released on May 8, 1984, Legend was an instant hit in the UK, selling loads of copies right out of the gate. In America, it was a much slower burn. Even a $50,00 TV ad campaign couldn't kick start sales. But those sales steadily grew, and remained strong year after year. As of lat year, Legend had sold more than 15 million copies in America, and more than 28 million worldwide.
5. There's a new music video for "Three Little Birds"
Just last month, a new animated video was released in honor of this year's ongoing Marley75 campaign in honor of his 75th birthday year. “This song has helped provide hope and light for so many over the years, including me, and I hope it does the same for people now, especially with all that is going on in the world," Marley's daughter Cedella said in a press statement.