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Bob Marley was born in Nine Miles, Saint Ann, Jamaica. His father, Norval Marley, was born in Jamaica in 1895 to a family originally from Sussex, England.
He was a soldier before becoming a plantation overseer, the job he held when he married Bob Marley's mother, Cedella Booker, an eighteen-year-old black girl. Norval Marley's affluent English family disapproved of mixed race relationships and although Norval provided financial support, he seldom saw his son.

Bob Marley was raised by his mother, who moved them to Kingston's Trenchtown slum in the mid-1950s. He became friends with Neville "Bunny" Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer) with whom Marley started to play music. Marley left school at the age of 14 and started as an apprentice at a local welder's shop, while spending his free time with Bunny Livingston, making music. Joe Higgs, a local singer and devout Rastafarian, was key to Bob Marley's success. Many critics realize him as the true mentor of Bob Marley. It was at one of the sessions with Higgs that Marley and Livingston met Peter Tosh (then known as Peter McIntosh) who also had musical ambitions.