Reggae artist Bob Marley recorded globally popular songs representing the masses exploited by capitalism and colonialism, particularly in smaller developing nations. His success in projecting explicitly anti-establishment political and spiritual messages towards mainstream pop audiences while also receiving critical acclaim made him a postcolonial icon. However, the complex equilibrium between art and commerce that Marley sought to achieve during his lifetime has been the subject of critical scrutiny since his death in 1981. Following his demise, the marketing of the artist coincident with his increasing economic value appears to have made him a commercial brand rather than a progressive vehicle for ideologies of cultural and political liberation. This case considers the meanings and marketing of Bob Marley, and whether the substance of his creative legacy has been “sold out” in favor of commercial goals, becoming diluted in the process and alienating audiences.

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