While he was never known for his intense fret work, Bob Marley’s guitar playing still has become renowned the world over. Allowing his lyrics to do the majority of the talking, his guitar sound could become hushed or overpowering in an instant, depending on what the moment called for. This focus on song and emotional feel is what has always made Bob’s music so memorable.
Even during the excessive 1970s, when guitarists used gigantic amp rigs and traded off guitars between every song in a set, Bob stuck to using the same few that he had always used. It’s hard to imagine not seeing a picture of Bob performing live, dreads swinging away and Gibson Les Paul Special in hand. Yet, there it was. Always wrapped up in his arms. Every performance. While some remain in the possession of the Marley family and others have been sold at auction, Bob Marley’s guitars still remain just as iconic as he does. Check out the evolution of Bob’s guitar lineup and you’ll see how his influence has lasted from the 1970s to the present:
Regarded as many guitarist’s favorite model, the Fender Stratocaster played by Bob Marley is known for its sharp, clean sound. This makes it perfect for playing the slinky reggae of Bob’s earlier records. Here below on a performance of “Stir It Up” from the Old Grey Whistle Test, Bob plays his brown sunburst Fender strat and shows off its trademark sound.
Used during his 1980 tour, Bob Marley’s Ovation Adamas guitar made an impact on his son, Julian, who still uses the same model of guitar today. While the newer models of Ovation Adamas still have the signature sound holes near the top of the guitar’s body, the inside of these beauties have been changed to create a lighter body. Click below to watch Bob Marley play “Redemption Song” on his infamous acoustic in Dortmund, Germany.
Washburn 22 Series Hawk
Of the seven guitars Bob Marley is said to have owned, it’s nearly impossible to find a picture of the singer playing his Washburn 22 series Hawk. Given as a gift from Bob Marley to his former guitar tech, Gary Clausen, the guitar was shrouded in secrecy since leaving its original owner’s hands. Said to be in the possession of the Jamaican government, it’s still considered one of the most valuable guitars in the world at $1 to 2 million dollars.
Gibson Les Paul Special
Perhaps the most well known of all Bob Marley’s guitars, the Les Paul Special holds a special significance for fans who saw him perform live with it. Customizing it with some of his own retro-fitting, Bob took off a few pieces of the guitar’s hardware and filled in some holes with wooden dowels. When Gibson recreated the classic guitar in 2002, they followed Bob’s handmade specs when building the limited edition run of 200 instruments. In the live performance of “Satisfy My Soul” below, Marley uses his classic Gibson and shows off its signature fat sound.