KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Bob Marley’s potent music promoting “one love” and social justice roared Sunday as reggae lovers from around the globe gathered in his birthplace of Jamaica and the Rastafarian holy land of Ethiopia to celebrate the late star’s 60th birthday.

Huge speakers thumped the bass lines of Marley songs as dozens of tourists bobbed their heads and swayed along outside the singer’s home-turned-shrine in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has declared an official yearlong celebration to mark Marley’s birthday, while thousands are expected to attend tribute concerts to honor the singer, who died of cancer in 1981 at age 36.

At Marley’s former home, now a museum, tourists took turns getting their photographs taken with a bronze statue of the dreadlocked singer holding his Gibson guitar and pointing a finger skyward.

Chris Kern, of Austin, Texas, said the social commentary in songs like “No Woman, No Cry” drew him to Marley’s music at a young age.

“As I got older I started to understand the message even more because it came from the heart,” Kern said as a group of Rastafarians swayed to the beat while puffing on long marijuana “spliffs.”

Born Feb. 6, 1945, in rural St. Ann parish, Marley rose from the gritty shantytowns of Kingston to international stardom and remains one of Jamaica’s most beloved sons. His poignant lyrics calling for peace, love and justice made him an icon around the globe.

“He literally introduced Jamaica to millions worldwide, no matter where they lived, what language they spoke and despite their lot in life,” Marley photographer Howard Moo Young wrote in Sunday’s Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.

In East Africa, revelers jammed the main square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the first time a mass celebration for Marley’s birthday has been held outside Jamaica.

Tens of thousands attended the free event.

, dubbed “Africa Unite” after one of Marley’s songs. African stars paid tribute by performing at the concert, including Youssou N’dour and Baaba Maal of Senegal and Angelique Kidjo of Benin. Marley’s five sons, his widow Rita and other former “Wailers” also performed.

This year’s celebration was somewhat overshadowed by a surprise announcement from Rita Marley that she planned to exhume the singers remains in northern Jamaica and rebury them in his “spiritual homeland” of Ethiopia.

Enraged Jamaicans said she would be robbing Jamaica of its national heritage and the singer’s widow appeared to rethink, claiming she had been misquoted.

Marley’s lyrics were laden with references to his faith, in which followers worship Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie, as a living god, preach a strict oneness with nature and smoke marijuana as a sacrament.

In the volatile Trenchtown slum where Marley was raised, residents had soccer matches, a foot race, craft shows and other events in tribute of their favorite son.

The densely populated tenement area is still mired in the social troubles that informed his lyrics: it has been the site of frequent gunbattles between rival gangs, contributing to Jamaica’s record 1,445 homicides in 2004. More than 130 people have been slain on the island of 2.6 million so far this year.

The gangs are allied with Jamaica’s two main political parties. In 1978, Marley famously united warring political leaders Michael Manley and Edward Seaga in a solidarity handshake during his One Love Peace Concert in Kingston.

Looking for more such inspiration, Jamaican Gov. Gen. Sir Howard Cooke declared the singer’s anniversary a “violence-free” day across the island.

“We as individuals need to answer this call. Jamaica as a country needs to answer this call,” American reggae historian Robert Roskind wrote in a letter published in Sunday’s Jamaica Gleaner. “And the world needs this example of healing through one love.”


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