By the Numbers: Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Legend

Let’s get together and review the stats.


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Some compilation albums are just compilation albums, but some compilations are legendary. That’s the case with one that was released in early May 40 years ago. Celebrating the greatest hits of reggae artist and activist Bob Marley and his band, The Wailers, Legend became a phenomenon unto itself, working its way to being one of the most consistently popular albums of all time. Here’s a look at Legend by the numbers.

Three Founders

Bob Marley formed the original incarnation of the Wailers in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963 with Neville Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer) and Winston Hubert McIntosh (aka Peter Tosh). The band expanded immediately, including a number of other musicians and singers. Wailer and Tosh played on the first six albums before leaving in 1974. Due to various configurations, there were 11 different lineups of musicians between 1964 and 1981.

Fourteen Tunes

“Get Up, Stand Up” live in 1980 (Uploaded to YouTube by Bob Marley)

Of the 14 songs on Legend, the original line-up is featured on three: “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Stir It Up,” and “I Shot the Sheriff.” “Redemption Song” was pulled from 1980’s Uprising album. The remaining 10 songs were made up of all of the group’s U.K. releases that reached the Top 40.

Top to Bottom

“Three Little Birds” (Uploaded to YouTube by Bob Marley)

Those U.K. charters were: “No Woman, No Cry (Live ’75)” (#8, 1975); “Exodus” (#14, 1977); “Waiting in Vain” (#27, 1977); “Jamming/Punky Reggae Party” (#9, 1977); “Is This Love” (#9, 1978); “Satisfy My Soul” (#21, 1978); “Could You Be Loved” (#5, 1980); “Three Little Birds” (#17, 1980); “Buffalo Soldier” (#4, 1983); and “One Love/People Get Ready” (#5, 1984). The group never charted on the U.S. Hot 100.


Bob Marley was only 36 years old when he died of cancer in 1981. Between 1965 and 1980, he and the Wailers released 12 official albums. A thirteenth, 1983’s Confrontation, compiled previously unreleased material.

May 7, 1984

“One Love/People Get Ready” (Uploaded to YouTube by Bob Marley)

The Legend compilation went into wide release 40 years ago this week. It served the function that most “greatest hits” packages do, bringing an artist’s best or most popular songs together in one place. In the case of Marley, Legend would transcend all of the previous releases to become his most popular album by leaps and bounds.

12 Million

Despite the fact that Marley never hit the U.S. Hot 100, Legend has sold over 12 million copies in the States. It has sold over 3.3 million copies in the U.K. and is the country’s 17th best-seller of all time. It is far and away the single best-selling reggae album globally, clocking in around 25 million.


“Buffalo Soldier” (Uploaded to YouTube by Bob Marley)

Amid any discussion of the success and reach of Legend, two bits of information cannot be overstated. In the United States, as of May of 2024, the album has been on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart for a mind-boggling 833 consecutive weeks. That’s the second-longest span in the history of the chart, trailing only Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon for longevity. In the U.K., it’s been even longer, hanging around in the Top 100 of the U.K. Albums Chart for the past 1,132 weeks.

Those numbers are absolutely crazy for two reasons: one, just look at them; and two, the album has maintained that sustained popularity across decades that reignited decades after the original release. Songs like “Three Little Birds” are more widely heard in film and television today than they ever were in 1980, tunes like “Redemption Song” pop up in popular TV shows like Lost, and songs like “No Woman, No Cry” appear in remixes for trailers for blockbuster films like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Just this year, a new biographical film, Bob Marley: One Love, saw release, and it’s presently the ninth highest grossing movie of the year. And of course, the album’s songs are ubiquitous on college campuses, beach resorts, and any bar that serves Red Stripe.

“Redemption Song” (Uploaded to YouTube by Bob Marley)

Today, the music of Bob Marley is kept alive by a continuing version of The Wailers and the musical careers of his many children and grandchildren. His son, Ziggy, has been an international star since the 1980s. Bob Marley’s grandson, YG Marley (son of Rohan Marley and American superstar Lauryn Hill), released his debut single, “Praise Jah in the Moonlight” in late 2023.  The song was written by YG and Hill, with credit given to Bob and the Wailers for employing a sample of the tune “Crisis;” it became a genuine international hit, reaching the Hot 100 in the U.S. and the U.K. Top Five.

Bob Marley made his music from a deeply spiritual place, one that propelled his activism and generated positivity. It’s certainly the core of why that music holds up. Even if you don’t share that background, you can still gravitate toward terrific music made by genuinely talented players. The fact that Marley’s music and the music of his comrades and family continues to thrive might actually serve as a reminder that occasionally, things gonna be alright.

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