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On This Day: Bob Marley survives an assassination attempt

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(MANDATORY CREDIT Ebet Roberts/Getty Images) JAMAICA - APRIL 22:  Photo of Bob MARLEY; Bob Marley performing live on stage at the One Love Peace concert at the National Stadium, Kingston  (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
Bob Marley on stage in Kingston (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series.

Bob Marley is a worldwide musical icon, but it’s difficult to imagine from his sunny reggae anthems why he was once targeted by ruthless gun-toting assassins. 

But the world’s most famous reggae artist nearly died on this day in 1976, when seven gunmen burst into his house and sprayed him with bullets. 

Kingston in Jamaica was violent and often lawless in the 1970s, and the assassination attempt happened due to misunderstandings over politics. 

Bob Marley had previously backed left-leaning Prime Minister Michael Manley, but wanted to stay out of the limelight in the 1976 election. 

KINGSTON, JAMAICA -  JULY 9:  Bob Marley relaxes with friends in front of his house at 56 Hope Road on July 9, 1970 in Kingston, Jamaica.  (Photo by Charlie Steiner - Hwy 67 Revisited/Getty Images)
Bob Marley relaxes with friends in front of his house at 56 Hope Road on July 9, 1970 in Kingston, Jamaica. (Charlie Steiner - Hwy 67 Revisited/Getty Images)

But when Marley proposed a free outdoor concert to calm tensions, Manley moved the date of the election to coincide with the concert, making it seem like the reggae star was endorsing him.

The move inflamed tensions and seven gunmen drove to Marley’s house where he was recording in his Tuff Gong studio. 

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Two white Datsuns drew up at the house, and the gunmen immediately shot Marley’s wife in the head - then burst into the studio with weapons blazing. 

Tyrone Downie, a keyboardist, recalled in a biography of Bob Marley, “At the moment when the gunmen broke in, we were rehearsing ‘I Shot The Sheriff’. Bob had stepped out, ’cause the horns weren’t on that record and the horn players wanted to play on it…

(GERMANY OUT) Bob Marley,Bob Marley (*06.04.1945-11.05.1981+) , Musiker, Sänger, Reggae, Jamaika, Auftritt bei einem Rock-Festival in München, - 1981  (Photo by Jürgen & Thomas / ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Bob Marley in Munich in 1981 (Photo by Jürgen & Thomas / ullstein bild via Getty Images)

“He came out of the rehearsal room and went into the kitchen to get a grapefruit or something. And all of a sudden you see a hand come through the door like, around the door, and start firing this .38.'

Miraculously, both Marley and his wife survived, Marley having been shot in the arm.

His manager Don Taylor was more seriously hurt, having been shot in the leg. 

Bob Marley and The Wailers perform on stage at the Odeon, Birmingham, United Kingdom, 18 July 1975. (Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns)
Bob Marley and The Wailers perform on stage at the Odeon, Birmingham, United Kingdom, 18 July 1975. (Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns)

Nancy Burke, who was in the house at the time, told the BBC, "The silence after seemed like forever, which was even more terrifying.”.

"The next sound I heard was somebody calling out to Diane, saying: 'Diane, Diane, come quick, Bob is shot.'"

"While I was doing that I saw Bob walk out with the police and he was holding his left arm. It was fantastic to see him on foot - looking really, really angry." 

KINGSTON, JAMAICA -  JULY 9:  Bob Marley relaxes with friends in front of his house at 56 Hope Road on July 9, 1970 in Kingston, Jamaica.  (Photo by Charlie Steiner - Hwy 67 Revisited/Getty Images)
Bob Marley relaxes with friends in front of his house at 56 Hope Road on July 9, 1970 in Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo by Charlie Steiner - Hwy 67 Revisited/Getty Images)

The attackers were found, tried in a local court, and executed. 

Two days later, Bob Marley performed live at the Smile Jamaica concert. 

He said, ‘“The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?”

Watch: Musical celebrating life and works of Bob Marley set for London stage

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