In April 1980, Bob Marley and the Wailers were afforded the highest honor of their musical careers. On April 18th, the country Rhodesia was to celebrate its independence from England and Bob Marley and The Wailers were invited to perform at the ceremony. From that day forward the African nation was to be called Zimbabwe.

Officials from Zimbabwe's government-elect invited Marley and the band to perform at the Independence ceremonies. Cost was to be no barrier: Marley, whose "Zimbabwe" tune had proved inspirational to the ZANLA (Zimbabwe National Liberation Army) freedom fighters, was paying for it all out of his own pocket. He would be playing amidst the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, an enormous pyramid built by Solomon and Sheba.

What no one had thought to inform Bob and his team of was the precise nature of the first show they would be playing. The concert was scheduled for the slot immediately following the independence ceremony, and was to be performed for an exclusive audience of assembled dignitaries and media. As well as the ZANLA party faithful, the international luminaries included Zimbabwe's first Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, Britain's Prince Charles and India's Indira Gandhi.

Such a schedule implied that the events would have an exact order. But instead, Mick Cater said: '"It was complete anarchy. Bob went on immediately after the flag-raising ceremony. We'd arrived at 8:30 in the evening, and were leisurely getting ready. We hadn't realised just how suddenly they expected us onstage. When they announced us, we weren't ready at all."

In fact, the first official words uttered in Zimbabwe, following the raising of the new nation's flag, were, "Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Marley and The Wailers."


Twenty minutes later Bob and the Wailers started their set. As soon as the first notes rang out, pandemonium broke loose in the enormous crowd gathered by the entrance to the sports stadium: the gates shook and began to break apart as the crush increased, the citizens of Harare both excited and angry at being excluded from seeing these inspirational musicians.

The too hasty response of the security forces? To fire tear gas directly into the crowd. Bob and the rest of the group were escorted to safety.

Order was only restored when ZANLA guerrillas marched through the stadium with raised clenched fists. Bob and the group returned to the stage shouting 'Freedom!' and a crisp English voice from the other end of the stadium announced: 'Bob Marley, you have exactly two minutes left.' Bob responded with "War." The audience jumped and chanted, shouting 'War!'

Then came "No More Trouble." Dennis Thompson frantically mixed the sound that poured out of the twenty-foot-high speaker boxes. Now running a quarter of an hour over their allotted two minutes, The Wailers performed 'Zimbabwe', with the entire audience joining in the chorus line.

It was decided that the group would play another concert the following day, to give the ordinary people of Zimbabwe an opportunity to see Bob Marley. Over 100,000 people - an audience that was almost entirely black - watched this show by Bob and The Wailers. The group performed for 90 minutes, the musicians fired up to a point of near ecstasy. But Bob, who - uncharacteristically - hadn't bothered to sound check, was strangely lackluster in his performance; a mood of disillusionment had set in around him following the tear-gassing the previous day.