May 11, 1981 is a day forever etched into the consciousness of former I-Threes member Judy Mowatt. Forty years after reggae legend Bob Marley lost his battle to cancer at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami (later University of Miami Hospital) at the age of 36, Mowatt recalls receiving the sad news via a telephone call as she sat on her veranda that Monday morning.
“I was not floored because of his illness which had gone on for so long (but) it was very painful. I was looking forward to seeing him again, even if not working with him, I was looking forward to seeing him again, then I realize that death is final. Bob was gone forever,” she said.
In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe. It was a symptom of already-existing cancer, acral lentiginous melanoma. Unlike other melanomas, it affects people of colour and occurs in places that are easy to miss, such as the soles of the feet, or under toenails. Once the melanoma was discovered, Marley refused to have his toe amputated citing his religious beliefs, choosing to remove the nail and nail bed instead.
Mowatt, who was a member of the original I-Threes alongside Marcia Griffiths and Rita Marley, remembers the days before Marley’s final concert in 1980.