During Zimbabwe’s historic 1980 independence celebration at Rufaro Stadium, Bob Marley’s performance took a dramatic turn when thousands of men, later revealed to be prisoners of war, broke out of jail to witness the legendary reggae artist. As Marley sang his third song, chaos erupted at the back of the stadium, prompting a concerned crew member to shield Ziggy Marley’s face from tear gas with a wet towel.
The concert briefly paused as the situation was brought under control, reflecting the intense devotion of these prisoners to their musical hero. Despite the disruption, Bob Marley and the Wailers resumed their performance, delivering powerful renditions of “Zimbabwe” and “Africa Unite” as the Rhodesian flag was ceremoniously lowered and the Zimbabwean flag raised, symbolizing the nation’s transition from colonial rule to independence. However, during the chaos, the I-Threes, including Rita Marley, were whisked away, leaving Bob Marley to perform without his backup singers. This remarkable event not only showcased the unwavering dedication of Bob Marley’s fans but also demonstrated the transformative power of music in uniting people in the pursuit of freedom and equality.