Bob Marley Album Hits Sales Milestone
Released in 1984, "Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers" didn't stir it up on the charts. It entered Billboard at No. 168 and peaked at No. 54.
But the reggae icon's posthumous collection has lived up to its name by becoming only the 17th album to exceed sales of 10 million copies since Nielsen SoundScan began tabulating in 1991.
It's quite a feat for an artist who never had a top 40 single and didn't win a Grammy in his lifetime.
"It's a quiet blockbuster that has been fan-generated as opposed to pushed by hype or a big campaign," says Paul Grein, who writes the Chart Watch blog for Yahoo.com. "The most remarkable aspect is that it has sold more albums in the SoundScan era than any other album from the '60s, '70s or '80s, more than any other Beatles album except (the hits collection "1''). Lots of people would think of Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours,' Billy Joel's 'The Stranger' or Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' before 'Legend.' "
Selling 250,000 copies most years (and 211,000 so far this year), "Legend" has topped the catalog chart 110 times, twice as often as any other title. Its tally of 10,033,000 does not include a 2002 deluxe reissue or pre-SoundScan sales.
Packed with such classics as "Redemption Song," ''Stir It Up," ''One Love," ''I Shot the Sheriff" and "No Woman, No Cry," ''Legend" shows no signs of fading.
"It's gathering steam," Grein says. "A lot of the other 10-million-sellers have run out of gas and haven't been adding to their totals. This is the first to hit 10 million since Norah Jones' 'Come Away With Me' in February 2007. I imagine 'Legend' will eventually be No. 1 on this list, especially since new million-sellers aren't coming along."
Ten years ago, "Legend" ranked No. 52 on Nielsen SoundScan's list of top sellers. Today it's No. 17.
The hugely influential Marley "is widely recognized as one of the pioneering forefathers of reggae, who was instrumental in bringing mainstream attention to the genre," says Gail Mitchell, Billboard's R&B and hip-hop senior correspondent. "Thanks to his children carrying the torch, Marley has become a staple for succeeding generation of fans."
Grein suspects that half of "Legend's" buyers own no other reggae albums.
"It's the reggae equivalent of Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue,' which is the only jazz album a lot of people have," he says. "The joke about 'Legend' is that it sold so many copies because stoners can't remember that they already bought it."