In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe. Contrary to urban legend, this lesion was not primarily caused by an injury during a football match that year, but was instead a symptom of the already-existing cancer. Marley turned down his doctors’ advice to have his toe amputated, citing his religious beliefs, and instead the nail and nail bed were removed and a skin graft taken from his thigh to cover the area. Despite his illness, he continued touring and was in the process of scheduling a world tour in 1980.
The album Uprising was released in May 1980. The band completed a major tour of Europe, where it played its biggest concert to 100,000 people in Milan. After the tour Marley went to America, where he performed two shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City as part of the Uprising Tour.
Bob Marley appeared at the Stanley Theater (now called The Benedum Center For The Performing Arts) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 23 September 1980; it would be his last concert. The only known photographs from the show were featured in Kevin Macdonald’s documentary film Marley.
Shortly afterwards, Marley’s health deteriorated as the cancer had spread throughout his body. The rest of the tour was cancelled and Marley sought treatment at the Bavarian clinic of Josef Issels, where he received a controversial type of cancer therapy (Issels treatment) partly based on avoidance of certain foods, drinks, and other substances. After fighting the cancer without success for eight months Marley boarded a plane for his home in Jamaica.
While Marley was flying home from Germany to Jamaica, his vital functions worsened. After landing in Miami, Florida, he was taken to the hospital for immediate medical attention. Bob Marley died on 11 May 1981 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami (now University of Miami Hospital) at the age of 36.
The spread of melanoma to his lungs and brain caused his death. His final words to his son Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life.