Thirty years after it was released, Bob Marley & the Wailers's Legend finally cracks the top 10 on The Billboard 200. The compilation, the one reggae album that everybody knows, vaults from #100 to #5 (41K). The reason for the surge? The album was discounted to just 99 cents in the Google Play store. That comes out to about six cents per song. (You could buy the entire digital album for 30 cents less than you would have had to pay for any one individual track!)
On one hand, it’s surprising that Legend has never before cracked the top 10, because greatest hits albums, especially by big-name artists, have a history of doing very well on the charts. On the other hand, it isn’t really surprising. Unlike, say, Eagles or Journey, both of which had a long string of hits before releasing their greatest hits albums, Marley only became a big star in the U.S. with this album.
There was little reason to think that Legend would become a blockbuster when it was released in the summer of 1984. Marley, who had died of cancer three years earlier, had not been a huge record seller in the U.S. Just two of his albums had reached the top 40. And he never had a top 40 single.
Sure enough, Legend got off to a slow start. It entered The Billboard 200 at #168 in August 1984. It was the sixth-highest of seven new entries that week, coming in below the latest releases by ‘80s faves Spandau Ballet and INXS and the little-remembered Y&T. Legend originally peaked at a middling #54 in October 1984. But it just never stopped selling.
In honor Marley’s album finally making the top 10, here are 10 facts you may not know about the classic album.
1. Legend has sold more copies since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking music sales, than any other album from the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s. It ranks ahead of such perennial hits as Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon and Journey's Greatest Hits. The album’s current sales tally (just since 1991, mind you): 11,643,000.
2. Legend and the Beatles's1 are the only greatest hits sets or compilations to top the 10 million mark in sales since 1991. The Beatles’s album, released in 2000, has sold 12.4 million copies. These compilations have sold more copies since 1991 than greatest hits albums by such top artists as Journey, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Guns N’ Roses.
3. Though Marley is a true music legend, Legend is just his second top 10 album. His first was Rastaman Vibration, which reached #8 in July 1976. Marley only this week pulls even with his son Damian Marley, who had a pair of top 10 albums in 2005 and 2010.
4. As an artist, Marley notched just one Hot 100 single, “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” which hit #51 in 1976. But several of his songs were well-known by the time Legend came out. Johnny Nash took the sensuous “Stir It Up” to #12 in April 1973. Eric Clapton took “I Shot The Sheriff” to #1 in September 1974. Perhaps most famously, the Jamaica Tourist Board used “One Love” as an endlessly-aired commercial jingle to lure travelers to the island.
5. Other artists, especially in the hip-hop realm, have continued to have success with Marley’s songs in the years since his death. Fugees included “No Woman, No Cry” on their #1 album The Score in 1996. Their remake made the top 40. Warren G had a top 20 hit with a 1997 update of “I Shot The Sheriff.”
6. This marks the first time that an album has taken 30 years to finally crack the top 10 on The Billboard 200. Two albums have taken more than 10 years to finally crack the top 10. Phil Collins's 1998 compilation, …Hits, took nearly 14 years to finally hit the top 10. (Like Legend, it surged because of a 99 cent sale.) Avenged Sevenfold's 2003 album Waking The Fallen took more than 11 years to finally hit the top 10. It achieved the feat just last week due to the release of a deluxe reissue.
7. This marks the third time that an album by an artist who has been dead for more than 30 years has made the top 10 on The Billboard 200. The Beatles's 1 returned to the top 10 in September 2011, nearly 31 years after the death of John Lennon. Led Zeppelin's first three albums returned to the top 10 in June, nearly 34 years after the death of drummer John Bonham.
8. This is Legend's 293rd week on The Billboard 200. As impressive as that total is, it would be far higher were it not for a rule that kept older “catalog” albums off the big chart until 2009, when a much-needed rule change allowed catalog albums to compete alongside current albums. The album reached a new peak, #26, in June 2011, and another new peak, #18, in August 2012, before finally cracking the top 10 this week.
9. Legend rebounds from #7 to #1 in its 1,128th week on Top Catalog Albums. This is the album’s 120th week at #1 on that chart since 1991. That’s more weeks on top than any other album. In fact, it’s more than the two runners-up combined. They are (of all things) Creed’s My Own Prison, with 54 weeks at #1, and the Grease soundtrack, with 52 weeks on top.
10. Legend isn’t the first catalog album to make the top 10 on The Billboard 200 after being discounted to just 99 cents by a digital retailer. In the space of four weeks in the summer of 2012, Phil Collins's aforementioned …Hits, Bee Gees's Number Ones and Frank Sinatra's Nothing But The Best all made the top 10 after being discounted to 99 cents in Amazon’s MP3 store. In March of that year, Guns N’ Roses’ Greatest Hits rebounded to #3, due to a 25-cent offer at Amazon MP3 and Google Play.
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