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Marley, Rita

Rita Marley

1947—

Reggae artist, record producer, philanthropist

Perhaps best known as the widow of reggae legend Bob Marley and often called the "Queen of Reggae," Rita Marley has spent time and energy as the guardian of her late husband's estate and musical legacy, and, more important, as the keeper of the flame of his ideas. But her role in the history of Jamaican music has not been limited to her relationship with Bob Marley. In the mostly male-dominated field of reggae, she was a solo act of note before she ever joined with her husband musically, and she emerged as a successful artist on her own after his death. Moreover, as part of Bob Marley's backing trio of female vocalists, the I-Threes, Rita Marley was an important contributor to the music that made her husband famous worldwide. She has also emerged as an important booster of economic development and self-sufficiency in her adopted home country of Ghana.

Rita Marley was born Alpharita Constantia Anderson in Cuba in 1947. Growing up poor, she was raised in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica, which spawned the careers of many of the musicians who created a rhythmically complex, spiritually inclined new music called reggae. Three of those musicians, who had formed a trio called the Wailers, often passed by the metal shack where Rita was living with her aunt and small child. The Wailers consisted of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer; they were among the first acts to record at the influential studio of producer Coxsone Dodd. Bob Marley, already a standout talent, made a special impact. "I remember how I would scream to hear his songs on the radio," Rita Marley told Interview.

Received Proposal on Paper

An aspiring singer herself, Rita asked the group to set up an audition with Dodd for her. The eighteen-year-old singer succeeded at the audition and was joined with two other young women in a trio called the Soulettes, with Bob Marley as their producer. The Soulettes scored several hits under Bob's leadership, and what was at first a purely professional relationship took a new turn one day when Wailer delivered to Rita a handwritten love note from Bob. The two married in 1966. Rita Marley had a solo hit of her own, "Pied Piper," and also sang backup on some of the Wailers' early recordings.

Marley influenced her husband in what became the central spiritual tenet of his music—the Jamaican variant of Christianity known as Rastafarianism. It was she who turned out for a personal appearance by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie—thought by Rastafarians to be the returned Jesus Christ—and noticed marks on his hands that she believed were the nail scars left by Christ's crucifixion. Marley, a former Sunday school teacher, converted to Rastafarianism and induced her husband to do the same. One of the recordings that would really launch his fame as a solo artist and bandleader in the early 1970s was "Jah Live," an anthem written after Selassie's death.

For that record, Bob Marley assembled another backing trio, dubbed the I-Threes and consisting of Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, and Marcia Griffiths—all of whom would go on to important solo careers. The I-Threes evolved into a fundamental component of the reconstituted Bob Marley and the Wailers, which over the course of the 1970s forged an internationally popular music that featured a language of its own that expressed Rastafarian concepts; a distinctive look featuring the twined strands of hair known as dreadlocks; and a political side that looked to the eventual overthrow of the white elites who ruled the peoples of the African diaspora.

Wounded at Home by Gunmen

With Bob Marley and the Wailers, Rita Marley and the I-Threes toured the world, appearing as far afield as newly independent Zimbabwe. In 1976 the Marleys became victims of Jamaica's notoriously violent political culture; they were shot in their home by gunmen two days before performing a benefit concert for a socialist-oriented political party. Wounded, both still performed—Rita in her hospital gown. The I-Threes also appeared on their own, and Rita Marley was making plans to release a solo album when Bob Marley died of brain cancer in 1981, at the age of thirty-six.

After her husband's death, Marley went ahead with plans to release the album, Who Feels It Knows It. Far from being a funeral dirge lamenting Bob's death, the album showcased Rita's musical personality. It contained a comic piece about marijuana, "One Draw," which was banned by radio stations due to a passage in which a schoolteacher instructs her students in the enjoyment of the drug.

The controversy fueled sales of the album, and Marley went on to record two more successful albums in the 1980s, released in the United States on the roots-oriented Shanachie label. The 1990 album We Must Carry On, which included several previously unknown Bob Marley compositions, was nominated for a Grammy Award. She also contributed backup vocals to albums by other artists ranging from West African reggae star Alpha Blondy to Haitian-American rapper Wyclef Jean.

Rights to Estate Contested

Much of Marley's energy in the 1980s, however, was devoted to the care of her husband's legacy in various ways. Bob Marley died without a will, and associates from several phases of his career came out of the woodwork to contest the Marley family's rights to his estate, valued in the tens of millions of dollars. The resulting litigation went all the way to the Jamaican Supreme Court, which ruled in Rita Marley's favor in 1991. Legal activity continued through the 1990s, however. Marley produced several albums by her son Ziggy Marley and his band, the Melody Makers, and worked successfully to promote the group's career.

At a Glance …

Born Alpharita Constantia Anderson in 1947 in Cuba; married Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley (a singer), 1966 (deceased 1981); children: Sharon, Cedella, David (Ziggy), Stephen, Stephanie, and Serita. Religion: Rastafarian.

Career: Began performing, mid-1960s; joined trio, the Soulettes, and recorded with Bob Marley as producer; performed in Bob Marley's backing trio, the I-Threes, 1970s; solo artist, 1981—; chair of Bob Marley Foundation and curator of Bob Marley Museum, Kingston, Jamaica; founded Rita Marley Foundation, 1998; produced albums by Ziggy Marley and her other children and other artists; involved in operations of Marley family-owned Tuff Gong record label.

Awards: Personality of the Year in Ghana, 2004.

Addresses: Home—Ghana. Office—Rita Marley Foundation, PO Box 34, Aburi-Akwapim, Ghana.

She also cared for her husband's other ten children, several of which he had fathered with other women. In 1998 Marley established the Rita Marley Foundation as a sister organization of the Bob Marley Foundation. Both foundations served as the bases for Marley's work to help residents of impoverished areas become more self-sufficient. A few years later Marley moved to Ghana, where she both lives and runs her foundation, as well as a studio outpost of the Marley family's Jamaica-based Tuff Gong empire of recording and production operations. There, through her foundation, she has distributed vaccinations, furnished schools, helped develop community agricultural projects, and delivered needed household goods to remote villages. Meanwhile, she has continued to record and tour extensively, releasing several albums during the first decade of the twenty-first century, and producing albums for other musicians, mostly her own children. In 2004 Marley published a memoir, cowritten with Hettie Jones, called No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley. The book recounted in wrenching detail the story of their relationship, from the streets of Trenchtown to the heights of international stardom.

In 2008 two different movie projects focusing on the life of Bob Marley were launched. Early in the year acclaimed director Martin Scorsese announced plans to make a documentary about Marley, to be coproduced by Tuff Gong, with Rita's blessing. Just a couple months later producer Harvey Weinstein announced that he would produce a film version of Rita Marley's book, No Woman No Cry, with Marley as executive producer. Marley expressed her hope that she would be played by award-winning singer/rapper Lauryn Hill in the movie adaptation. The appearance so close together of two competing movies sparked conflict over the rights to use Bob Marley's music, which the Marley family had historically refused to license. Initially, the family refused to license the music to Weinstein, even though Rita was named as an executive producer on the project. The problem was that the family had already granted rights to Scorsese, and they saw the Weinstein film, which was likely to hit the theaters around the same time, as a threat to the Scorsese documentary, in which they were already invested. In May of 2008 Scorsese withdrew from the Marley project and was replaced by fellow award-winning director Jonathan Demme. As of late 2008 neither the Weinstein movie nor the Demme documentary had progressed significantly.

Regardless of what Marley accomplishes during her life, in either the musical or philanthropic realm, her name will always be most closely tied to the work of her late husband, who she concedes had a profound influence in making her the person she has become. Marley is head of the Bob Marley Foundation in Kingston, which operates a museum devoted to the singer's life and work. "He was a good boy, still is, and that's why we have to carry on his mission," Marley explained to the Guardian of her work with the foundation. "He was a father figure for me," she continued. "He saved me from being somebody else. I could have been prime minister, I could have been a prostitute on the streets, but I am what I am and Bob has a lot to do with that."

Selected works

Books

(With Hettie Jones) No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley, Hyperion, 2004.

Albums

Who Feels It Knows It, Shanachie, 1981.

Harambe, Shanachie, 1983.

We Must Carry On, Shanachie, 1990.

One Draw: The Best of Rita Marley, Varese Sarabande, 2002.

Sings Bob Marley … and Friends, Shanachie, 2003.

Sunshine after Rain, Snapper, 2003.

Play Play, Universal International, 2004.

Live in San Francisco, 2B1, 2008.

Sources

Books

Marley, Rita, with Hettie Jones, No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley, Hyperion, 2004.

Periodicals

Billboard, July 6, 1991, p. 8; November 28, 1992, p. 10; March 4, 2008.

Daily News (South Africa), March 7, 2008, p. 10.

Guardian (London), October 30, 1996, p. 13; August 2, 2000, p. 4.

Hollywood Reporter, March 21, 2008, p. 1.

Interview, January 1995, p. 88.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, January 22, 1999.

People, November 19, 1984, p. 221.

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), October 20, 2001, p. E1.

Relix, October 25, 2004.

Sunday Tribune (South Africa), February 4, 2007, p. 6.

Online

"Competing Bob Marley Films Fight Over Music Rights," CBCnews, March 23, 2008, http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2008/03/23/marley-biopic-documentary.html?ref=rss (accessed August 19, 2008).

"The Queen of Reggae," Rita Marley Foundation, http://ritamarleyfoundation.org/about_rita.html (accessed August 19, 2008).

"Rita Marley," allmusic, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll (accessed August 19, 2008).

"Rita Marley: A Philanthropist and a Patriot," Public Agenda, February 3, 2006, http://www.ghanaweb.com/public_agenda/article.php?ID=4805 (accessed August 19, 2008).

"The Weinstein Company Acquires Rights to Produce the First Ever Feature Film about Legendary Musician Bob Marley" (Weinstein Company news release), Reuters, March 4, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS176364+04-Mar-2008+PRN20080304 (accessed August 19, 2008).

—James M. Manheim and Bob Jacobson

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Marley, Rita

Rita Marley

Singer, songwriter, producer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Queen of Reggae is a title often used to describe Rita Marley. Even if she had never sung a note in her life, few would question her right to be so called, for she is the widow of the late reggae master Bob Marley and mother of all the members of the Grammy Award-winning reggae quartet the Melody Makers. But Rita Marleys own musical achievements are as impressive as those of her family tree. During the 1960s she achieved stardom in her own right as a solo artist (sometimes singing under the pseudonyms Esete and Ganette) and as a member of the Soulettes; after marrying Marley, she co-wrote many of his best-loved songs and shared the world stage alongside him as a member of his backing group the I Threes; after his death, she took her solo career to new heights and helped guide the Melody Makers to their triumphs.

Born in poverty in Cuba, Rita Marley was raised from early childhood in Trenchtown, a Kingston, Jamaica, ghetto that nurtured many of reggaes greatest musicians. But the music called reggae had not yet emerged when Rita first met the young man who would develop into its greatest proponent, Robert Marley. Their paths crossed in the mid-1960s. She was eighteen years old, the mother of an illegitimate child, living with her aunt in a shack made of sheet metal. He was a couple of years older than she, and along with his friends Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, he was enjoying the first flush of fame with his musical trio, the Wailers.

The Wailers captured Ritas attention as they passed by her house every day on their way to rehearse at Coxsone Dodds recording studios. Rita, a Sunday school teacher in the Christian church at the time, found their tough appearance somewhat intimidating; but the sweet sound of their music convinced her that they could not be as bad as they looked. She gathered her courage to call out to them, begging them to arrange an audition for her at Dodds.

They did, and Dodd liked what he heard. He set Rita up in an all-female trio called the Soulettes and gave Bob Marley the responsibility of developing their sound. He proved to be a stern taskmaster, but his hard-driving ways soon paid off; the Soulettes quickly became almost as popular as the Wailers. Their early hits performed in the light ska style that preceded the development of the reggae soundincluded Pied Piper and I Love You Baby, arranged by Bob Marley. His attitude toward the Soulettes remained professional, critical, and distant, so Rita was astonished when Bunny Wailer delivered a handwritten note to her from Bob, in which he declared his love for her. The two were married in 1966.

For the Record

Born Alpharita Constantia Anderson in 1947 in Cuba; married Robert Nesta Marley (a musician), February 10, 1966; children: (with Marley) David (Ziggy), Cedella, Stephen, Stephanie; Sharon, Serita.

Worked as nurse in Delaware, 1970-72. Began performance career, mid-1960s, sometimes under pseudonyms Esete and Ganette; member of the Soulettes, mid- to late 1960s; member, with Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, of trio I Threes, beginning in early 1970s; with I Threes, toured North and South America, Europe, and Africa with Bob Marley and the Wailers, 1974-80. Producer with Rita Marley Records; producer and manager for the Melody Makers. Proprietor of Ethiopian restaurant, Kingston, Jamaica; manager of Bob Marley museum, Kingston; executive of Tuff Gong Records.

Addresses: Home Kingston, Jamaica. Record company Shanachie Records, 37 East Clinton St., Newton, NJ 07860.

Rastafarianism, the religion that holds that Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was the risen Christ who would lead blacks the world over to freedom, was beginning to exert a powerful influence in Kingston during the late 1960s, but Rita Marley remained skeptical. When Selassie visited the island, she turned out with thousands of others to see him for herself, hoping for a sign. As his motorcade passed her, he waved and nodded to her; in his open palm, she believed she saw the nail prints of the crucifixion, and from that moment on, her faith was unwavering. Her conversion deeply impressed her husband and influenced him to study and accept the Rastafarian beliefs that became so essential to his music and philosophy.

By the early 1970s, the Wailers had begun to reach an international audience, but the alliance of the original members was drawing to an end. Haile Selassie died just after Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer went their separate ways. The emperors death stunned the Rasta world.

Within days of the announcement, Marley had written Jah Live, a single that affirmed the Rasta faith and insisted that their God lived on. To back him up as he recorded the song, he called together his wife and two more of the countrys favorite female vocalists, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. (The Soulettes had disbanded some time before.) The collaboration of Rita, Griffiths, and Mowatt was so successful that they continued to work together as the I Threes. Popular in their own right, they also became an integral part of Marleys reorganized band, Bob Marley and the Wailers. Touring the world with the Wailers, the I Threes were a mesmerizing part of every performance, contributing their perfect harmonies, graceful choreography, and regal bearing.

Rita Marley was at work on her first solo album when, in 1981, her husband succumbed to cancer. In the wake of his death, she released the album, which yielded the top-selling reggae single in history, One Draw. But although that album, Who Feels It Knows It, and its follow-up, Harambe, were critical and popular hits, Marley soon set her own career aside. Nurturing her husbands children (seven by other women, as well as the four theyd had together), working to keep his cultural legacy strong, and grappling with the monumental legal problems associated with his multimillion dollar estatehe died leaving no willoccupied her time for most of the 1980s. She performed occasionally in Jamaica, both as a solo artist and with the I Threes, but her main musical focus was producing and managing the fledgling Melody Makers.

By the late 1980s, most of the children were grown, the Melody Makers were a firmly established success, and the years of legal feuding over the Marley estate were drawing to a close, with the Jamaican Supreme Court ultimately ruling, in 1991, that control of the estate should go to the Marley family. The time was finally right for Rita Marley to resume her solo career. In 1990 she released We Must Carry On, and it was as well received as all of her previous musical efforts had been. The album embraced political and social messages as well as songs of love and relationships and included four compositions by Bob Marley, two of them previously unreleased.

Affirming her deep faith in the power of music to Christian Science Monitor correspondent Amy Duncan, Marley declared that musics main purpose is to bring about changes in the system, in the society. Quoting the lyrics to her song There Will Always Be Music, the singer concluded: All things shall perish from under the sky but music alone shall live. Whatever time were passing through, there will always be music.

Selected discography

Who Feels It Knows It, Shanachie, 1982.

Harambe, Shanachie, 1983.

We Must Carry On, Shanachie, 1990.

Sources

Books

Davis, Stephen, Bob Marley, Doubleday, 1985.

White, Timothy, Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, Holt, 1983.

Periodicals

Billboard, August 15, 1992; September 12, 1992.

Christian Science Monitor, June 20, 1991.

Jet, December 30, 1991.

Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1990; July 16, 1991.

Newsweek, April 8, 1991.

Washington Post, August 25, 1991.

Joan Goldsworthy

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Marley, Rita 1947–

Rita Marley 1947

Reggae singer

Proposal on Paper

Wounded at Home by Gunmen

Rights to Estate Contested

Selected discography

Sources

Perhaps best known as the widow of reggae legend Bob Marley and often called the Queen of Reggae, Rita Marley has spent time and energy as the guardian of his estate and musical legacy, and, more important, as the keeper of the flame of his ideas. But her role in the history of Jamaican music has not been limited to her family relationship with Bob Marley. In the mostly male-dominated field of reggae, she was a solo act of note before she ever joined with her husband musically, and she emerged as a successful artist on her own after his death. Moreover, as part of Bob Marleys backing trio of female vocalists, the I-Threes, Rita Marley was an important contributor to the music that made her husband famous worldwide.

Rita Marley was born Alpharita Constantia Anderson in Cuba in 1947. Growing up poor, she was raised in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica, that spawned the careers of many of the musicians who created a rhythmically complex, spiritually inclined new music called reggae. Three of those musicians, who had formed a trio called the Wailers, often passed by the metal shack where Rita Anderson was living with her aunt and small child. The Wailers consisted of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer; they were among the first acts to record at the influential studio of producer Coxsone Dodd. Bob Marley, already a standout talent, made a special impact. I remember how I would scream to hear his songs on the radio, Rita Marley told Interview.

Proposal on Paper

An aspiring singer herself, Rita asked the group to set up an audition with Dodd for her. The 18-year-old singer succeeded at the audition and was joined with two other young women in a trio called the Souletteswith Bob Marley as their producer. The Soulettes scored several hits under Marleys leadership, and what was at first a purely professional relationship took a new turn one day when Bunny Wailer delivered to Rita Anderson a handwritten love note from Bob Marley. The two married in 1966. Rita Marley had a solo hit of her own, Pied Piper, and also sang backup on some of the early recordings of the Wailers.

Marley influenced her husband in what became the central spiritual tenet of his musicthe Jamaican variant of Christianity known as Rastafarianism. It was she who turned out for a personal appearance by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassiethought by Rastafarians to be

At a Glance

Born Alpharita Constantia Anderson in 1947, in Cuba; married Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley, 1966; children (with Marley): David (Ziggy), Cedella, Stephen, Stephanie, Sharon, and Serita. Religion: Rastafarian.

Career: Began performing, mid-1960s; joined trio, the Soulettes, and recorded with Bob Marley as producer; performed in Bob Marleys backing trio, the l-Threes, 1970s; released solo debut, Who Feels It Knows It, 1981; became curator of Bob Marley Museum, Kingston, Jamaica; released We Must Carry On, 1990.

Addresses: Home Kingston, Jamaica. Office Rita Marley Music, c/o Lorna Wainwright, 220 Marcus Garvey Drive, Kingston 11, Jamaica W.1.

the returned Jesus Christand noticed marks on his hands that she believed were the nail scars left by Christs crucifixion. Marley, a former Sunday school teacher, converted to Rastafarianism and induced her husband to do the same. One of the recordings that would really launch his fame as a solo artist and bandleader in the early 1970s was Jah Live, an anthem written after Selassies death.

For that record, Bob Marley assembled another backing trio, dubbed the I-Threes and consisting of Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, and Marcia Griffithsall of whom would go on to important solo careers. The I-Threes evolved into a fundamental component of the reconstituted Bob Marley and the Wailers, which, over the course of the 1970s, forged an internationally popular music that featured a language of its own that expressed Rastafarian concepts, a distinctive look featuring the twined strands of hair known as dreadlocks, and a political side that looked to the eventual overthrow of the white elites who ruled the peoples of the African diaspora.

Wounded at Home by Gunmen

With Bob Marley and the Wailers, Rita Marley and the I-Threes toured the world, appearing as far afield as newly independent Zimbabwe. In 1976 the Marleys became victims of Jamaicas notoriously violent political culture; they were shot in their home by gunmen two days before performing a benefit concert for a socialist-oriented political party. Both were wounded, but still performedRita in her hospital gown. The I-Threes also appeared on their own, and Rita Marley was making plans to release a solo album when Bob Marley died of brain cancer in 1981, at the age of 36.

After her husbands death, Marley went ahead with plans to release the album, Who Feels It Knows It. Far from being a funeral dirge lamenting Bob Marleys death, the album showcased Ritas musical personality. It contained a comic piece about marijuana, One Draw, which was banned by radio stations due to a passage in which a schoolteacher instructs her students in the enjoyment of the drug. The controversy fueled sales of the album, and Marley went on to record two more successful albums in the 1980s; they were released in the United States on the roots-oriented Shanachie label. The 1990 album We Must Carry On, which included several previously unknown Bob Marley compositions, was nominated for a Grammy award. She has also contributed backup vocals to albums by other artists ranging from West African reggae star Alpha Blondy to Haitian-American rapper Wyclef Jean.

Rights to Estate Contested

Much of Marleys energy in the 1980s, however, was devoted to the care of her husbands legacy in various ways. Bob Marley died without a will, and associates from several phases of his career came out of the woodwork to contest the Marley familys rights to his estate, valued in the tens of millions of dollars. The resulting litigation went all the way to the Jamaican Supreme Court, which ruled in Rita Marleys favor in 1991. Legal activity continued through the 1990s, however. Marley produced several albums by her son Ziggy Marley and his band, the Melody Makers, and worked successfully to promote the groups career.

She also cared for all of her husbands other ten children, several of which he had fathered with other women, and is even said to have cooperated with U.S. director Ron Shelton, who wrote a script for a warts-and-all treatment of Marleys life. He was a good boy, still is, and thats why we have to carry on his mission, Marley explained to the Guardian of her work as head of Kingstons Bob Marley Foundation, which operates a museum devoted to the singers life and work. He was a father figure for me, she told the Guardian. He saved me from being somebody else. I could have been prime minister, I could have been a prostitute on the streets, but I am what I am and Bob has a lot to do with that.

Selected discography

Who Feels It Knows It, Shanachie, 1982.

Harambe, Shanachie, 1983.

We Must Carry On, Shanachie, 1990.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, volume 10, Gale Research, 1993.

Periodicals

Billboard, July 6, 1991, p. 8; November 28, 1992, p. 10.

The Guardian (London, England), October 30, 1996, p. 13; August 2, 2000, p. 4.

Interview, January 1995, p. 88.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, January 22, 1999, p. Cue-5.

People, November 19, 1984, p. 221.

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), October 20, 2001, p. E1.

Online

All Music Guide, http://allmusic.com

http://reggaetrain.com

James M. Manheim

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