Bob Marley and Rita Marley:The Role of Rita Marley in Helping to Direct The Career of Bob Marley On The Path of Success
Bob Marley and Rita Marley
It is often said that behind every successful man is a woman and in the case of Bob Marley this is his wife Rita Marley.
Throughout Marley’s career Rita has been one of the steady female figures in his life.
In reference to the life of Bob Marley there has been much discussion about the many women with which he had affairs, in particular the relationship with Jamaican beauty contest winner Cindy Breakspear.
It is important in reflecting on the life of Marley to examine the role of Rita in helping to direct his career on the path of success.
"No Woman, No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley" by Rita Marley
In order to truly understand Bob Marley as a person it is valuable to examine him through the eyes of his closest family members.
The latest book by Rita Marley entitled "No Woman, No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley" has sent shockwaves throughout the many international and local admirers of Bob Marley.
Rita has become controversial in recent years after Marley’s death, however she remains a central figure in the continued promotion of Bob Marley’s life through her deep personal strength and unselfish commitment to ensuring the legacy of her husband is truthfully told.
The work is important as it helps to personalize Bob Marley rather than continue the approach of deification that has gripped most writers dealing with Bob Marley’s life.
It seems that the only person truly fit to discuss Marley and reveal all the negatives and positives of his personality would be Rita.
It is only through the eyes of Rita that a true description Marley’s personality can be explored without falling into the trappings of bitterness and false media promotion.
It is this personal biography by Rita Marley that we learn the love and devotion that they shared for each other as well as the turbulent times that strained there relationship.
Studio One and Bob Marley
Rita Marley tells the story of how she was raised in Trench Town, Kingston by her Aunty and moves through to her teenage years, which becomes the defining moment of her life.
It is during this time that Rita bears her daughter and in the quest to become a singer meets Bob Marley at Studio One, which was owned by the late great icon Coxsone Dodd.
There was an intense excitement that Rita felt about working at Studio One and in this story is a carefully weaved personal story of her knowledge of Bob Marley’s early years. Rita describes the early stages of Studio One and Bob Marley stating:
"Marcia Griffiths, who later sang with me as one of the I-Three, says that studio One was Jamaica's Motown, "where all the great stars grew ... like a university
you graduate." A lot of times different people would be working at once; songs
were being written in every corner. You couldn't help but learn if you kept your
ears open. Coxsone had a guitar that he loaned to those who were too poor to
buy one. Bob had that guitar most of the time."
Rita Marley is able to describe the early determination of Bob Marley to succeed in the music industry.
The growth of Studio One and Bob Marley occur together and represent a very important period in annals of the Jamaican music industry.
As Rita Marley highlights in the book the members of the society that made there way to Studio One were the social depressed and poverty stricken members of society often labeled as tough guys, killers and thieves. Rita and Marley were part of a generation dominated by what is referred to as the rude-boy ethic.
It is in the halls of Studio One that the relationship between Bob and Rita develops with Coxsone Dodd playing the role of matchmaker.
Bob was called upon by Coxsone to train Marcia and Rita then known as the “Soulette’s” and would later become the I-Threes. Rita describes the man who would later become her husband in the initial stages of the relationship stating:
"He was pretty handsome, I thought -- Robert Nesta Marley, Robbie to all of us then. Jamaicans would call him brown-skinned and Americans might say light-skinned. His father, Captain Norval Sinclair Marley,was an older white man, a native Jamaican who had retired from the British Army. Bob had much of his father's imprint; he was very half-black, half-white, with a high, round forehead, prominent cheekbones,and a long nose. His mother, Cedella "Ciddy" Malcolm, was seventeen when she met Norval. He was more than twice her age, and was then the superintendent for British-owned lands in the rural parish of St. Ann,where Ciddy lived. By the time she was nineteen, she'd been seduced by, married to, and then abandoned by Norval. The one time he saw his father, Bob used to say, the old man offered him a "Willy" penny (an old copper coin, thought of as a collector's item). Bob claimed he never saw Norval again."
Rita Marley highlights that it is through Bob Marley’s experience of being raised by a poor black mother in a society that viewed being light skinned as a privilege that helped to form his black consciousness.
Bob recognized at early age in the brief episodes with his father the predicament that faced black people and it is clear that he never forgot the wanton abuse of his mother by his father.
As Rita highlights the light skin was never recognized by Bob Marley and in a sense the colour of his skin served to fuel his black consciousness as it reminded him of his own personal experiences of white injustice.
In the book Rita Marley explains the unlikely romance that developed among them. Rita Marley explains stating:
"At first, and maybe always, I cared for Robbie Marley from a sisterly point of view. I was that sort of person, and still am -- the responsible kind. I saw him and I said, "poor thing." It wasn't "I love him," but "poor thing." My heart went out to him. I kept thinking, oh, what a nice boy. So nice that I didn't want to let him know I had a baby -- in those days, for a teenager to be unmarried and have a baby seemed so shameful. During this time I spent many hours at Studio One, rehearsing and recording, and always managed to conceal that fact. But one day, right in the middle of recording, my breasts started to leak, and Bob noticed. He said, a little surprised, "What's that? You have a baby?" It was not said unkindly."
It was Bob’s caring spirit for women that translated into the start of there relationship as Bob was able to move beyond the shame of having an unmarried baby to find the true person in Rita.
Bob Marley and I-Threes
It is often said that without Rasta there is no Bob Marley and one can equally say the same in relation to the I-Threes consisting of Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths.
Although it is undisputable that Bob was a musical genius it is important to recognize his very talented and renowned back-up singers.
In many ways one cannot imagine a proper Bob Marley performance without the melody and rhythm of the I-Threes.
The thought of having back-up vocalists first crossed the mind of Bob when he was staying with Lee Perry at his Washington Gardens residence in Kingston, Jamaica, this was in 1974.
The first song that Bob did with the I-Threes was “Jah Live” recorded in 1975.
After this recording Bob started to work on the album Natty Dread he invited the I-Threes to do the back up vocals for the entire album.
The I-Threes became a part of Bob’s act after he lessened his performances with Bunny and Peter.
In early 1975 they performed with Bob for the first time supporting the Jackson Five. Bob was now performing as Bob Marley and the Wailers, which ushered in a segment in the life of Rita and Bob.
Marley's Extra-marital Affairs
It is this part of the story of Rita and Marley that becomes a source of great intrigue and misconceptions.
The life of a superstar on the road is like a roller coaster filled with its ups and downs.
It is all throughout this period of their relationship that Rita has to deal with the fact that Marley is having extra-marital affairs.
It was the extra-marital affairs that strained the relationship between Bob Marley and Rita Marley.
This came to climax when as Rita reveals Bob raped her one night as he refused to take no for an answer.
This revelation is shocking to many people especially the admirers of Bob Marley.
In numerous interviews Rita Marley reveals her animosity towards the women Marley dealt with such as Cindy Breakspear.
In fact revealing her refusal to sing the back up vocals to the song “Turn the Lights down Low”.
The relationship although strained managed to go on as Rita Marley states in the book:
"Just because he did those things and cheated on me doesn’t mean he was a bad husband. He always provided for me, always gave me anything I wanted. But he was corrupted by show business, by the girls that would throw themselves at him. This is what I’ve come to understand.
In her discussion of her relationship with Bob in her book Rita Marley remembers the romantic times that they had together.
It seems that throughout the turbulent times of their relationship Rita Marley held on to those moments for patience. Rita states:
"We were so in love, Bob was so romantic and faithful, and I though we would always be like that. We’d be rehearsing and looking into each other’s eyes and singing, and then we’d put our mouths to each other’s. It was magic."
It is important to remember the relationship between Bob Marley and Rita Marley in this light. Although they had their marital problems it is there love for each other that kept them together.
It is this love that Rita had for Bob that is the reason why she is working tirelessly to continue the legacy of Bob Marley.
Rita Marley Established The Bob Marley Foundation
Rita in many ways has become a one-woman army promoting the cause of pan-Africanism shared by Bob Marley.
Rita Marley has established the Bob Marley Foundation, which looks after the estate of Bob Marley it also is a chartable organization.
The Bob Marley Foundation provides funding for community development in Africa and the Caribbean. As Rita explains in an interview:
"The unity of Africa, cause that's our theme: Africa Unite. We believe in the words of Marcus Garvey: "Black man, when you get your king, you get God." So we'll bring that unification, because we believe in God. It's not only for Ethiopia, it's a global thing. But we chose Ethiopia for the love of Ethiopia and for what Ethiopia stands for."
It is this philosophical motivation that led her to organize the 60th Birthday Celebrations of Bob Marley in Ethiopia.
It is to be noted that the Marley’s Birthday Celebrations will be held in Africa for several years to come.
Bob Marley Museum
Then there is the Bob Marley Museum, which serves as a reservoir of information on the life and times of Marley. Rita explains the activities of the museum:
"We have the Bob Marley Foundation in Kingston, a charitable organization, and the Bob Marley Museum. The museum now has a theatre, and exhibition hall, with photos by Neville Garrick and Adrian Boot. We've refurbished the museum, bringing it back to its original condition -- Cedella did a wonderful job with it. We've also added more information on Bob and Black history and leaders. The museum is now more like an educational center. People come from all over the world. We also have the Queen of Sheba Restaurant with Ethiopian food and the sorts of things Bob used to eat. So...we're very busy, every day of the year. We're keeping him in it. Everyone loves him, that's what keeps him alive and well."
In recognition Bob’s love and concern for Africa Rita spends most of her time now in Ghana. Rita lives in the Aburi Region of Accra Ghana where she has been installed as “Queen of Development” for the Akwapim district.
In this capacity Rita Marley is working with members of the community to build roads and provide clean water for residents.
In her capacity as chair of the Bob Marley Foundation she has made possible the adoption of Konkonuri Methodist School. At the school they have built new canteens, bathrooms and classrooms as well as sewing equipment and books.
When it is all said and done there is no other woman who has shared the vision of Bob Marley than Rita. The bonds that kept them together were there love for each other and for Africa.
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