Rita Marley biography
Rita Marley is Bob Marley's widow, and is best known for carrying on her late husband's musical legacy and developing her own career as a solo artist. She has six children, three from her marriage with Bob. After Bob's death in 1981, Marley established a charitable organization, the Bob Marley Foundation, to fight poverty and hunger in developing countries.
Rita Marley was born as Alpharita (or Alfarita) Constantia Anderson in Cuba in 1947. Sometimes called the "Queen of Reggae," Rita Marley has carried on his musical legacy of her late husband, Bob Marley, and has developed her career as a solo artist. Abandoned by her mother when she was just 5 years old, she was raised along with her brother, Wesley, by their father and their aunt in the Kingston, Jamaica neighborhood of Trench Town, one of the city's roughest slums. Her mother took her other brother, Donovan, with her.
When she was 13, Marley was left in her aunt's care while her father moved to England to look for work. He supposedly told her that she would join him later, but that move never happened. After high school, Marley went to the Bethesda School of Practical Nursing. But an unexpected pregnancy derailed her education. She had her first child—a daughter she named Sharon—in 1964.
Starting out by singing along to the radio, Marley eventually began practicing with her cousin Constantine "Dream" Walker and her friend Marlene "Precious" Gifford. The trio later sang for the Wailing Wailers, a local group made of Bob Marley, Peter McIntosh (later Peter Tosh), and Bunny Livingston (later Bunny Wailer). The band liked what they heard and got the trio an audition with Clement "Coxsone" Dodd. Dodd ran the Studio One record label. The trio became known as the Soulettes, and Dodd asked Bob Marley serve as a mentor for the young group. The Soulettes had a hit with the song "I Love You, Baby." Sometimes the group also sang backup for the Wailers. Marley also had a few solo hits of her own, most notably, "Pied Piper."
Marriage to Bob Marley
Over time, Rita and Bob Marley fell in love, and they married in 1966. They welcomed their first child together, a daughter named Cedella, in 1967. The next year, the couple had their first son, David, who is known by the nickname "Ziggy." The couple struggled financially and professionally. They spent some time in the United States, working for singer Johnny Nash's JAD Records in the late 1960s and lived with Bob's mother for a time in Wilmington, Delaware. In the early 1970s, Rita returned to her mother-in-law's home to live and work, hoping to improve her family’s financial situation. With her daughters staying with her aunt, Rita had her son Ziggy with her, but decided to go home to Jamaica after she gave birth to son Stephen in 1972.
Returning to Jamaica, Rita discovered that Bob had been involved with two different women while she was away. Both women got pregnant and these children, Robert Marley and Rohan Marley, were born not long after Stephen.
In her autobiography, No Woman No Cry, Rita Marley wrote “I was very upset at first to learn about all this, though it’s common in Jamaica. But since then, I’ve come to love both of these boys and to think of them as my sons.” She maintained this generous attitude toward the several other children Bob had with other women throughout the years.
After the Wailers signed with Island Records in 1972, things began to turn around for the band members, but not necessarily for the Marleys. The group had their first album with the label, Catch a Fire, released internationally the next year, and they became to attract critical attention. With their popularity on the rise, the Wailers toured the United States and Europe. But Rita’s marriage was under a lot of stress with Bob often away and involved with other women. Rita herself had an extramarital affair, which disturbed Bob. While she was involved with both men at the time, she stated her autobiography that Bob was the father of her fourth child, a daughter named Stephanie, born in 1974. Around that same time, Rita—as part of the female trio the I-Threes—joined the group after Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left to pursue solo careers.
Death of Bob Marley
In 1976, the Marleys faced another hardship. A group of armed men attacked their home while the group was rehearsing there. Shielding her children, Rita had a bullet grazed her head and Bob was hit in the sternum and arm. Music manager Don Taylor was hit several times and required surgery to fix his wounds. While no motivation for the attack has been officially determined, many have thought that it may have been politically motivated. Bob Marley was seen as a supporter of the People’s National Party and the attack happened in the weeks before an important national election.
The couple continued to face many ups and downs in the remaining years of Bob Marley’s life. But they bonded together as he battled against cancer, a disease he would finally succumb to in 1981. Rita and many of his children were with him while he died on May 11, 1981, at a Miami, Florida, hospital. After his death, Rita was engaged in a lengthy legal battle over his estate since he had never written a will.
To honor her late husband, Rita and other members of the Marley family established a charitable organization. The Bob Marley Foundation helps people and organizations in the developing world. She also works to preserve his music and memory through numerous events, such as the annual Bob Marley Birthday Celebration in Jamaica. In 2004, her autobiography No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley was released. There have been reports that the book is slated to be made into a feature film.
A talented performer herself, Marley has pursued a solo career and released several albums, including Sunshine After Rain (2003) and Play Play (2004). She continues to perform live, having recently joined with Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt of the I Threes to play the Africa Unite concert in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.