As the son of reggae legend Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley made a name for himself as one of the genre's leading artists. Ziggy and his siblings formed the Melody Makers in 1981 after their father's death. Their 1988 album, Conscious Party, won a Grammy and helped the group break through to mainstream audiences. Marley began a solo career in 2006 and went on to record several more Grammy Award-winning albums, including his self-titled 2016 studio effort.
Ziggy Marley was born as David Nesta Marley on October 17, 1968, in Kingston, Jamaica. The oldest son of reggae great Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley has continued the family's involvement in the music scene, making a name for himself as one of the genre's leading artists in the process. He spent some of his early years growing up in Trench Town, one of Kingston’s poorest neighborhoods, as his father tried to make a success of his band, the Wailers (later Bob Marley and the Wailers). His mother, Rita Marley, also a talented singer, joined the group in the mid-1970s.
Also in his youth, Marley spent some time in Wilmington, Delaware, where his younger brother Stephen was born in 1972. He already had an older sister, Cedella, and an older half-sister, Sharon, from his mother's previous relationship. The four siblings recorded their first song together, "Children Playing in the Streets," in 1979. Written by their father, the single addressed the horrible poverty that many children in Jamaica were living in. Royalties from the song were donated to the United Nations Children's Fund.
The Melody Makers
After his father's death in 1981, Marley performed with Stephen at his funeral. They went on to form the Melody Makers with Sharon and Cedella. While all four members provided the vocals, Ziggy also played guitar, an instrument his father had taught him. Stephen played the guitar as well and the drums. Performing as the Melody Makers, they released their next single, "What a Plot," later in 1981.
In 1985, the Melody Makers released their first album, Play the Game Right, which failed to garner much success. Their next effort, Hey World! (1986), met a similar fate, though it did receive many positive reviews.
Changing names, the group became Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers and released Conscious Party (1988) with Virgin Records. The album helped the group break through to mainstream audiences. Produced by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads, it incorporated elements of reggae, pop and rock. Handling much of the writing, Marley managed to imbue the songs with an upbeat, positive quality while remaining topical and thought-provoking. The track “Tomorrow People” became popular with many listeners, and the album did well on both the pop and R&B/hip-hop charts in the United States. In early 1989, the group brought home the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
With their next record, One Bright Day (1989), Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers had another critical success on their hands, and earned a second consecutive Grammy for Best Reggae Album. However, sales did not match those of their previous studio effort.
The group made several more albums together in the 1990s, including the Grammy Award-winning Fallen Is Babylon (1997), before later disbanding.
Solo Successes and Personal
Exploring social, political and personal topics in his songs, Marley released his first solo album, Dragonfly, in 2003. He had a number of guests on the recording, including Flea and John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the entire album had a strong rock and hip-hop flair to it. His next effort, Love Is My Religion (2006), won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
Marley continued to deliver critically acclaimed music, both as a solo artist and alongside family members and other celebrated performers like Donna Summer. His self-titled 2016 album took home the Grammy for Best Reggae Album, giving him a record seven Grammy wins in that category.
In addition to his music, Marley established the U.R.G.E. (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightment) organization to help children in poverty. He has four children with his wife, Orly Agai.
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