Many of us struggle with the legacy of our parents, especially if they passed away too young. But what if your father was one of the most iconic musicians ever, a man who single-handedly popularized a unique sound worldwide?
That's the question facing Ziggy Marley, the eldest son of Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley on the 30th anniversary year of his father's death from cancer at age 36. Ziggy Marley's answer is not what you might expect.
"In our culture, we've never been one to follow anniversaries or years," the 42-year-old singer and guitarist told AARP. "Every day is just a day, and we celebrate life, and the memory of our father. It's an everyday thing for us."
Bob Marley broke through as a worldwide star with "No Woman, No Cry" in 1975 and his subsequent top-10 album, Rastaman Vibration. In his initiation to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, he was described as the "Third World's first pop superstar."
Ziggy Marley has been quietly recalling his father's career not with brass plaques or speeches, but with music. The centerpiece has been a limited run "Legends of Reggae" show, which featured three of Bob Marley's contemporary reggae bands, The Wailing Souls, The Mighty Diamonds and his backing vocalists, the I-Threes.
We met Ziggy shortly after a "Legends of Reggae" concert at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A. Wearing a green T-shirt and a white knit cap to contain his dreadlocks, he sat on his office couch surrounded by pictures of his father and mother, Rita. She was one of the I-Threes singers and continues to manage the family's music business.
"For me, it was a way to give back to artists that came before me," he said about the reunion concert. "… The Marley name is great; it's out front — Marley, Marley, Marley. But I know for my father and myself, it was never a selfish thing about who we are — it was about the whole community" of reggae artists.
Ziggy Marley released his third solo album this summer, entitled Wild & Free. Produced by Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan), the album is a strong mix of traditional reggae and upbeat, breezy rhythms. It includes a stirring song, "Personal Revolution" that recalls one of his father's messages: to change yourself to help better the broader world.
"You look at what's happening in the Middle East today — social revolution, political revolution," Marley noted. "Those revolutions are necessary, but to really make a change, we need a personal revolution. We need people to make a change in their hearts"
His 21-year old son, Daniel, makes his recording debut as a rapper on the album. Ziggy Marley also performed with his parents, but at a significantly younger age — 11 years old.
One very important thing has changed from those early reggae days in the 1970s, according to Ziggy Marley. "People don't listen to music the same way as back in the day — now it's much more of a gloss over," he said. "The most important thing to me is the words… If you don't like the music — whatever — but listen to the words."
Ziggy Marley will be sharing those words this fall in a series of intimate club performances around the country.