Soul Rebel: The Legacy of Bob Marley

It’s an image that has graced college dorm posters and stoner tie-dye t-shirts for generations: Bob Marley toking a huge joint, tendrils of smoke billowing around his dreadlocks, sometimes a wicked smile on his face, other times a look of deep repose. Bob made no secret of his love for cannabis. “Herb,” as he called it, was a spiritual sacrament, a way to bring people together, and make them smile. It could end war and inequality, if only we could all just sit together, enjoy some music and a spliff and smile.

Inspired by the herb, he made music that transcended genres like no reggae artist before or since.

It’s a legacy of more than 200 songs and 75 million records sold, including Legend, the greatest-hits collection that has sold more than 10 million copies. It’s a rich catalogue celebrating his intoxicating lust for life, love of nature, outrage against social injustice and the eternal optimism that yes, indeed, everything is gonna be alright.

When he died of cancer at the age of 36 in 1981, he left another legacy: His family. With 11 children born to seven different women, the Marley clan is a close-knit group carrying on his legacy. Many of his children are well-known reggae artists. Others have carried on his fights against inequality in his native Jamaica and beyond.

The Marley family has now embarked on a new venture to spread Bob’s love of herb to the world with Marley Natural. The product line, to be released in late 2015, will include hemp-based topical oils, smoking and vaporizing accessories, and in states where it is legal, cannabis strains from Jamaica, including some that Bob enjoyed. His widow Rita, eldest daughter Cedella and son Stephen recently granted CULTURE exclusive interviews, to talk about Bob, his love of the herb and why they launched Marley Natural.

“When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.” – Bob

 

 

What are your fondest memories of Bob?

 

Rita: So many special things. But my favorite memory with Bob was the day we got married. And when we started to have children. Just being younger, and getting married to him. It was unexpected and exciting. He was a popular singer in Jamaica then, Bob Marley and The Wailers, but not the icon he is today.

Stephen: I remember him in a lot of different ways. He was my mentor, my teacher, my dad . . . (Brother) Ziggy and I used to run up on the stage when he would do this song called “Exodus.” We would run up onstage and dance to those songs. That is a fond memory.

Cedella: He was a cool father. Both parents toured a lot so it was almost like every time they came home it was Christmas for us. It was January or April or July, because it was just good to have them home. And he was a good father. He was funny. He was strict. And I think he just loved to make us happy.

Why is the family launching the Marley Natural brand, and what does it mean for Bob’s legacy?

Stephen: To be an advocate. I grew up hearing my father speak of herb and wondering why it was being held in the way it was held when it has so many great properties. It serves such a good purpose. To be an advocate of the use and the legalization of the plant—it’s alright for us to be a part of that.

Rita: The herb was a spiritual and natural part of life for Bob. We hope Marley Natural will share that part of his legacy with the world . . . Bob would be so happy to see people understanding the power of the herb, and Marley Natural is an important part of that. As he said, “make way for the positive day.” I think we’re seeing that positive day.

Cedella: Our mission is to help make the world a better place, by using daddy’s voice to help people realize the many benefits of cannabis, for the mind, the body and the spirit. We want Marley Natural to be one of the world’s leading premium cannabis brands, deeply rooted in daddy’s life and legacy. And we want this brand to be something that does good. We’re looking forward to sharing more about how Marley Natural can make a positive difference in the world, through the social mission and philanthropy. I think that’s something daddy would be proud of us doing . . . Daddy wrote most of his music after enjoying his herb, and the music is a reflection of how deep he can go, whether he’s talking about love or he’s talking about the revolution.

 

Many of his children have become successful musicians. Is that in the Marley blood, or did Bob influence his children in this way?

Cedella: It’s in the blood, but it was something that we couldn’t take for a joke in our household. It was like school. After school we had to do our homework, and we had to do our music lessons and our voice lessons. It was important to him that we all learn how to play an instrument just so you can get your chords right. To our parents, having an education was the core of everything else, and being a musician was second. We couldn’t take it as a joke. He was serious about it, and we had to be serious about it, and I think that’s how our lives have been. We’re serious about our music.

Rita: All of the children are musically inclined. As a family we are focused on giving back. And I have so many grandchildren, and now I’m having great grandchildren. So, it’s a blessing, and we develop. It grows and grows and grows, all this time, from just the two of us.

Stephen: If you drop an apple seed, you’re going to get an apple. I didn’t decide. It wasn’t a decision. It was more of a realization of who we are and what is inside of us as well.

Bob remains an icon to so many people, but what was he really like? Did his life match his image?

Rita: Bob was spiritual, just like his music. He believed what was important was not just what you say, but what you do. So, yes, he was really like what people thought of him. What people sometimes don’t realize is how hard he worked. How late he would work. How much of a perfectionist he was. And that he ate very healthy and ran two miles every day.

Stephen: Not in his mind. He was a humble man, and he was very much in touch with nature and the earth. Not the world, but the Earth. He wasn’t a worldly man. He was an Earthly man . . . He’s a man that stood up for equal rights, love, unity and peace. I remember he once said he saw two ants fighting and he parted them. Ants. That’s Bob, man.

 

“Music and herb go together. It’s been a long time now I smoke herb, from 1960s, when I start singing.” – Bob

What do you think will be Bob’s legacy in history and in music?

Rita: There is so much about Bob that happens every day, you know, it reveals—as you say, revelation reveals the truth. It’s just like a book. Every day, you turn a page, it’s about Bob in different ways, in his action, in his prophecy. We are seeing the wars that he spoke about. Everywhere is war, but his legacy is about peace, love, unity and equality. That’s his legacy.

Cedella: Daddy was bigger than reggae, to me. His songs pulled people from all walks of life, it brought them together, it made them feel good, and I think there are few musicians who can actually accomplish that. I think he was one of them. He still is one of them . . . Daddy really helped change the way people see the world and relate to each other. That was a message of one love, which is very relevant. He was a spiritual man, dedicated to peace and unity and justice. His message does not come with an expiration date. It’s still relevant. What he sang about, what he fought  for, how he lived, how he loved. It’s timeless, and we still feel the impact of him today.

Stephen: Bob was a freedom fighter, and his weapon of choice was music, and to the world, that’s who Bob is. Bob stands for peace, love, unity and equality for all men, and that’s what his legacy is to the world.

 

It would have recently been his 70th birthday. Can you imagine him at 70? What would he be doing?

 

Rita: Still singing about life, love, justice. Bob said in this great future, you can’t forget the past. He would have never forgotten where he came from and would have continued to try to make the world a better place.

Stephen: (Laughs) Yeah man, definitely he would be . . . Being 70 for him would just be a number. Definitely would still be jamming out. He still is, I know—wherever he is, still playing music, and burning the herb.

Cedella: Daddy was a workaholic. He loved to work. And he enjoyed just spreading the message, and I think he would be doing the same thing today.

 

My favorite herb: Lamb’s Breath. Kali. I like Hawaiian. But for some reason you communicate better with Jamaican herb. The best Jamaican herb, it have more energy, more everything to it.” – Bob

What do you think Bob would think about legal cannabis these days, with a couple of states having legalized it already and more on the way?

 

Cedella: I think my father just believed it was legal just because everywhere he went he was able to acquire it. Herb for him was a spiritual thing. It made him feel connected to God and the Earth. He believed it was a sacramental thing. I’m coming back to responsibility. He believed it had to be enjoyed responsibly. There are times when you can see he would just meditate and start to write his music. I think he believed it inspired him. My mother would tell me stories about him waking up in the morning, having a spliff and thanking Jah for the beautiful day, drinking his cocoa tea and going for a two-mile run on the beach.

Stephen: My dad would say “great.” Because he believed herb should be utilized and used by all men, not just for smoking the herb, but using the herb . . . He had seen the effects of it not being legal, where you went to jail for a few hours. But in his soul, this herb is a plant given by God for man’s use. That’s the way he approached it. He wasn’t afraid to say, “Yes this bit of herb is my herb.”

Rita: He’s happy because this was something that we fought for. We thought it was very unruly for them to call it “weed” or “drugs,” or, you know, call it things that it wasn’t really for. Because we saw it as a spiritual thing given to us by God. It’s a plant from the most high, as we say in Rastafari. And we think, we read in the Bible that it was called the healing of the nation. God made it for the healing of the nation. It gave us more inspiration for the music, definitely. We found favor in it, we found unity, we found love. As we say, one love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right.

 

Do Bob’s children share his love of the herb?

 

Cedella: I’ve enjoyed, back in the day. I actually enjoy making up recipes now with the herb, which my brothers enjoy. It’s still enjoyed by the household.

Stephen: (Laughs) Very much so . . . Definitely, as a Rastaman. I am a Rastaman as well. It definitely is a sacrament for me.

 

Do you think we’ll see a time when herb will be legal across the country?

 

Stephen: We’re working toward that. I would pray that time would come when we’ll see that, if not this generation, then the next. We’re definitely on the right track. The movement is very much well alive . . . Bob is the perfect frontrunner for the advocacy of marijuana being legal, and use of the plant, in many different ways—medicinal and spiritual. He would be honored to be the champion of the use of marijuana. He would be very proud of this moment.

Rita: It’s a natural part of life. People are starting to understand that.

“Herb, herb is a plant. I mean herbs are good for everything. Why, why these people who want to do so much good for everyone, who call themselves governments and this and that. Why them say you must not use the herb? Them just say, ‘No, you mustn’t use it, you mustn’t use it because it will make you rebel.’ Against what?” – Bob


What do you hope for the future of the world?

Rita: If you listen to Bob’s songs, he says that there is war in the east, war up north, war down south. But he says, what we need is love to guide and protect us all. If you’re up, look down from above, help the weak if you are strong. And that’s what we do, we try to help people in need. We want other people to do that too. That’s what Bob would want for the future of the world, all of us to live together. That was his dream that we share.

 

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