Bob Marley became an icon by popularizing reggae music worldwide.
Marley passed away in 1981 at the age of 36, leaving at least 11 children behind.
Many of his children and grandchildren have followed in his musical footsteps, continuing his legacy.
Robert Nesta Marley was born February 6, 1945 in the village of Nine Mile to Cedella Malcolm, a 19-year-old Black Jamaican woman, and Capt. Norval Marley, a nearly 60-year-old white naval officer who was overseeing plantations in the area for the British government. Marley said he was often bullied for his biracial heritage growing up and derogatorily referred to as “White Boy.”
The Jamaican reggae artist has been credited with making Jamaican music more popular worldwide. His professional career first began with the band the Teenagers — eventually renamed the Wailers — which he formed with Peter Tosh and Bunny Waller. Their debut album featured the single “One Love,” which Marley continued to revisit throughout his career. After signing to Island Records, the band was renamed Bob Marley and the Wailers, and their star power continued to grow, even after Tosh and Waller left the band.
Marley became a sensation with recordings of songs like “No Woman, No Cry” and “I Shot the Sheriff,” which was later covered by Eric Clapton. In 1976, he survived an assassination attempt, when gunmen entered Marley’s home two days before he was slated to perform at “Smile Jamaica,” a concert set to take place days before a snap election in the country. Because of rising tensions at the time, some saw the concert as being politically motivated. Marley suffered minor wounds to his chest and arm.
His career was cut short. Marley died of melanoma that spread from his toe in 1981 at the age of 36, leaving behind his wife, Rita, and at least 11 children. He was buried along with his red Gibson Les Paul guitar and a Bible. In a eulogy, then-Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga called Marley “part of the collective consciousness of the nation.” His greatest hits album “Legend” — which was released posthumously — remains the best-selling reggae album of all time, and Marley still ranks among the best-selling musicians of all time.
Bob and Rita Marley married in 1966. Rita, born Alfarita Constantia Anderson, was born in 1946 in Cuba and was raised in Kingston, Jamaica. In the 1960s, Rita joined a group called the Soulettes, a trio that was mentored by Bob Marley. After they married, Rita often sang vocals with the Wailers.
In 1976, Rita survived a shot to the head in the assassination attempt two days prior to the “Smile Jamaica” concert. That same year, Rita moved to London with Marley, who had begun seeing model Cindy Breakspeare, who had just been crowned Miss World. Despite her husband’s infidelity, they continued to make music together.
After Marley’s death in 1981, Rita continued to record albums, and converted their former home In Kingston into the Bob Marley Museum. She is also the founder and chairperson of the Bob Marley Trust.
Rita has also been heavily involved with humanitarian organizations. She has worked to support students in Ghana, and created the Rita Marley Foundation to alleviate hunger in developing countries.
She has six children, three with Marley and three from other relationships.
Rita’s eldest daughter, Sharon, was born in 1964, and was adopted by Marley when he married Rita in 1966. She was a part of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, a musical group made up of four of Bob Marley’s children. Together, the group won three Grammy Awards.
Sharon has also served as the curator and manager of the Bob Marley Museum, and worked in public relations for the Ghetto Youth United Recording Label, which was founded by her brothers Stephen and Ziggy.
Cedella Marley is the daughter of Bob and Rita Marley, born in 1967.
She is the CEO of Tuff Gong International, a recording label that was first started by her father, named after the nickname he received growing up in Jamaica. In a 2016 interview with GQ, Cedella talked about her role within the family businesses, saying “whatever business ventures we get into, I’m the one who has to deal with whoever we partner with on a day-to-day basis.”
She has also founded a number of clothing lines, and, in collaboration with Puma, designed the uniform for the Jamaican track and field team at the 2012 Olympics, which was worn by Usain Bolt.
She has also written children’s books inspired by her father, including “The Boy from Nine Miles,” and “Three Little Birds.”
David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley was born in 1968, the second child of Rita and Bob Marley. He has had a successful music career, both as the lead of his family band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, and as a solo musician, releasing eight solo albums under his own label, Tuff Gong Worldwide (a separate record label from the one started by his father, Tuff Gong International). He has won eight Grammys and one Daytime Emmy.
Ziggy first made his debut with the Melody Makers at the age of 11. After the death of his father, Ziggy often played in his place alongside the Wailers.
Stephen “Ragga” Robert Nesta Marley was born in 1972, the third child of Rita and Bob Marley. Like his older siblings, he also began his musical career as a member of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers when he was 7 years old. He has won eight Grammys, three of which were as a solo artist.
He also began Kaya Fest, an annual music festival that first launched in 2017.
Julian “JuJu” Ricardo Marley was born in London in 1975, the son of Bob Marley and Lucy Pounder. Like his siblings, his musical career started young; he had recorded his first demo by the age of 5. After moving to Jamaica, he formed the record label Ghetto Youths Crew with his brothers Stephen, Damian, and Ky-Mani. Together, they toured for three years.
Julian has released four albums as a solo artist, two of which have received Grammy nominations for Best Reggae Album. In 2008, Julian and the Uprising Band represented Jamaica at the Beijing Olympics.
Ky-Mani Marley was born in 1976 to Bob Marley and Anita Belnavis, a table tennis champion in Jamaica. His debut album, “Like Father, Like Son,” released in 1996.
In 2001, his album “Many More Roads” received a Grammy nomination.
Born in 1978, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley is the son of Bob Marley and Cindy Breakspeare, a jazz musician and model who was crowned Miss World in 1976.
His musical career began as a child with a group called the Shepherds. In 1996, he released his debut solo album “Mr. Marley,” and continued a successful solo career with albums “Halfway Tree,” “Welcome to Jamrock,” and “Stony Hill.” In 2010, he released “Distant Relatives,” an album made in collaboration with Nas. In total, Damian has won four Grammy Awards.
Unlike his older siblings, Damian’s early music was not as inspired by traditional reggae sounds. “You have to remember, Ziggy is ten years older than me. So I grew up with dancehall and a whole different set a influence,” Damian told GQ in 2016.
Daniel Bambaata Robert Nesta Marley was born in 1989, the eldest son of Ziggy Marley. He has collaborated on music with family members, including cousin Jo Mersa on “My Girl,” and with his father, Ziggy, on “Changes.”
His music often incorporates dancehall and hip-hop sounds. In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, Bambaata said, “the root of my music, regardless of if it might sound a different way, is always reggae.”
Jo Mersa Marley
Joseph “Jo Mersa” Marley was born in 1991, the son of Stephen Marley. He began his career on stage with Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, alongside his family. Soon, he launched his solo career, releasing a single “My Girl” with his cousin Daniel Bambaata in 2010, and debuted an EP titled “Comfortable” in 2014.
In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, Jo Mersa said, “I am one of the new generation of Marleys, but I am still experimenting at the same time… My plan is to do something new with my roots.”
On Tuesday, December 27, 2022, a representative confirmed to Rolling Stone that Jo Mersa had died at the age of 31.
Skip Marley Minto was born in 1996 to Cedella Marley. His EP, “Higher Place” was released with Island Records in 2020. “Slow Down,” a single off that EP featuring H.E.R. quickly reached the number-one spot on Billboard’s Adult R&B chart. Skip also co-wrote and is featured on Katy Perry’s “Chained to Rhythm,” which he performed at the Grammys in 2017.
In an interview with Miami New Times, Skip said he was inspired to pursue music in 2005 after watching a tribute to Bob Marley at an Africa Unite concert.
He has received two Grammy nominations.
Born in 1998, Selah Marley is the daughter of singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill and former football player Rohan Marley.
As a model, she has worked with the likes of Chanel, Armani, Calvin Klein, and Ivy Park. In 2022, she found herself at the center of controversy after modeling an article of clothing that read “White Lives Matter” for Kanye West’s Yeezy show in Paris.
Just like her famous family, Selah has also ventured into music, releasing an EP, “Star Power,” in 2021.
Mystic Marley is the daughter of Stephen Marley. Her debut single “Beatdown” was released in 2018, followed by “Sad Girls (Cause Damage)” in 2021. In an interview with the TODAY Show, Mystic said she often senses grandfather Bob Marley’s presence, saying, “I just, like, close my eyes and I see him, or I’m making music and I feel him.”