Thursday, July 12, 2012
Being the son of a worldwide musical legend can get you on stage, but it may very well take twice the talent to keep you there.
Just ask Bob Marley's eldest son, Ziggy, what it's like to perform under the shadow of the best-known reggae artist of all time.
It's even worse when you bear more than a striking physical appearance to your father's iconic image. "I don't try to compete with my father's music," explained the five-time Grammy Award winning Ziggy Marley in an interview.
Ziggy went on to explain that even his Grammys aren't status symbols to him. "I don't give so much importance to Grammys," he said.
He also pointed out the reason his father never won a Grammy is because that category didn't exist until after Bob Marley's death in 1981.
Ziggy was nominated for a Grammy this year but ended up losing it to younger brother Stephen. Ziggy was not disappointed. "Music speaks for itsself. I love my brother's music and I love my father's music," he said.
"Music is all very natural to me," he added. "It just happened."
He never meant to be a performer. "I just wanted to write songs," he said.
He first performed live with his brothers and sisters as the Melody Makers in 1979. Within two years he'd perform at his father's memorial service. Ziggy was 12 when he played the state funeral for Bob Marley.
Like his father, Ziggy is seen as a poetic prophet and reggae revolutionary by many fans.
He said that he believes in the power of music and tries to use his talent for the benefit of society and especially its youth. "Music should teach a lesson, not just celebrate sex and material things," said Ziggy. "A lesson in life lasts longer than sex and materialism," he added.
Even though his latest album, "Wild and Free," has been reviewed as a return to roots rock reggae, Ziggy refuses to be restrained by the limits and confines of reggae.
He admits to searching the radio for "whatever captures my ear. I don't care if its rock, gospel, hip hop, country or classical. If it touches my ear, it becomes a part of me. I am blind to styles. Music is music to me!"
Born David Marley, Bob nicknamed him "Ziggy" meaning "small joint." He recently worked for and supported California's proposition ballot to legalize recreational marijuana.
The title track of his latest CD is a pro-marijuana duet with actor Woody Harrelson entitled "Wild and Free."
He's been an activist, humanitarian and philanthropist since before his teenage years.
The proceeds from his first single "Children Playing in the Streets" were donated to the United Nations Children's Fund. Ziggy supports and works for the Children With Aids organization. His socially conscious reggae beliefs led him in 2007 to support a nonprofit program that provides musical instruments and free music lessons to children in public schools in the United States.
As for his inspiration for writing songs, Ziggy says it comes quite naturally. "Sometimes life seems to inspire stuff. It just turns up and I celebrate the truth," said Ziggy.
Ziggy was educated in Delaware and now lives in Miami. He left Trench Town, Jamaica, in 1976 after an assassination attempt on his father and mother, Rita, that left them seriously wounded. Ziggy says he has very few frustrations in life. "I accept everything and go with the flow of the planet," he said.
Ziggy prefers to dwell on what his father taught him rather than what Bob Marley's image is to others. "My father stressed physical fitness, spirituality, nutrition and education with my family," said Ziggy. Bob Marley also instilled the importance of being independent to Ziggy. "Own your own music," was Bob Marley's fatherly advice. "I own my own music," beamed Ziggy. Bob Marley did not own the publishing rights to his music.
Ziggy is quick to admit that being Bob Marley's eldest son carries certain responsibilities and some heavy burdens. One of his main concerns is that "We don't sell out my father's legacy."
Other than being banned from attending Bob Marley's recording sessions until he was invited to record at the age of 10, Ziggy remembers only one regretful conflict with his father.
Before he died, Bob Marley advised Ziggy: "When you get older you should grow your dreadlocks."
Ziggy's rebellious answer was: "Maybe it's more important to have dreadlocks in your heart!"
Although Ziggy now regrets that exchange, maybe he has given the rest of us non-Rastafarians an easier portal into the reggae world.