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Ma, Rastafari

Ziggy Marley On Why His Mom Was Just As Big An Influence As That Bob Guy

The following was produced in partnership with our friends at Spotify.

Ziggy Marley has been carrying on his father’s legacy since he first appeared on stage with pops at the tender age of 10 (and if you don’t know who his dad is, you smoked way too much while listening to his records in college). And while he’s gone on to an inspired musical career of his own (not to mention a healthy family — dude’s got 6 kids), he never lost touch with that 10-year-old: one of his 7 Grammys is for Family Time, a 2009 record that won Best Musical Album For Children. So, with an image and career so inextricably linked to his father, who better to ask about the influence and lessons of his … mom?

Facebook / Ziggy Marley

Facebook / Ziggy Marley

Didn’t see that coming? Consider one of the primary tenets of fatherhood: to remind your kids to appreciate their mother (and to freakin’ call her every once a while). Ziggy didn’t necessarily need the reminder; his mother, Rita Marley, is a reggae icon in her own right and a member of the vocal group The I Threes, which backed up Bob and his Wailers. She’s also every bit the “Tuff Gong” Bob was, and Ziggy’s foremost teacher of toughness, determination, and yes, music. That’s why she gets to hear his new, self-titled album before anyone else while the rest of you have to wait until May 20th. Until then, here’s a genuine Marley on all the reasons you should tell your own kid to listen to their mother.

On Early Music Education
If you want to really inspire your kid, you can’t just play music for them — they have to make it for themselves. Rita started by making sure her kids took piano lessons and learned to play the congas and sing traditional Jamaican folk songs. When she’d act and sing with the national theater, the kids would attend rehearsals and shows. Those were Ziggy’s foundational musical experiences: actually playing music. Your kids will eventually discover Bob the same way you did, then you’ll discover them doing so, and that’ll be a different talk altogether.

On His Diverse Influences
When work called Rita to the studio or the road, she left the kids — and their music education — in the capable hands of her Aunty Viola. Ziggy’s Grand Aunty sang him traditional lullabies and her record collection introduced him to Nat King Cole, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Captain & Tennille, the Jackson 5, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Yes, the first son of reggae loves disco. No, you’re not high. Or maybe you are. Either way, that’s a true story.

Facebook / Ziggy Marley

Facebook / Ziggy Marley

On Finding His Roots
As it is to reggae, African music was a huge part of Rita’s life. The Fela Kuti song, “Zombie,” made Ziggy dive in, too. “They always used to talk about going back to Africa, but she actually did it,” he says. “She went to Ghana and established herself in Africa. She stood by her dreams.”

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On How Love Became His Religion
Okay, so this one has to come from Bob, the peace-preaching Rasta, right? Try Glen “The Rhinestone Cowboy” Campbell. “I would always sing that Glen Campbell song,” says Ziggy. “Who knows how it came out in what I do, but I think it did something that it sticks in my head.” And now it will stick in yours. At least you can agree on one thing: “Sam Cooke. ‘Only Sixteen,’ ‘Cupid,’ songs like that, as a teenager, turned me into a romantic.”

“Ya understand me — my mother is no joke”

On When The Tuff Gong Get Going
Actions speak louder than words, or lyrics as it were, especially in 1970s Jamaica. The real foundation of Ziggy’s life and music are the values Rita projected through her deeds. This is a woman who took a bullet to the head during an assassination attempt on her husband and survived. A few years later, when a gang of thugs blocked the road she was taking to get her kids home from school, Ziggy watched from the car as she confronted them and forced them to clear the way — you know, just like your mom did.

“Ya understand me — my mother is no joke,” Ziggy says. “Her lessons is not about singing songs, night-night lullabye. It’s about going through these things and showing what she’s made of, the experiences we learn by. That is our life.”

Dang, Rita.

Play Ziggy Marley’s full Family Album below or follow on Spotify.