Asked what it's like to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Bob Marley, a man who comes as close to deification as our popular culture will allow, Stephen replies with only a sentence fragment: "Rastaman vibration positive."
That response could be taken a couple of ways. Maybe by quoting one of his father's songs, he's showing reverence for the man. Or maybe he's annoyed about being asked a question he will never escape, no matter his own accomplishments. And during Stephen Marley's multidecade career, there have been many proud achievements.
At age 8, a year before his father died, Stephen sang lead vocals on the song "Sugar Pie" for his brother's band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. He has produced albums by his brothers Damian and Julian. And, of course, there are his own solo recordings, beginning with 2007's Mind Control, continuing with 2011's Grammy-winning Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life, and culminating with the forthcoming sequel, Revelation Pt. 2: The Fruit of Life.
"The Fruit of Life is a natural extension of the root," Stephen says. "It features more collaboration work with some of the best hip-hop and reggae artists." Those collaborators include big names such as Wyclef Jean, Rakim, and the Roots' Black Thought. There is also the already-released song "Bongo Nyah," featuring his brother Damian and dancehall DJ Spragga Benz.
With music being such an integral part of the Marley family and with Stephen becoming a musician at such a young age, it seems he had almost no choice of career path, which is fine with him. He wouldn't want any other way of making a living. "Music is my foundation and way of life. Only thing comes close is soccer."
As with much of the rest of his family, Miami has become one of Stephen Marley's home bases. "We love the sunshine," he muses, "so the light reflects in our music."
That makes him a natural headliner for the Miami Reggae Festival, especially because he appreciates what organizers Alfonso D'Niscio Brooks and Rockers Movement have developed. He hopes his music will be worthy of the headlining spot and leave fans with "positivity, power, and inspiration to continue on life's journey."
So this Rastaman, with his vibration positive, continues to do his father's work, spreading The Root of Life and sharing its fruit. He's even happy to see reggae versions of songs by non-reggae bands such as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles becoming so popular.
"Every artist should be reggaefied, even once throughout their career."
One of the noticeable features of many early outstanding entertainers is their short lifespan. Bob Marley lived for only 36 years; Bobby Darin survived for a year longer; Roy Hamilton managed to make it to 40, while Nat King Cole died at age 45.
Jamaica's child prodigy and the dean of reggae, Delroy Wilson, survived for two years longer than Nat King Cole, while Jamaica's singing sensation duo of the 1960s, The Blues Busters - Phillip James and Lloyd Campbell, died at age 47 and 50, respectively.
What is most interesting, is the fact that, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, and the rock and roll king, Elvis Presley, all graced this earth for 42 years.
Tosh, who was born, Winston Hubert McIntosh on October 19, 1944, died on September 11, 1987; Brown on February 1, 1957 and transitioned on July 1, 1999 while Presley spent January 8, 1935 to August 16, 1977 on this earth. All have made enormous contributions to the development of popular music, belying their short lifespans, which leaves one to wonder if, that's the way nature planned it.
Many of these artistes have achieved as much as, or even more than, others who have lived full lives, which leaves one to wonder if nature or destiny had a plan for them.
Darin's death, unlike the others, was predicted from early. With his heart damaged from bouts of rheumatic fever, doctors had predicted his death by age 18, but he optimistically set his targets for age 25. In an interview with Life Magazine, he was quoted as saying, "I'd like to be a legend by the time I'm 25 years old".
LEGEND OF DARRIN
The comment led some to accuse him of being arrogant and conceited, but few understood that Darin felt that he had to achieve greatness quickly. He realised his potential from early and had great ambitions, but was also aware that he had a short time in which to achieve his goals.
So, with grit and determination, he set out on a mission that many would have thought impossible.
Born in New York on May 14, 1936, he showed an interest in music from an early age and became proficient at drums, piano and guitar by his early teens.
When he had his first set of hits in the late 1950s he was a teen idol with much more talent and mature command of his craft than the typical singer of his age. His breakthrough recording was the 1958 rock and roll smasher, Splish Splash, which sold 100,000 copies in less than a month.
He followed up with a similar piece, titled, Queen Of The Hop, before unfolding his classic self-penned 1959 rock ballad, Dream Lover, which climbed to No. 1 and No. 2 on the United Kingdom and United States charts respectively.
Thereafter, Darin became so versatile that he prompted considerable discussion about whether he should be classified as a rock and roll singer, a Vegas hipster cat, an interpreter of popular standards, a balladier or a folk rocker. He was all ot these, yet none of these, because he made a point of not becoming committed to any one style at the exclusion of others.
Darin also had starring roles and an Oscar nomination in the movie world. After one of his heart failures, he slipped into a coma, and died on December 20, 1973.
Bob Marley's achievements in a 36-year lifespan and a two-decade music career is unbelievable and far-reaching, to the extent that he was universally accepted as 'Reggae King'.
His collaboration with noted music producer, Chris Blackwell, created the classic albums Catch A Fire, Burning, Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, Exodus, Kaya, Survival and Uprising, between 1973 and '81.
The albums brought hope to the downtrodden and guidance to world leaders. Born in Nine Mile, St Ann, Jamaica in 1945, Marley first came to prominence as a member of the 1960s vocal trio, The Wailers. His lyrics focused mainly on revolutionary issues, though others delved into the romantic.
Marley also found time during his short lifespan to father some 11 children, many of whom followed in his musical footsetps.
Peter Tosh, who along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, comprised the Wailers, went international, after splitting with the group, following the recording of the album Burning. He established the reputation of being Jamaica's most outspoken and uncompromising artiste on matters of injustice and demonstrated this in recordings like Buckingham Palace, Equal Rights And Justice and Get Up, Stand Up.
During a 23-year music career, he copped several No. 1 hits, and was posthumously awarded a Grammy and similarly conferred with the Order of Merit by the Jamaican Government in 2012.
Like Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown died at age 42. He was perhaps, second only to Marley, in terms of international popularity, and earned the title 'The Crown Prince'.
Brown's consistent invasion of international music charts have made him one of the best-known Jamaican artistes of all time. His achievements lead one to ponder on the level of impact he would have created, had he been around for much longer.
KING OF ROCK AND ROLL
Elvis Presley's legend was incomparable. He was dubbed 'King of Rock and Roll', after posting a record 18 No. 1 singles on the US charts, surpassed only by the Beatles (20).
With a plethora of recordings throughout the 1960s up to the early 1970s, Presley became the most recorded artiste of his generation, an achievement which belies how long he lived.
As for Nat King Cole, his multifarious and multitudinous achievements during his short life defies description.
A multilingual singer, an accomplished pianist, a multi-genre performer and an accomplished movie star, are but few of the credentials embodied in this single human frame.
Roy Hamilton lived for only 40 years, yet he was able to record scores of songs in the various genres of pop, soul, rock and roll, Latin and sentimentals. He also tried his hand at boxing and painting, with a reasonable level of success.
California based skate-shoe company Vans who have developed numerous footwear/merchandise lines inspired by bands ranging from Bad Brains to Metallica have entered into a partnership with Queens, New York based Reggae independent VP Records to create the Dub Rockers sneaker. One-hundred and twenty pairs of the black mid-top accented with the Ethiopian/Rastafarian colors, red, green and gold, will be distributed throughout the summer, part of the promotional campaign for VP’s latest imprint, Dub Rockers,
The label’s debut is a Dub Rockers compilation, scheduled for an August 27 release in digital, CD and vinyl formats. The album’s ten tracks pair VP’s Jamaican artists with several American reggae acts that have amassed large fan bases among Vans’ target market: the skating and surf boarding community.
The first single “Only Man In The World,” a sultry lovers rock duet featuring Hawaii’s Anuhea and Jamaica’s Tarrus Riley was released in March and has sold over 6,000 digital units; the song’s video directed by Janelle Dyer (below).
Vans also sponsored professional skateboarder John Cardiel, who moonlights as reggae DJ Juan Love, to create a series of Dub Rockers mixtapes in the months leading up to the album’s release, coordinating tracks from VP’s extensive Jamaican catalogue with songs by American reggae artists. Cardiel will also spin reggae selections at the Dub Rockers late August album release party to be held at Brooklyn’s House of Vans, an indoor/outdoor concert venue and skate park, with a capacity of 1,200.
VP recently sponsored the 4th annual California Roots Music and Arts Festival (May 24-26) in Monterrey, Calif., attracting nearly 30,000 patrons with a lineup that included three California-based bands heard on the compilation, Slightly Stoopid, The Expendables and Rebelution. The label will also support the Afropunk Festival at Brooklyn’s Commodore Perry Park on August 24 and 25, which features a skateboarding competition. Vans, meanwhile, will push Dub Rockers video content and postings through their social networks, which include more than 10,000,000 likes on Facebook and 139,000 Twitter followers.
“This relationship has many marketing opportunities: we can do shows, create products together but most important is the relationship to authenticity; we come from the action/sports world, they come from the reggae world so bridging gaps is very meaningful to both parties,” says Kurt Soto founder of Vans’ Music Program, which includes their annual sponsorship of the Warped Tour.
“Our goal is to expose Jamaican acts to an audience that may be unfamiliar with them, but also legitimize in a sense what the American guys are doing because Caribbean audiences can be unreceptive to outside acts playing reggae,” adds Mike McGraw, VP’s Director of New Media as well as an avid skateboarder. “This is something new for VP; ultimately, we hope to sign Jamaican and non-Jamaican bands to the Dub Rockers imprint.”
Creating greater awareness of veteran and contemporary Jamaican artists among the predominantly young Caucasian followers of American reggae bands while, conversely, exposing American bands to Jamaican reggae’s core African-Caribbean listenership provided the inspiration for the Dub Rockers compilation, says A&R Christoffer Mannix Schlarb, VP’s former Director of Publicity/Radio Promotions and founder of the company’s digital division. “Reggae is a niche genre that doesn’t need division between Caribbean and American fans. I thought if we produced tracks that drew an authentic connection between Jamaican and American acts, it would appeal to both audiences,” offers Schlarb, now CEO of the reggae-influenced digital label Dub Shot Records. Dub Rockers’ co-A&R is Olivier Chastan, President of Greensleeves Records, which VP acquired in 2008.
The first track recorded for the project was “No Cocaine” featuring veteran Jamaican band Inner Circle (also known for their “Bad Boys” theme to “Cops”) fiery Jamaican sing-jay Capleton and Slightly Stoopid. Founding member, guitarist Roger Lewis says the American bands’ desire to play Jamaican music parallels what Inner Circle was doing during their late-60s formative years. “Back then we were listening to the Impressions, the Beatles, trying to copy the foreign-man style. Slightly Stoopid, SOJA been doing the same, except they were learning our ‘70s tunes; it’s a real humbling experience to see how much we influence these kids,” Lewis revealed.
The proliferation U.S. born and bred reggae bands over the past 10-15 years stems from the seeds planted in the mid-70s by Jamaican legends including Bob Marley and The Wailers, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff, especially through “The Harder They Come” film/soundtrack; their music established reggae’s indelible popularity here, particularly among a (predominantly) white college age audience. Since then a new generation of young, mostly white American musicians have embraced reggae, integrating elements of rock and hip-hop. Several of these bands have so finely honed their skills they are no longer considered mere imitators but instead vital contributors to an evolving art form eternally rooted in Jamaica but with ever-lengthening branches that stretch across the globe.
VP’s development of the Dub Rockers imprint recognizes the shift in the reggae market as American reggae bands, buoyed by years of incessant touring and strategic online/social media marketing, consistently outsell their Jamaican counterparts.
On this week’s Reggae Album chart, for example, Strength to Surive (ATO) by SOJA (from Arlington, VA, heard on Dub Rockers alongside Germany’s Gentleman and Jamaica’s Tamika on the reggae-rock-dancehall mash up “I Tried”) is No. 3 after 69 consecutive weeks on the tally. Peace Of Mind (87/Silverback) by Rebelution (paired with Jamaican sing-jay I Wayne on the herb anthem “So High”) is No. 4, following 72 consecutive weeks and Hasidic reggae chanter Matisyahu’s Spark Seeker (Fallen Sparks/Thirty Tigers) sits at No. 6 with 45 consecutive weeks; all three titles have resided in the top 10 since their (2012) chart debuts. With Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated (RCA) at No. 1 the sole (non-compilation) Jamaican reggae artist album in the top 10 (Marley: The Original Soundtrack notwithstanding) is Sizzla’s The Messiah (VP) debuting this week at No. 7.
Peetah Morgan, lead singer of sibling group Morgan Heritage, who drop their ninth studio album Here Come The Kings (VP) on June 11 who are the only band with Jamaican roots to ever play the Warped Tour (in 2001 and 2002), says the punk rock/jam band audience that attends Warped and supports American reggae artists should have been aggressively courted years ago. “This is something we spoke about when we did the Warped tour, back when bands like Slightly Stoopid were opening for us. How did these American bands find their audiences? It is a circuit you have to tap into it. VP represents most of Jamaica’s reggae artists yet markets mainly to the Caribbean community, which doesn’t buy records; Chris Blackwell didn’t market Bob Marley to the Caribbean.”
For Dub Rockers Morgan teams up with John Brown’s Body, on the Subatomic Sound System remix of the Ithaca/Boston based band’s hard-hitting social critique “The Gold”. “We are all doing reggae but for totally different fans,” added Morgan. “Both sets of artists are interested in crossing into each other’s territories and this project is a great tool for that.”
Saturday marked the anniversary of Bob Marley’s passing away. Marley passed away on May 11th, 1981. There is a classic commercial for the Jamaican beer Red Stripe that ends with the memorable line: “Red Stripe and Reggae, helping our white friends dance for 70 years.”
Walk into most college scenes, and Reggae is as much a part of the American party scene as mainstream friendly hip-hop, equally devoid of any political content .
College kids+beer+reggae=instant party.
But if our familiarity with Reggae doesn’t extend past Bob Marley’s Legend albums (admittedly, one of the coolest albums ever), and we can only sing a few lines from “Buffalo Soldier” and humming along to “Let’s get together and feel all right”, we’re missing out on a whole world of Reggae worth exploring.
One could move on Peter Tosh. Echoing the way that many 60’s radicals, including the later Dr. King, became disenchanted with the empty rhetoric of “peace”, Tosh sings:
“Everyone is crying out for peace,
none is crying out for justice.
I don’t want no peace,
I need equal rights and justice.”
Tosh saw this reggae message as a global struggle against colonialism and imperialism:
Everyone is fighting for equal rights and justice
Palestinians are fighting for equal rights and justice
Down in Angola, equal rights and justice
Down in Botswana, equal rights and justice
Down in Zimbabwe, equal rights and justice
Down in Rhodesia, equal rights and justice
Peter Tosh correctly recognized that his own struggles were linked to the anti-colonial struggles of Palestinians and Africans.
But there is no reason to move past Bob Marley himself. Marley’s Rastafarianism was already wed to radical anti-colonial politics. In memory of Bob Marley, the prophet of linking together music, protest, revolution, love, and redemption, here is his radically powerful song, “war.” Marley’s song was almost a verbatim reiteration of the powerful speech given by Haile Selassie I before the League of Nations in 1963:
Bob Marley, “War”
Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And abandoned -
Everywhere is war -
Me say war.
That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the color of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes -
Me say war.
That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race -
Dis a war.
That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained -
Now everywhere is war – war.
And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
That hold our brothers in Angola,
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed -
Well, everywhere is war -
Me say war.
War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south -
War – war -
Rumors of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight – we find it necessary -
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory
Of good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Let’s give Marley the last word here as well:
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds….
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Reggae is at its most revolutionary force when it is prophetic, emancipatory, raw, justice-oriented, anti-colonial, imbued with love and life-affirming.
And very much like Hip-Hop in this case, what a tragedy to see such powerful prophetic medium commercialized to enable awful, awful drunken dancing.
Happy Redemption, O Holy Bob.
Think you’ve got what it takes to be reggae’s next big thing? Let reggae’s royal family be the judge of that.
Bob Marley’s family has launched “Marley’s Music Uprising,” a contest to discover the next great artist inspired by reggae and influenced by the legendary Jamaican icon.
The contest is presented by the Marley Beverage Company — makers of Marley’s Mellow Mood natural relaxation beverages — in partnership with Sonicbids, an online marketplace connecting musicians with live-music promoters.
Contestants will vie to win a series of prizes, including digital downloads, live performances at major summer festivals and — the ultimate prize — a recording session at the legendary Tuff Gong Studio and a track produced by Stephen Marley, Bob Marley’s son and a 10-time Grammy Award-winning artist and producer.
“Our father’s music inspires people around the world,” said Stephen Marley. “With ‘Uprising,’ we carry on his spirit to support creativity and give voice to a new generation of artists that are following in his footsteps.”
To enter the contest, submit original music via Marley’s Music Uprising Band Search. The contest closes May 22.
Members of the Marley family will select 25 artists or bands from all submissions to be featured on Marley’s Music Uprising Band Search.
In addition, fans across the country will vote throughout the summer to select the top three bands to advance to the final round and perform live at one of three major music festivals: Sierra Nevada (Mendocino, CA), Electric Forest (Rothbury, MI) and Gathering of the Vibes (Bridgeport, CT). The live performances will be captured on video and featured on the website, where fans will elect a winning act for the grand prize Tuff Gong recording session.
View the video below for more information on "Marley’s Music Uprising."
The beloved Jamaican singer died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 36, but his legacy lives on through his music. Marley is credited with helping spread both reggae sounds and the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience throughout his 18 years in the business. According to Urban Islandz, "Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers," which was released three years after his death, is reggae's biggest selling album to date, with more than 10 million copies sold in the United States and an estimated 25 million worldwide. And that's no surprise.
I love reggae music, especially songs by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Lucky Dube and count myself as a reggae fan. It was in the morning of Friday October 19, 2007. I was going to work on board our staff bus when I heard the news over the radio that Lucky Dube, the South African-born reggae musician, had died the previous day Thursday October 18, 2007! I peremptorily dismissed the news as untrue, hoping that it was either a reverie or I did not hear well. But it turned out to be true, for the sad news was repeatedly aired and soon became the topic of general conversation.
Bob Marley's son Ziggy has revealed that the reggae legend wanted his music to be reached out to more Black American fans. Even though Marley was influenced by American rhythm and blues artists, his own music was slow to catch on with African-Americans during his lifetime. A scene from the new documentary, 'Marley,' shows an all-white crowd gathered to watch Marley perform in the US in the late 1970s. "He had issue with it, because he wanted African-Americans to hear his message," ABC News quoted Ziggy as telling 'Nightline.' Marley's children, band mates, widow and ex-girlfriends help tell his story in the mammoth documentary covering the legendary artist's humble beginnings in Jamaica and rise to become reggae's first and biggest international superstar.
Iconic reggae superstar Bob Marley's too-brief life is chronicled in this documentary lovefest. Though he died from cancer at age 36 in 1981, his music and his influence live on. Loaded with rare footage, performances and interviews, the 2012 film also discusses Marley’s infidelities, even though it’s made with his family’s cooperation. It’s directed by Kevin Macdonald, best known for his dramas "The Last King of Scotland" and "State of Play." Macdonald set out to make a film that would inform the Marley children and grandchildren about Bob's life, which led to Billboard posing the question to Ziggy Marley about which stories he had never heard. One concerned his father's concern about his fair skin, the other about the song "Small Axe," which has long been seen as a song about taking down corrupt governments. In reality, it was about specific people in the Jamaican music industry. PG-13, 145 minutes. Extras: interviews, photos and director commentary. From Magnolia Home Entertainment. Released Aug. 7.
A new Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for Bob Marley was presented to the late reggae singer's eldest son Ziggy and daughter Karen last night. The event took place immediately after a Recording Academy screening of the feature film documentary Marley, which was held in Hollywood at the Los Angeles Film School on Sunset Boulevard. The award was a replacement for the statue that had been awarded to Marley posthumously in 2001, as part of the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards. The backstory began when members of The Recording Academy were visiting Jamaica, and they saw that the award had been damaged. Last night's presentation was a surprise. Five-time Grammy Award winner Ziggy beamed when the replacement was handed to him.