In 1933, the literary critic LC Knights published a famous essay with the title How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth? A more difficult question is how many children had Bob Marley? The answer is not straightforward: the Marley family dynasty is biblically complex. When Bob Marley met his wife-to-be, Alfarita – Rita – Constantia Anderson, in Kingston, Jamaica, in the mid-1960s, she already had a daughter, Sharon. At the time, Rita was an unmarried mother with dreams of musical success, and Bob was the guitarist of a band who called themselves the Wailing Wailers.
"Did I have any idea that in a few short months this Robbie Marley, the shy guitarist, would become the love of my life?" asks Rita in her autobiography, No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley (2004). "Did I suspect that he'd become a major force, world-renowned, an icon of musical history? No! What was on my mind was Aunty's warning: 'Don't you dare stay too long because you have to give the baby titty when she wakes up!'"
Rita and Marley married in February 1966. Rita was 19, Marley was 21, and Sharon was a baby. After his marriage to Rita, apart from a short period spent working on the assembly line at a Chrysler plant in the US, Marley continued to pursue his musical career, and Rita was left to look after the rest. "I was the one who had to think about practical things, like making sure we had something to eat and paying for the electricity we used."
She also had to look after their children: Cedella, born in 1967; Ziggy, 1968; Stephen, 1972; and Stephanie, 1974. With Rita at home with the children, Marley was free to go on tour and do what musicians tend to do on tour when they're not playing music. "Robbie had other girls in his life," admits Rita in her autobiography, "girls with whom he had intimate relationships ... But he kept them away from me out of respect ... I guess the way I saw it was that he was not the man for their lives, but their man for a time."
That was all well and good, until Marley's time came to an end in 1981, when he died of cancer and, according to Rita, all hell broke loose. He had left no will. Suddenly, every Tom, Dick and Harry was claiming to have been a child of Bob Marley. "There were people much older than Bob who claimed he was their father," writes Rita. "One guy said he was my aborted child that I thought was dead but had not died."
On the official Bob Marley website there are 10 children listed – as well as Sharon, Cedella, Ziggy, Stephen and Stephanie there are also Rohan, Karen, Julian, Ky-Mani and Damian, born to various other women. Asked in 2005 how many children his father had, Damian replied: "A lot, a lot."
A lot of the Marley children are musicians, and many play in bands together. Sharon, Cedella, Ziggy and Stephen began performing as the Melody Makers as children. Their first single, Children Playing in the Streets, was released in 1979, when Stephen was seven. Ghetto Youths International are another family musical collective and include half-brothers Julian, Stephen and Damian.
In terms of their solo careers, Julian is more roots-reggae; Damian does dancehall; Rohan plays percussion; Stephen is a producer; and Ziggy was the voice of a fish in Disney's A Shark's Tale. The Marley women tend to look after the business side of the family empire – the Bob Marley Foundation, the Bob Marley Museum and the many other Marley music, clothing and entertainment subsidiaries. Marley's mother was black. His father was a white Jamaican army captain, whose family came originally from Essex.
One love. Many children.