Rita Marley, OD (née Anderson; born 25 July 1946), is a Cuban-born Jamaican singer and the widow of Bob Marley. She was a member of the vocal group the I Threes, along with Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, who gained recognition as the backing vocalists for Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Early life and marriage to Bob Marley
Rita was born in Santiago de Cuba, to Leroy Anderson and Cynthia "Beda" Jarrett. She grew up in the upper level of Beachwood Avenue, located in Kingston, Jamaica. In her book No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley, she describes how she was raised by her Aunt Viola on Greenwich Park Road.
In the mid-1960s, Rita met Bob Marley after meeting Peter Tosh. After it was learned that she was a singer, she was asked to audition for the Soulettes. The group included Rita, her cousin Constantine "Dream" Walker, and Marlene "Precious" Gifford Bob Marley, then a member of the Wailers vocal trio along with Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh, became the group's mentor and manager and through working together, he and Rita fell in love.
Soulettes released recordings include rocksteady tunes such as "Time for Everything", "Turn Turn Turn" (released in 1966, this was a cover of The Byrds' hit song based on a Bible quote) and "A Deh Pon Dem". "Friends and Lovers", "One More Chance" and "That Ain't Right" (featuring harmony vocals by the Wailers), as well as a duet by Rita and Bunny Livingston, "Bless You" were issued years later on the Lovers and Friends album.
After those recordings for the Studio One label coached by Bob, Rita married the legend Bob Marley around February 1966, just before her husband moved to Wilmington, Delaware (USA) for a few months to make a living working at the Dupont Hotel there. Bob was replaced by Constantine "Vision" Walker, who recorded a few songs as a member of The Wailers during this period.
Upon Bob's return at the end of the summer of 1966, Bunny Livingston, Peter Tosh and Bob created their independent label Wail 'n' Soul'm, which released several Bob Marley and the Wailers, as well as Peter Tosh and the Wailers 45RPM single records including, Bend Down Low, Hypocrites and Tosh's Dem Haffi Get a Beatin' in 1966-1968.
As Bunny was jailed in 1968 for cannabis possession, Rita joined the Wailers, replacing Bunny for a few months. It is at that time that The Wailers met U.S. singer Johnny Nash, who produced a series of Wailers rocksteady recordings. In April 1968 Nash's manager (and mobster) Danny Sims signed Peter Tosh, Bob, and Rita Marley to exclusive publishing, management, and production contracts in exchange for a few dollars and an opportunity to record in Kingston for the New York-based JAD label owned by Johnny Nash, musician Arthur Jenkins and Danny Sims.
Musicians on this 1968 Wailers session feature Peter Tosh and the Marleys. Rita sang vocals on a dozen fine rocksteady and soul tracks, most of which were not issued at the time. New recordings of Bend Down Low and Mellow Mood got issued as a single in the U.S.A. under the name "Bob,
The original 1968 sessions including all of the original musicians — and without the horns — eventually surfaced on the Freedom Time album issued in 2003 by JAD's partner in France (55 Records) after producer Bruno Blum finally mixed them in Paris from the original four-track tapes. One song, "Play Play Play", features Rita Marley on lead vocals with harmonies sung by Peter and Bob. Another Rita Marley sung tune, "Lonely Girl", and a pop duet with Bob, "Milk Shake and Potato Chips", were finally released in 2003 on the Rebel JAD/55 long box set.
The I Three
Following the birth of Bob and Rita's second child, David, in 1968, Bob returned to Delaware in 1969 to work on the night shift in a Chrysler factory. Bunny had returned to the Wailers at the end of 1968 and Rita did not record with Bob until 1974, when her husband formed the I Three (often wrongly spelt I Threes) harmony vocal group featuring Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt to replace Peter and Bunny, who had left the band in 1973.
Together with the I Three, Bob Marley & the Wailers recorded the album Natty Dread in 1974, rising to international stardom with the hit track "No Woman No Cry". It was followed by the 1976 hit album Rastaman Vibration featuring the popular track "Roots, Rock, Reggae". On 3 December 1976 two days before "Smile Jamaica", a large free concert organized by Bob Marley with the support of Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, Rita, Bob, and manager Don Taylor were wounded in an assault on the Marley home by gunmen affiliated with Manley's enemies. Rita survived a shot to the head and Taylor sustained serious injuries from being shot in the leg. Bob had a bullet skid his chest and wound his arm, but nevertheless played this major show in Kingston. He then went into exile.
Bob Marley, the Wailers, and the I Three, including Rita, moved to London in late 1976. By then Bob was living with Cindy Breakspeare, a Jamaican model who had just been crowned Miss World 1976. They would soon have a son, Damian. In spite of this, Rita stayed to sing with her husband.
After Marley's death, she recorded a few albums under her name with some success in the UK. A 1982 cover version of the Love Joys's song "One Draw"was a successful single in Europe.
In 1986, Rita decided to convert Bob Marley's home into the Bob Marley Museum. She is the Founder and Chairperson of the Robert Marley Foundation, Bob Marley Trust, and the Bob Marley Group of Companies. She adopted 35 children in Ethiopia and has assisted over 200 children in Konkonuru Methodist School in Ghana.
In 2000, Marley created the Rita Marley Foundation, a non-governmental, not-for-profit, non-partisan organization that works to alleviate poverty and hunger in developing countries. It specifically targets elderly and youth. It has given out a number of scholarships to music students in Ghana. It hosts the annual Africa Unite concerts which strives to spread global awareness about issues that affect Africa and to develop lasting solutions.
In 1996, Rita Marley was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government, and in 2010 received the Marcus Garvey Lifetime Award. On 3 August 2013, she was made an honorary citizen of Ghana by the Ghanaian government. In November 2015 Marley was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of the West Indies.
In 2004, While promoting her memoir No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley, Rita claimed Bob Marley raped her in 1973. She told the Daily Mirror that she had refused to have sex with her husband because of his infidelity, but to no avail. "Bob wouldn't take no for an answer. He said to me, 'No, you're my wife and you're supposed to.' So he forced himself on me, and I call that rape."
Plan to rebury her husband
Rita Marley planned to have the body of her late husband exhumed and buried in Ethiopia, his "spiritual resting place" in 2005. She wanted it to be a month-long celebration of what would have been his 60th birthday. The area in which she wanted to bury him was a Rastafari community that was given land by the country's last emperor, Haile Selassie.
She claimed to have the backing of the Ethiopian government and said "We are working on bringing his remains to Ethiopia. It is part of Bob's own mission. Ethiopia is his spiritual resting place. With the 60th anniversary this year, the impact is there and the time is right."
Rita has six children, three from other relationships and three with Bob. Bob adopted Rita's two children as his own and they have the Marley name. Bob has 13 children in total: the two of Rita's that he adopted, three born to Rita, and the remaining eight with separate women. Rita's children are, in order of birth:
- Sharon Marley, born 23 November 1964 (daughter of Rita from a previous relationship but then adopted by Marley after his marriage with Rita)
- Cedella Marley born 23 August 1967
- "Ziggy Marley" (David Nesta Marley), born 17 October 1968
- Stephen Marley, born 20 April 1972
- Stephanie Marley, born 17 August 1974 (from a relationship with Ital, according to Bob's mother, Cedella Booker)
- Serita Stewart, born 11 August 1975 (from a relationship with one man named Tacky, according to her biography. It was not stated whether or not Bob adopted the child as he did her other two children by other men.)