Cedella Marley: On MARLEY the Movie and Being Daughter of a Legend
by Michael KuelkerCedella Marley, the first child of Bob & Rita Marley, is the CEO of Tuff Gong International. A recording artist best known for her many years as a vocalist in Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers, Cedella Marley has also established herself as a designer, entrepreneur and philanthropist through her clothing line, books and 1love.org. She is married with three sons.
Ms. Marley spoke to me from her home in Miami, Florida, on Friday, April 13, a week before the opening of Marley, a new documentary film about her father. Drawing on new interviews and using hitherto unreleased video, director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) explores the artist who emerged from small circumstances (born in 1945 in the village of Nine Mile, Jamaica) to become the first Third World superstar, one whose presence continues to shine brightly in the 21st century.
Marley opens on Friday, April 20 at The Tivoli Theatre in University City. Check local listings for show times.
MK: First of all, maximum respect for the musical work, the cultural work and the charitable work you are involved with. I want to ask about all of that, but let’s go first with the new documentary. What about the film do you like best, and can you point to something that director Kevin Macdonald does especially well in your view in his handling of the material?
Cedella Marley: It takes you on a journey. You start off laughing, and you enjoy the cast of characters [Cedella chuckles] as they appear. For me personally, I came away with a better understanding of the last couple of months of Dad’s journey. I think with Kevin what was great is that he found people that we’ve never heard from.
My auntie Constance, we’re always in touch. [Constance Marley and Bob Marley have the same father, Norval Marley, whom Bob barely knew.] But I have never really asked her what was the relationship like with Dad, if any, because I knew there was never was really one when they were growing up. To hear her and how she felt about how the Marley side of the family even treated her and Dad … it was good to hear her.
It was also wonderful that Kevin found the nurse in Germany. [Bob Marley was treated for cancer in Germany in the months before his death in May 1981.] I couldn’t believe … How? How did you actually go and find that lady? It was good to hear her talk about Daddy, the person we knew; he was a nice person. So I thought [Macdonald] did an amazing job.
I’ve always wanted to know what kind of sense of humor your father had. What kinds of things made him laugh?
[Cedella chuckles.] He would laugh at anything. I think too that having always having all these different people walk into Hope Road every day, you would definitely see some characters. [Bob Marley lived at 56 Hope Road in Kingston beginning in the mid- 1970s. The residence has since become the Bob Marley Museum.]
I remember him telling us this story – let me see if I can remember it properly – this lady who just kept coming back to Hope Road with different-different stories. She was crossing the street and a car hit her in the leg. That was her one day. Then she came and said a bus came and lick her in the other leg, and then that was the story for that day. Then the third day she was crossing the street [Cedella begins to laugh] and somebody inside of a vehicle threw something and it hit her in her head
And when he would tell you these stories, we were like cracking up. People would actually come to Hope Road with different-different stories … and of course he would always give them something to leave with.
I’ve sometimes wondered how often people present you really whack licensing ideas, like ‘Let’s do a Bob Marley Ambush in the Night toy tank that shoots flowers’ … or something.
Let me tell you what just came as we speak. You’ll find this funny. [Reading her email, Cedella adopts an officious voice.] ‘Suspected Bob Marley counterfeits in the UK.’ [Cedella laughs]
I’ll bet you get a lot of that.
We’ve been contacted by customs in the UK, notified that they have detained a bunch of gym bags with the Bob Marley name and picture from China. ‘Please review the images and let me know if this is legitimate.’ [She laughs some more.]
I’m guessing not.
No, it’s not. It’s not. It’s just to show you … And you have to respond to these people right away.
How did your children’s book writing come about? I’ll tell you what my kid thinks of One Love in a moment, but I wanted to ask first how it went from vision to finished product and whether you have more children’s books in your future.
We have one coming out in the fall. It’s called Every Little Thing, and of course it’s based on ‘Three Little Birds.’
Being a mother myself, kids always need encouragement but not false encouragement. And I think one of the great things about our parents was that everything was always real.
One of the points that we bring out in the documentary – and I’m not gonna say too much because you haven’t seen it – is when we’re having a race with Daddy, Daddy is not just gonna mek us win because we’re his children. He’s gonna want us to run as fast as we can to catch him. He’s not gonna slow down just to mek us win because we’re his children. He’s gonna want us to try to beat him, you know?
Life lessons like that I teach my children. In writing the book One Love, it was very simple. Little C, I gave her that name, basically she lives in this environment where if everybody can just get together, they can really make a difference in their own environment, and that was building the One Love park. That was her aim. And she got it done because she stayed focused on her path.
That’s why I write children’s books – it’s to encourage kids but to let them know that nothing is going to come easy. Sometimes you have to get up and go get things done.
Our daughter is two and a half, and she loves the book. And we don’t just blaze through it. We dwell on the pictures [illustrations by Vanessa Newton] and get into the scenarios, and then when the page turns to the guitar player, she sings part of a Bob song.
Awwwwww. She’ll love Every Little Thing. One Love was a girl character, and Every Little Thing is going to be a boy character. When we were doing the illustrations with Vanessa, I sent [Vanessa Newton] a picture of my son. ‘I’d really love for this character to have some of his qualities, and she really did an amazing job. Wait till you see it, you’re gonna love it too.
I’m wondering about your own spirituality, how you would define yourself spiritually speaking.
I’m a modern Rasta. I just try to wake up every day and just do right. I don’t say my prayers every night, but at times when I am sitting and working, I will ask JAH to guide and protect me through whatever it is I am going through. I just try to keep my head positive, you know, because I believe in good in evil. I believe in jealousy and hatred. I also believe in the blackheart man. Those things are real. And so you have to keep focused and know that the more people hate you, the more people love you, and the more JAH love you. You have done nothing to deserve anything negative. When I am weak, I ask for guidance.
How do you determine which projects to take on with 1love.org?
It’s as it comes. We’d love to be able to everything at the same time. We did the charity water campaign. And Donna [Mastropasqua, the executive director] is just an amazing person. I’m basically a ‘what do you need for me to do’ person. I really let Donna run 1love.org and all I can do is say ‘what do you need from me’ and I just show up.
I saw last fall that you were posting on social media about the pay-per-view boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz. Are you a serious boxing fan, and if so, do you have a prediction on the Mayweather-Cotto fight coming up?
No … He’s not fighting Pacquiao?
No, that still isn’t happening.
Mayweather and Pacquiao are fighting other people around the same time. They’ve been offered ungoldly sums of money and still can’t get in the ring yet.
You know how I start to follow him? I love HBO, I watch a lot of documentaries and stuff like that. HBO had this thing going where they were following him up to his fights, and I kinda got addicted to that. Every week I was watching it watching it watching it. It was just something funny that he said in one of those programs, and I thought, ‘Oh, this guy has some Jamaican in him.’
Yeah, the rude boy side of things.
No, I think his mother is Jamaican.
And my brother Rohan had just met him. Something like, that’s not really his name. [Floyd Mayweather was born Floyd Joy Sinclair.] So I kinda got intrigued. So when is that fight coming?
The fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo. It’ll be a great match.
I’ve got to put that on my calendar.
Finally. do you ever feel like dropping a new single?
All the time, all the time. I’m waiting on Ziggy and Steve.
All right. Calling Ziggy and Steve.
For more see anicetime.com. Listen to “Positive Vibrations” every Saturday night from 9-11 p.m. with Professor Skank & Michael Kuelker alternating programs.