You may know her as Bob Marley’s widow, and the mother of Cedella, Stephen and Ziggy (to name just a few of her loving children). To celebrate our upcoming Rita Marley-inspired hoodie sweatshirt, we are highlighting Rita’s many life accomplishments.
- SHE WAS RAISED NEAR BOB MARLEY IN TRENCHTOWN. Alpharita Constantia Anderson was born in Cuba on July 25, 1947, and was raised in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica. The Wailers—Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer—often passed by the metal shack where Rita was living.
- BOB MARLEY BECAME HER MENTOR. Rita started performing with Constantine Walker, her cousin, and her friend Marlene Gifford; they eventually called themselves The Soulettes. Rita was understandably thrilled when Bob Marley heard their music and was impressed. ("I remember how I would scream to hear his songs on the radio," Rita Marley told Interview.) Marley became their mentor, arranging an audition with Clement Dodd of the Studio One record label.
- SHE HELPED BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS TOP THE BILLBOARD CHARTS. Along with Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley formed the vocal group I Threes, who sang as backup vocalists with Bob Marley and the Wailers. Her first work with the band was the album Natty Dread—the group's first album that reached the top 100 on the Billboard Charts.
SHE ENJOYED MUCH SUCCESS AS A SOLO ARTIST. Her vocals may have helped Bob Marley and the Wailers climb to the top of the Billboard Charts—but she made it there herself in 1982. Her song “One Draw” sold over two million copies, and made history as the first reggae single to top the Billboard Dance Charts. Her 1992 album We Must Carry On was nominated for a Grammy. No wonder her nickname is the “Queen of Reggae.”
- SHE’S WORKED TIRELESSLY FOR BOB MARLEY’S LEGACY. She transformed Bob Marley’s house at 56 Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica, into the Bob Marley Museum. She’s also the founder of the Bob Marley Foundation. With her purchase of the former Federal Records at Marcus Garvey Drive and relocation of Tuff Gong International to this new address, the organization is now the Caribbean’s leading record manufacturing and distribution company.
- SHE’S DEDICATED HER LIFE TO HELPING OTHERS. Not only did she start the Bob Marley Foundation and the Rita Marley Foundation, she is the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Building Fund, which established the Berhame Selassie Home for the Aged. She has adopted 35 children in Ethiopia, and still works to improve their lives. Her guiding mission? In her words, “The aged be protected, the infants nourished and cared for.”
- SHE’S BEEN SHOWERED WITH AWARDS. In 1996 the Jamaican government awarded her the Order of Distinction, conferred “upon citizens of Jamaica who have rendered outstanding and important services to Jamaica, or to distinguished citizens of a country other than Jamaica.” In 2004 she was awarded Personality of the Year in Ghana in recognition of her philanthropic work, and she’s since received an honorary Ghanaian citizenship from the government of Ghana. In 2011 she was awarded the prestigious Honorable Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award at the Caribbean American Heritage Awards. The Living Legends Awards at the 2012 African International Media Summit (AIMS) in Malawi honored Rita, as did The International Women’s Forum, with the Leading Light Award.
- SHE’S A PUBLISHED AUTHOR. Her autobiography No Woman No Cry (Hyperion, 2005) received rave reviews for its intimate portrayal of the Marleys’ life and love.
- SHE HOLDS HONORARY DOCTORATES. In Jamaica she was conferred with a doctorate degree from the University of the West Indies in 2015, and in 2017 she was awarded a doctorate at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) in South Africa. She said, “It was such a great honor to be recognized by the University of Fort Hare, Dr. Nelson Mandela's alma mater.”
- SHE HAS A NEW LP. Rita’s son, Ziggy, produced the vinyl LP pressing, Lioness of Reggae: The Best of Rita Marley (Tuff Gong Worldwide), comprised of ten songs that span her career, including “Harambe,” “One Draw,” and “Who Feels It Knows It.” Why put out a new LP now? Ziggy says it best: “I felt this was a project that needed to be done, her musical legacy, message and vibe is unique to her and an important part of reggae’s history. This is a way for us to highlight and share her beautiful art.”