STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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One of reggae pioneer Bob Marley’s five musical sons, Stephen “Ragga” Marley was born not in Jamaica, but in Wilmington, Del.
Marley shared in a phone interview that at the time he was born in 1972 (prior to the sessions for Bob Marley’s landmark “Catch a Fire” album), his father and mother, Rita, were visiting his paternal grandmother, who lived in Delaware.
It wouldn’t be the last time his grandmother would see him. “My grandmother, my dad’s mother, wanted to make a record. No one would help her. I said: ‘Grandma, let’s do it.’ That’s the first time I tried to produce a record. It was great,” said Marley with a smile in his voice.
A member of, and producer for, his older brother Ziggy’s band, The Melody Makers, he started recording music under his own name in 2007, and has won six Grammy Awards (three of them with Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers).
He also produces his younger brother Damien’s music. “Everyone has their personality and their own outlook on the same issue. Everyone tells their story their way,” he said of his musical siblings.
The reggae family’s musical legacy has expanded to a third generation. Marley’s son, Joseph “Jo Mersa,” is scheduled to be one of the opening acts at a July 3 Stephen Marley show at the Trocadero, less than three weeks before Marley’s fourth album, “Revelation, Pt. 2 — The Fruit of Life,” drops.
Like Marley’s brand of reggae tends to do, “The Fruit of Life” will have some noticeable hip-hop flavor, with cameos by Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Shaggy (“So Strong”) and Waka Flocka Fame (“Scars on My Feet”).
It’s a sequel to Marley’s Grammy-winning “Revelation, Pt. 1 — The Root of Life,” which he said was “original reggae” harnessing the harmonies and spirit of artists his father listened to, such as Curtis Mayfield. Where part one was about the music that influenced reggae, part two — “The Fruit of Life” — introduces the music that reggae has influenced.
As Marley put it: “The fruit and the root is different in the tasting.”
In 1980, Stephen and Ziggy Marley performed on stage with their father at a free concert held at Rufaro Stadium in Zimbabwe to honor the nation’s Independence Celebration. Bob Marley passed away in 1981. “What my father stood for is equal rights. Everyone needs that. It’s great to see him so present in this time,” he said.
“The fruit is ripe,” Marley said in closing, noting that he’d perform just enough of the new album to get a taste.