From Jamaica to the world: The legacy of a legend

As one of Bob Marley's former bandmates sues his estate for £60m in royalties, Steve Barrow explains what happened to the other members of the reggae legend's inner circle
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The Band

The Wailers

The line-up of the group that signed to Island included Bob, Peter Tosh (right) and Bunny Wailer, with Aston "Family Man" Barrett (below) and his brother Carlton on bass and drums, plus Earl "Wire" Lindo on organ. This group made Catch A Fire and Burnin', the first two albums that established the group internationally. Peter, Bunny & Wire had all left by the time Natty Dread was recorded in 1974. Along with the Barretts, the group now included the guitarist Al Anderson and Bernard Harvey on organ. Vocal harmonies were sung by the I-Threes trio.

The music made in this period utilises the arrangements and general style that the Barretts had developed as session musicians , not only as The Upsetters, but also in countless other sessions under a variety of band names; over the next seven years, the group took this sound all over the world. Today, remaining members still tour as The Wailers Band with a variety of vocalists standing in for Marley.

Peter Tosh

The most outspoken and militant member of the original Wailers, Tosh [b.1944] provided the early group with much of its attack, principally through his gravelly vocal and uncompromising lyrics. Both Tosh and Bunny Wailer deeply resented Island's marketing strategy, which placed the focus on the charismatic Marley.

Tosh left, releasing music on his own label. Later he signed with Virgin, Rolling Stones Records and EMI, releasing a series of albums that lacked the consistency of Bob's work. He was murdered by robbers at his home in Kingston, Jamaica, in September 1987.

Bunny Wailer

A friend of Marley's since childhood, Bunny (above) was the most "soulful" of the original line-up, contributing beautiful vocal performances on early group works like Sunday Morning and Who Feels It Knows It as well as impeccable harmony vocals. He released the superb Blackheart Man album shortly after leaving the group; it remains the only work by an ex-Wailer to equal, even surpass, Bob's later output with Island. He recorded a series of albums on his own Solomonic label into the early 1980s that are also consistently rewarding. He continues recording, apparently reluctant to tour very much, though he won Grammy awards in 1990, 1994 and 1996.

The I Threes

Both Marcia Griffiths [b.1954] and Bob's wife, Rita Marley [b.1946], began their singing careers at Studio One; Judy Mowatt [b.1952] started with Federal Records. All had enjoyed some success before the time they became Bob's harmony vocalists. Marcia had been already part of UK hitmaking due to Bob [Andy] & Marcia in 1970. All three maintained solo careers while working with The Wailers, for whom they provided a seamless vocal blend and added considerable visual appeal to the stage presence of the group. Following Marley's death, all three took up their solo careers again. Griffiths re-established herself as the "Queen" of reggae, enjoying hits with the dancehall producer Donovan Germain in the early 1990s. Judy Mowatt found God and now sings gospel.

Rita Marley maintained a more sporadic solo career and devoted her attention to the business of the Marley estate. In 1986 she was accused of forging her late husband's signature and transferring funds into her name.

The Family

David 'Ziggy' Marley

Ziggy [b.1968] is the first son of Bob and Rita; together with Stephen, Sharon, and Cedella he started the family group Melody Makers in 1979. By 1986 they had released two albums, although it wasn't until Virgin released their third set, the platinum-selling Conscious Party [1988, Grammy winner] that they achieved any success at all comparable to their father's. The group won two more Grammys, in 1989 and 1997. Ziggy also co-founded the Ghetto Youths International label with brother Stephen, to foster their own and new talents; he is currently making an album for release this year.

Stephen Marley

Bob and Rita's second son, Stephen [b.1972] was singing on the Melody Makers' first single, "Children Playing In The Streets", aged just six years old. He is active in the business as a producer - notably on Damian Marley's Halfway Tree set - and as a remix engineer.

Julian Marley

Bob's son with the Barbadian Lucy Pounder, Julian [b.1975], has also tried to establish a musical career. A multi-instrumentalist, he moved back to Jamaica in 1992. So far, he has released two albums, Lion In The Morning (1996) and A Time And a Place (2003), as well as collaborating with family members Stephen, Ziggy, Damian and Rohan. He is also part of the Ghetto Youths International label with his brothers.

Damian "Junior Gong" Marley

Bob's son with the former Miss World Cindy Breakspeare, Damian [b.1978] started singing in a vocal group with the daughters of the singer Freddie McGregor and the I-Three member Judy Mowatt. His Grammy-winning Halfway Tree contained ample evidence of a strong talent, which was confirmed by the release of Welcome to Jamrock in 2005. Along with the hit title track, the album also featured appearances by Bounty Killer, Nas and Bobby Brown. Recent appearances suggest that he may take on his late father's mantle in terms of international appeal.

Kymani Marley

Bob's son with Anita Belnavis, formerly the Jamaican table tennis champion, Kymani [b.1976] (above) moved to Miami when he was 9 years old. He recorded his debut album The Journey [1999] following up in 2001 with Many Roads. Kymani's single Dear Dad was based on a letter Kymani wrote to his father when he was 5 years old.

With a voice uncannily like that of his father, he may yet achieve success in the music business, although he is also seeking to establish himself as an actor.

The Producers

Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd

The legendary sound system owner, producer and founder of Jamaica's equivalent to Motown, Dodd [b.1932] wasn't the first to record Marley - that honour went to the Chinese-Jamaican businessman Leslie Kong.

But Dodd was undoubtedly the first to see potential in the young singer and his group; while recording for Dodd's Studio One label, they acquired and developed the skills necessary to become successful in Jamaica's ultra-competitive music business.

They also recorded the first versions of many of their later hits while at the label. Dodd died in May 2004, having recorded most of the island's important singers and musicians in a career spanning almost 50 years.

Lee "Scratch" Perry

The wildly eccentric Perry [b.1937] (above) was instrumental in shaping the "rebel music" that became the group's identity in the early 1970s. He employed the Barrett brothers [Aston and Carlton] as bassist and drummer in his studio band The Upsetters. They created the arrangements that became the template for later success when Marley and the group, including the Barretts, signed for Island Records. Perry went on to build the celebrated Black Ark studio in 1974, recording hits like Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves".

In a celebrated incident, Perry burnt the studio down in 1980, after which he pursued a career as a performer - and still records at his home in Switzerland.

The Entrepreneur

Chris Blackwell

Jamaican-born Blackwell [b.1937] (below) founded Island Records in Jamaica in 1959, moving to London in 1962. From there he built the company that, 10 years later, had become the UK's leading independent record label.

He scored an early hit with Millie Small's "My Boy Lollipop" in 1964. Blackwell then tried to establish Jimmy Cliff, but then discovered Steve Winwood. Over the ensuing years, he began developing more rock acts like Winwood's Traffic, Cat Stevens and U2.

In 1973, he signed Bob Marley, and began developing the strategies that would break the group in the global market. He sold Island Records to Polygram in 1991 and founded his multimedia company Palm Pictures; he is also active in hotel and resort development in Jamaica and the US.

Steve Barrow is co-author of The Rough Guide to Reggae. To order a copy for the special price of £12.99, including free p&p, call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897, or order online at