Bob Marley at 75: Ziggy Marley reflects on his late father's incredible, and very human, legacy
For Ziggy, it’s not about the record sales or the accolades; Bob Marley taught him to be a good person
Originally published on June 29, 2020
By every measure, Bob Marley is a titan of the music world.
He has sold over 75 million records worldwide, making him one of the top-selling artists in history. He has been heaped with accolades, among them a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His album Legend is the bestselling reggae album of all time, and one of the longest-charting releases in Billboard history.
It's been 40 years since the release of his final album, Uprising — which featured the classic Redemption Song — but Marley's music is still on high rotation on radio, countless fans still sport T-shirts and hang posters featuring his image, and perhaps most tellingly, younger generations continue to discover and revere his music.
But to Ziggy Marley, Bob was also a dad — and to help mark what would have been the reggae icon's 75th birthday, Ziggy is part of project aiming to show the world more of who Bob was.
So far this year, Marley75 has included five nights of performances during Grammy week, new music videos, the release of unearthed concert footage, a reissue of the vinyl Legend picture disk and more.
And in the process, Ziggy even learned a few things he didn't know about his father. "I learned that he liked comics," said Ziggy with a laugh in an interview with q host Tom Power.
"I like reading comics. But I never knew that he did. Simple little nuggets like that really give me a better idea of who Bob was as a person, beyond the musician."
Ziggy said many people feel they know his father because they've read books or listened to his music; some will even scold him on social media for doing things that they don't think his father would have agreed with. For example, someone might chide him online after they see him eating fish.
"They go, 'Bob was a vegetarian,' Bob wasn't a vegetarian, bro," laughed Ziggy. "I mean he didn't eat a lot of meat but he wasn't a vegetarian. He was just living how he feels. Freedom. He set his own rules, you know what I'm saying? So some people take it to the next level."
Bob Marley died from melanoma when he was just 36 years old, and Ziggy was 12. Ziggy remembers his father as a "joyful, happy person who liked to have fun and laugh and play sports." Now 51, Ziggy also recognizes just how mature he was for his age.
"Spiritually, mentally, he was a much more evolved person," said Ziggy. "The human side of him was still such a young, young man, really. But at that time in our lives, he seemed like an old wise guru."
Feb. 6 marked Bob Marley's 75th birthday, and many of his friends and musical collaborators have reflected on the musical legacy he has left behind, as fans continue to elevate him to an almost godlike level.
But when Ziggy considers his father's legacy, he doesn't think about the record sales or the accolades or the legions of fans, and he's not comfortable with fans' deification of his dad. Instead, he thinks about how his parents instilled the importance of simply being a good human being.
"My father sacrificed a lot to do something that he felt he had a purpose and a mission to do. And it was to benefit others. He wasn't doing it for fame. Forget money. He had a purpose within him," said Ziggy.
"So the legacy is how you become a good human being, how you continue to be alive, how you continue to be helpful. Continue to be of service in some way. Continue to help those who are less fortunate. Continue to stand up against injustice, stand up against racism, as a person, as a human being," he said.
"That's the real legacy."
— Written by Jennifer Van Evra. Produced by Vanessa Nigro