It’s been nearly four decades since Bob Marley last emerged on a concert stage, electrifying audiences with his visceral vibrations and melodic musings. But when ESSENCE catches up with the Trenchtown rocker’s daughter, Cedella, nearly halfway through the year-long birthday celebration in his honor, it’s as if his soul never left this earth.
“Daddy’s music is just so… It’s like you come up with it,” the first of Rita and Bob’s children together explains. “It’s even more relevant today than it was 40 years ago.”
The manageress of the Marley brand, CEO of Tuff Gong International is running just a minute behind for our Zoom call in late July —with good reason. “Hi my loves,” she says as she joins, positioned in front of the fireplace in her home. “I’m making chicken Parmesan, Jamaican style.” Apparently it’s the scallion and the pimento, Cedella insists, that gives it the designation. Though quarantine has turned many a person into budding new chefs, for the author of Cooking with Herb, the kitchen is more of a familiar respite than a new hobby. Between amplifying her father’s legacy, directing the multiple projects encompassed under the Marley name, and being an involved mom to her children, one of which is singer-songwriter Skip Marley, the director, designer, author, and philanthropist still finds time to prepare dishes rooted in the island nation that has become synonymous with her famed father’s name.
Much like Bob Marley’s music, time is not a construct for the freshly minted 53-year-old (her birthday was August 23rd). Even with a deadly virus forcing much of the world to stay indoors, she’s managed to find enough time to completely recast her father’s earthstrong events in light of the global pandemic, publish a forthcoming book of quotes, and last month, in partnership with the CEO of Amplified Records, Serene Sass, Marley recreated one of her father’s most resounding works — “One Love” with a music video to boot.
“Cedella and I were talking about doing something together this year. So we were trying to find something before lockdown,” Sass says of the project’s beginnings. “And then as soon as the lockdown happened, it was really like okay… It’s One Love, it has to be One Love. In this moment on the planet right now, it’s what everybody needs.”
Outbreak aside, Sass and Marley agreed that after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, the need to continue with the project was ever more pressing. Marley describes a “beam of light” pushing them toward completion despite having a very short window to work within and a pandemic that posed a wealth of problems to work around. As families face uncertainties presented by COVID-19 and millions call for equality, they say “Bob Marley’s everlasting message about the power of love and solidarity is more important than ever.” All of the proceeds from the newly remastered song go to UNICEF to help children affected by the pandemic. That includes children in communities from where the artists featured on the song reside.
At Amplified Music, Sass signs musicians from crisis countries, conflict zones, refugee camps and favelas. She brought many of them together for the record because she asserts, “that for us was the message of One Love at this moment in time.” Along with vocals from Cedella and son Skip, and a cameo from the matriarch of the Marley family, Rita, the project emerged as a reimagining of Bob Marley’s message for a time that is in desperate need of his voice. “It’s incredible, incredible,” Cedella says of both the artists and the initiative that now has more than 75 million views on Facebook. “And you know what I hope? I hope that this project helps to bring [the artists’] voice to the world because really, and truly they’re the voices that we need to hear. Consciousness, positivity, kindness it’s like, it’s simple stuff.” Marley discloses that all of the entertainers joined onto the Stephen Marley produced track with one mission — to create music that would heal, music that would quell some of the violence and the hate. “And I think she did that,” Marley says of her partner in the project. “I think Serene really did that.”
It’s projects like these that help the doting daughter stay close to her father. But Marley admits that these days it’s less about the music “The Legend” left behind and more about the words she still hangs on to decades after his death. “I don’t really listen to Daddy’s music that much, as much as I listened to interviews,” she confesses. “It’s a difference when I listen and I take quotes from him.” Often she reflects on what her father must have been going through in the moment, attempting to assess how a man battling negativity, classicism, an assassination attempt, and later cancer, could find the strength to formulate words that still resonate with generations of people. Marley says these are the things that bring her closer to her “daddy.” It’s why she discloses that she sat down patiently for two years listening to his reflections so she could put forth Redemption: Reflections on Creating a Better World.
“The one thing that I tell my children, is that we should never let anything stop us from still going for what we want to go for. Pandemic whatever,” Cedella says, likely borrowing strength from her late father who famously put on his Smile Jamaica concert just two days after his assassination attempt. “Don’t let the pandemic be your pandemic. Because we know that there are ways to get through things.”
Cedella Marley is certainly getting through. The author, artist, philanthropist, cook is proving that every day, while making sure that her family name continues to convey positivity and strength. Bob Marley, Cedella reveals, was known as a seer (or psychic) to friends, but it’s hard to say if the palm readings and visions could have ever predicted that a family of Rastafarians, once treated as outcasts, would now be leading the charge to reunite the world.
“Daddy used to say, ‘If there was one thing I do know is that my music will live forever,’” Cedella shares. “And people were like, ‘What are you talking about? What that mean?’”
“Now you know.”