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No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley

Posted Apr 12 2006

There's no denying the tremendous impact that Bob Marley has had on music, politics, and popular culture. But while many deify him, it's no secret that he's just as flawed as many other idols, if not more.

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There's no denying the tremendous impact that Bob Marley has had on music, politics, and popular culture. But while many deify him, it's no secret that he's just as flawed as many other idols, if not more. In spite of her best efforts, Marley's wife Rita does nothing to dispel this notion and paints a less than flattering portrayal of her former husband. Sounding like a survivor of an abusive, co-dependent relationship, Rita makes numerous rationalizations for Marley's infidelity, efforts to stifle her solo career, and even at least one apparent sexual assault. She says that the stresses of stardom led to many of these problems and she backs up this claim with tales of shady promoters and record label types. When Marley passed away he did not leave a will, leaving Rita and the children to fend for themselves. Interestingly enough, with Marley's passing it appears that Rita was more able to assert herself. In particular, she committed her life to defending the Marley estate and helping impoverished folk around the world. She relates tales of people's efforts to exploit her and her family, including one guy claiming to be an aborted child of hers that she thought was dead. Rita also asserts that members of the original Wailers, reggae legends Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh had such animosity toward Marley that neither attended his funeral. She goes on to criticize Wailer for disrespecting her by offering her a job as a helper when Marley passed away. According to her, she remembered being "shocked to discover that to some Jamaican men, women were for sex, cooking, washing clothes, having babies, shutting up, and taking licks." Ironically, she gives the impression that Marley didn't view things too differently. Among other things, in spite of the I-Threes (Rita's all-female group) being a critical part of Marley's show, the entourage remained titled Bob Marley and the Wailers. In regards to other women, Rita says that Marley never allowed other women to disrespect her so she didn't make a big deal of his adultery. "I didn't think that I should disrupt those other relationships," adding that the important thing was that he was there financially for her and the kids. Rita also took care of many of the children that Marley had by other women. "If I complained sometimes about the other baby mothers he'd say 'Baby you couldn't have all the babies that I feel I should have. I don't want to get you pregnant every year. So some of that is really just taking the burden off you and your body because I know you want to work. I know you want to sing.'" Yet according to Rita, Marley felt threatened by her solo career and discouraged her from branching out. While Rita didn't accept his behavior without protest, in the end she did accept it. Although this book is Rita's  autobiography, her life is so intertwined with Marley that the title is right on point as nearly every experience described from her adult life is directly linked to him, not allowing her to carve out a distinct identity of her own. Nonetheless, there's no questioning Rita's strength and it's highly doubtful that Marley would have garnered such success without her unwavering support. Her story proves once again that "solo artists" are never truly solo. These revelations don't lessen Marley's, nor Rita's, work, but they do remind us that the lessons from our heroes come in accepting their humanity and understanding their flaws, as well as their greatness.

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