I had the privilege of hanging out with this marvelous and vibrant woman several times when"Mama Marley" or "Mama B, "as she was alternately known, was born in
I was a guest in her Wilmington, Delaware, home and she a visitor at the farm where I lived. As matriarch of that city's small Jamaican community, she always had an open door and offered a helping hand.
Norval Marley died when Bob was 10. Mother and son then moved to
Bob returned to Jamaica in 1964, but his musical career foundered and in 1966 he returned to Wilmington with wife Rita, whom he had just married and later became a member of the I Threes, his back-up singers. He worked at a Chrysler Corporation auto manufacturing plant (the inspiration for his song "Night Shift"), but soon realized that his destiny was not toiling on an assembly line and he again returned to
Mama Marley said of her son in a newspaper interview:
"I didn't know he was going to be a Reggae king, but I knew he was a king from birth. It was a great moment, you know. I remember it clearly. I will never forget it. No mother will forget the birth of any of their children. It is the best time of their lives."She survived Bob, who succumbed to brain cancer in 1981, by 27 years and was mother to four children in all. She is survived by two, Pearl Livingston, half sister of reggae singer Bunny Wailer, and Richard Booker, promoter of the annual Bob Marley Concert in
Said Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding:
"She was a star in her own right. Her life was one of hardship, struggle and eventual fulfillment, and through it all, she exuded hope, strength and confidence."
I was living on a farm where we had dairy goats and a large vegetable garden. Folks from
Rita, who continued to live part time inOur goats milk operation was modest and self service. Customers would take a gallon jug from a refrigerator in the milk house and leave the dollar or two that we charged in a cigar box.
, would come by with Mama Marley and three of their children (and Bob fathered a slew of them with several women). Wilmington
Her brood at the time included daughter Cedella and sons Stevie and Ziggy, who would go on to became a reggae star and four-time Grammy winner. (Stevie, Cedella and sister Sharon have played with Ziggy.)
It was rare that none of us were at home. This was, after all, a working farm, but one day that was the case. When we checked the cigar box that evening, there was a $20 bill among the ones and loose change, a note written in a barely legible scrawl:
"Thanx for the good milk. Love ya! Bob Marley"