Your new favorite children’s book author is Ziggy Marley
There will never be a day when Ziggy marley is not synonymous with his father, Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley. The eldest child of Bob Marley and his wife Rita (11), Ziggy has helped carry on his father’s legacy through his music, activism and philanthropic activities since his death in 1981.
Marley, also an eight-time Grammy Award-winning artist who made waves with his own band, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, turned 53 last month (October 17), and beyond his musical pursuits, he is now embarking on book publishing. Earlier this year, commemorating what would have been his father’s 75th birthdaye birthday, he edited a photo book of behind the scenes photos called Bob Marley: Portrait of the Legend compiled from photos taken between 1976 and 1980.
He also recently published a children’s book titled My dog ââRomeo, which details the story of a boy and his dog, somewhat inspired by Marley’s own acquisition of a Lagotto Romagnolo during the pandemic.
Last week he published a second children’s book, Little John Crowe, which tells the story of the vultures that live in Jamaica and how they are an integral part of the ecosystem. Both books were published by Akashic Books.
While waiting for Marley – who has seven children himself – reggae predictably leaked into my headphones. It was the Marley royalty hotline, after all. Once he picked up the phone a minute later, we started discussing the art of storytelling, collaborating with young Israelis and Palestinians and the song he wrote for George Floyd.
InsideHook: where did the idea for Little John Crowe to come of?
Ziggy Marley: It’s based on the fact that I grew up around vultures in Jamaica. I finished writing it during the pandemic, but I started writing it many years ago. It’s based on my experience and presenting the plight of vultures to an audience so that they understand their importance and the importance of nature in the ecosystem in which we live.
Is writing a children’s book a way for the younger generation to learn how to take care of the planet at an early age?
Yes, and there are different types of vulture species that are removed from their habitat. Some vultures are also endangered. It is important that we are aware of this species which is so essential in warding off diseases in human beings.
How is writing children’s books an extension of songwriting?
For me, writing a book is a way to broaden my mind and have more space to tell more stories. The songs usually have a certain structure. Writing a book is a much deeper palette, where I can be more imaginative – it’s an adventure. I love to do it.
You have seven childrenâ¦ Do you use storytelling to impart wisdom to the younger generation, based on the things you learned from your own parents?
For myself, for my youngest children, I told them stories that I was told in Jamaica. Storytelling has been a big part of my education. I continue to do this with my own children. But some stories aren’t even written by books, it’s just by memory. With this book, I read it when I was 4 and 10. It’s part of our heritage in storytelling in music and now in books. Also from memory, my aunts told us stories.
What books inspired you growing up?
Fantasy books. I read a lot of comics growing up. Things that I can imagine, or things that sting my imagination. I’m drawn to this world of superheroes, or the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars kind of stuff, that’s what makes my imagination fly.
Last year you released a song called âLift Our Spirits, Raise Our Voice,â which was inspired by the protests following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. How did you feel about it?
Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves. I walked with kids on the streets of Los Angeles at the time, but I was not deeply, physically involved in the protest actions on the streets. My way of expressing my solidarity for what was going on was to write songs. And share this song with the world. Maybe it can inspire positive change, an awareness of the real situations that affect us. I had an emotional reaction to what I saw at the time, with the George Floyd situation. Like a human being. The song was born from this reaction.
The message of music is the key for you. Do you use it as a form of expression of peace and unity?
I wouldn’t say I was using it; I would say he uses me. I would return that. I am inspired to write songs. I am not a political commentator, columnist or writer. What affects me emotionally is what I write about. I have a visceral feeling about this that comes to me. I am not a professional writer. Writing is not my job. It’s spiritual.
What has been your experience working with the Jerusalem Youth Choir and Palestinian choristers?
It wasn’t in person because it was during the pandemic, so it wasn’t as palatable. But my wife is Israeli, I have been to Israel several times. I spoke with Palestinians and the Diaspora in Israel. It was a natural thing for me. It’s youth and it’s about peace and love, bringing people together. To find a solution that is outside the political realm. Which seems difficult for these people to understand. But for the younger generation, it is easier for them to talk about being at peace and living together. To have peace. This is the best avenue to see a real solution to the problem facing the region – youth and through music.
Can you tell me about the charitable work you do with your foundation, Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment (URGE), who helps children in Jamaica and Ethiopia?
Our charity Urge helps us work with children. We work a lot with schools, it’s about the way of life we ââlive, of giving back as an extension of who we are. It’s normal for us to do that.
What do you say to people who say, when you sing, that you have the same voice as your father? Is this a compliment?
Not exactly, but people love Bob Marley so much that they sometimes imagine things. [Laughs.] Many people have never seen him live or have never known him personally. So when they see me, they use their imaginations. Its good. I am biologically and genetically related to him, but we all have genetic traits from our parents. It’s not something I take as negative, I take it as positive.
When you sing your father’s songs like âI Shot The Sheriffâ you said you sang them âin the present about the present, not like the pastâ. What does it mean?
I just did a tour. When I sing my father’s songs, I make them mine. I don’t just sing his songs; I feel the emotion of the times we live in and how they relate to the times we live in. and how it manifests when I sing them. I don’t just speak the words, I feel the words, with real emotional content, rather than just saying the same words. My emotions and the times we live in are reflected in every song. The songs are still relevant too. For me and for the audience, they feel the songs in a way that goes beyond a tribute. They feel it because it expresses what we are going through in life right now. It goes beyond just saying the words to my father’s songs.
You recently created a photo book to honor your father, Bob Marley: Portrait of a legend, do you remember what it was like to browse through his photo archives?
It always reminds me of childhood memories. And how young my dad was. I’m so much older than he was when he died, you know? [Marley was 36 when he passed away in 1981.] But I am still young. He was like a baby, compared. It’s fascinating to me that he has invested so much in the small number of years he’s been here. It has gone on for lifetimes and generations, it’s still sad and sad that he was so young when he passed away. When I look back, it’s a mixture of joy and sadness.
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