Jamaican reggae musician and social activist Bob Marley lived only 36 years, but he left his mark on the world through his music, his activism and his family. Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley died in 1981, and since then he became world famous, not only for making reggae an international phenomenon, but also for the messages of peace, love and justice he promoted through his songs. Over the course of his life, Marley admitted to having had 12 children with several different women, and many of them became musicians in their own right. Bob Marley was married to Alpharita “Rita” Anderson Marley for over two decades. They had an open relationship, and while they only shared three children, the couple raised Bob’s children outside of marriage together as one big family. His 12 recognized children and their accomplishments are described below.
Ziggy Marley is the eldest son of Bob Marley with his wife Rita. Born David Nesta Marley in 1968, the origin of the name “Ziggy” is said to have been given to him by his father and means “little spliff”, but in a 1988 interview the musician told Melody Maker magazine that he was a big fan of David Bowie and when Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” album was released, he started going by the name “Ziggy” and the name stuck. In 1979, Ziggy and his sisters Sharon and Cedella and his brother Stephen formed the band Melody Makers, named after the British music weekly. Their first recording was “Children Playing in the Streets”, a song written for them by Bob Marley four years earlier. Royalties from the single were donated to the United Nations to help with its International Year of the Child programme. The band disbanded in 2002 after having several successful albums. Ziggy himself is a multiple Grammy winner and has fifteen albums to his name as a solo artist.
Sharon Marley is Rita Marley’s daughter from a relationship she had before marrying Bob. Bob Marley adopted Sharon and gave her his last name. The eldest of the siblings, she is a singer, dancer and curator. She was a member of the group Melody Makers formed with her sister and brothers. With this group, she released ten albums and won three Grammy Awards for “Conscious Party”, “One Bright Day” and “Fallen Is Babylon”. She appeared in the movie “The Mighty Quinn” in 1989, and her song featuring Cedella Marley and Sheryl Lee Ralph is on the soundtrack. Sharon now balances her work on stage with the Caribbean company Ghetto Youth United and as a curator at the Bob Marley Museum. She is also the Executive Director of the Total Care Learning Center in Kingston.
Cedella Marley the second child born to Bob and Rita Marley. She is a singer, dancer, fashion designer, actress and entrepreneur. She oversees brands linked to her father’s name, including Tuff Gong and Marley Natural. In the 1980s and 1990s, she appeared in several films, including “The Mighty Quinn” and “Joey Breaker.” She was a member of the Melody Makers, and since the band’s disbandment has helped run the family’s charity “1Love.” She has several clothing lines and designed the uniform for the Jamaican track and field team at the 2012 Olympics. She is the author of a book “One Love” and the musical “Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds,” which featured her father’s songs and opened in New York in 2014. She launched a men’s clothing line in 2014, with proceeds from the “Marley” line going towards funding the Jamaica’s national women’s football team, the Reggae Girlz, which is an official sponsor and for which she is an ambassador. She launched the cannabis brand Marley Natural in 2014 and in 2017 wrote a cannabis cookbook, “Cooking with Herb”. She is the Acting Director of the Bob Marley Foundation, an organization that seeks to provide social interventions in Jamaica through educational and community development initiatives. She raised funds to help the Reggae Girlz in their historic participation in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Robbie Marley was named Robert Marley Junior after his father, but goes by “Robbie” to stem confusion with the elder Marley. He is Bob’s son with Pat Williams, and he grew up with Bob and Rita Marley. He pursued a career in graphic arts.
Karen Marley is the daughter of Bob Marley and Janet Bowen, of English origin. She has focused her career endeavors primarily on fashion. She was born in England in 1973 but grew up in Jamaica with the Marleys and attended school there. She is an international creative consultant and is known for her selection of lifestyle products, specializing in “all things beauty”. Her passion for art and culture started at an early age, and she initially pursued a career in interior design and had a successful interior decorating business in Jamaica. She went on to found Buttons and Bows in Los Angeles and now owns the KarenMarley Collection, an online store that offers limited-edition, ethically-sourced and culturally-inspired designs. Her goal is to represent her heritage through beauty in a lasting way.
Damian Marley is known as “Junior Gong”, a name playing on his father’s nickname “Tuff Gong”. He is the youngest son of Bob Marley. Her mother is former Miss World 1976 Cindy Breakspeare. Damian is a successful musician whose influences include reggae, dancehall and hip-hop. He is a DJ, singer, songwriter and record producer. He formed his first musical group at the age of 13 called the Shephards. The group included Freddie McGregor’s daughter and Third World’s son Cat Core. The group disbanded in the early 1990s and he began a solo career. In 1996, he released his first album on the Tuff Gong label, titled “Mr. Marley. His album “Halfway Tree” won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2002.
Stephen Marley is the son of Bob and Rita Marley. He performed on stage with his father at the age of eight. He is a musician and has produced many recorded albums of his siblings. He began his musical career with a member of the Melody Makers at the age of seven. Since then, he has won eight Grammys: three as a solo artist, twice as a producer of his younger brother Damien’s albums and three as a member of Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers.
Rohan Marley is the son of Bob Marley and Janey Hunt. He is not a musician, but he was married to hip-hop star Lauryn Hill, with whom he had five children. He is in the coffee business and owns the “Marley Coffee” brand. He lived with Bob and Rita Marley from the age of four, then moved in with Marley’s mother after Bob died of cancer in Miami, Florida in 1981. He graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School and played linebacker for the University of Miami. He played professional football in the Canadian Football League with the Ottawa Rough Riders. He founded Marley Coffee in 2009, an organic coffee plantation and sustainable agricultural enterprise in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. He launched the “House of Marley” range of eco-friendly headphones in 2012. He is also involved in the management of the family charity 1Loce and the Tuff Gong Clothing Company. He appeared in the documentary “Motherland”.
Ky-mani Marley is a reggae and hip-hop artist. Its name originates from East Africa and means “adventurous traveler”. He is the son of Bob Marley and Jamaican table tennis champion Anita Belnavis. He was born in Falmouth, but moved with his mother at age nine to Miami, Florida. He started rapping and deejaying as a teenager and was inspired to become a singer when he was asked to sing during a recording session at a Miami studio. He experimented with laying tracks with his brothers Stephen, Julian and Damian. He released his first album in 1996 on the Shang Records label entitled “Like Father Like Son”. He released several singles which reached the top of the UK reggae charts. He signed with Gee Street/V2 Records in 1997. In 2015, he released his album “Maestro”. He has a reputation for being part of a new generation of reggae musicians and performed at the Midem international music showcase in Miami where he played a set broadcast live in 36 countries by the Caribbean News Agency. He appeared in the films “Shottas” and “One Love”.
Julian Marley is the son of Bob Marley and Lucy Pounder. He was born in England, the only of Bob’s sons to be born there, and is a Grammy-nominated reggae musician, singer and songwriter who often collaborates with his siblings. He is also active in humanitarian efforts and, like his father, is a Rastafarian who uses his music as inspiration in his life and spirituality. He spent his childhood in England and Jamaica and showed his musical interests from an early age when he learned to play many instruments including keyboards, drums, bass and guitar. He joined his brothers Ziggy and Stephen and became involved with Ghetto Youth International, a production company, in 1989. His first solo album “Lion in the Morning” was released in 1996. He and his brother Damian toured at the festival music company Lollapalooza in 1997. Julian and his band Uprising were invited by the Jamaican government to represent the country at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His 2009 album “Awake” was nominated for the Grammy for Best Reggae Album.
Makeda Jahnesta is the daughter of Bob Marley and Yvette Crichton. The youngest daughter, she was born in Miami about three weeks after her father’s death. She graduated from Coatsville Area Senior High School and West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She frequently visited Rita Marley’s home in Jamaica and was a beneficiary of the Marley estate.
Stephanie Marley is the daughter of Rita Marley and a man outside her marriage to Bob Marley, who later adopted her and named her after her.