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Lovers and Children of the Natural Mystic: The Story of Bob Marley, Women and their Children

Meredith Dixon



The music genre of reggae has become indelibly linked with artist Bob Marley. To this day, nearly two decades after his death from cancer, Bob's legacy lives on in his popular songs of oppression, racial strife and resistance. Yet, his heritage is also carried on by the people who he touched. Like any rock star, famed musician or celebrity, women surrounded him wherever he went. "That Bob was not a one woman man was common knowledge," says Don Taylor, though Bob had been married to Rita Anderson throughout his climb to the top rungs of the musical ladder (Taylor). The purpose of this paper is to explore the details of Bob's marriage to Rita, his longstanding relationship with former Miss World Cindy Breakespeare, his trysts with other women, and the children that were born out of his sexual escapades and to look also at how Bob's behavior with women typified Rastafarian beliefs and customs.

Bob's Marriage with Rita

Alpharita Constantia Anderson was born in Cuba to Leroy Anderson and Cynthia "Bada" Jarrett. At the age of three months, Rita, as she was known, immigrated to Jamaica. After her parents relocated to Europe, the girl was raised by her strict aunt Viola on Greenwich Park Road in Trench Town, Kingston (Boot). It was here that Rita first encountered the trio of Bob, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer as they passed by her home while walking on their way to Coxsone One Studio. Rita had heard the Wailer's music but it was not until a friend accompanied her to the studio that she was officially introduced to the group. Once it was learned that Rita was a singer in addition to being a nurse, an audition was arranged immediately for her group, the Soulettes.

The audition for the Soulettes went so well that Bob was assigned to the group's management in addition to helping them find new material. Bob was said to be very strict with the trio, which consisted of Rita, her cousin Constantine "Dream" Walker, and Marlene "Precious" Gifford, to the point where the group came to dislike him (White). Much to Rita's dismay however, Bunny pointed out that Bob was in love with her. Soon after, Bob started sending her love notes. Rita was confused by this display of emotion since Bob held a strict air in public. She approached him with her confusion, and the result was a two hour long discussion that brought the two closer together.

During one discussion, Bob explained his night visions of duppies, or ghosts, to Rita. Because the girl vehemently disbelieved him, he invited her to stay with him in his bed to witness the apparitions. Rita accepted the offer, and did indeed witness the specters Bob had so accurately described, but a sexual relationship was not consummated at that time (White).

By then, Rita was still living with her stern aunt. But that didn't prevent Rita from offering her lover a place to stay. Bob accepted, though he was forced to sneak in after her cousin went to sleep and leave before anyone awoke. Furthermore, Bob had to share a bed with Rita and her cousin, and be careful not to awake Sharon, whose crib remained close to the bed. Eventually, Viola discovered the nocturnal happenings between the lovers. Thinking that Bob could act as Sharon's father figure, Viola invited Bob to live with Rita in a shed behind the house.

The two continued their relationship into 1965, when Bob's mother Cedella Booker requested that Bob visit her in the United States, particularly Delaware where she now resided. Rita and Bob agreed that Bob should go but Bob insisted on getting married before he left so that should he like his new surroundings, it would be easier for Rita to immigrate. This would later be a source of pain and misunderstanding in their marriage.

Rita did not want to get married at this time for several reasons. Bob's mother did not know her. Rita's parents weren't there for approval. She did not believe that Viola would accept the responsibility of approving their marriage in place of Rita's parents. Furthermore, what if Viola said no to their union?

None of these reasons prevented Bob from attaining his goal. Dressed in "dark slacks and crisp white shirt" Bob asked Viola for permission to marry Rita (White). Though Viola initially shrugged off the responsibility of giving permission, Bob's persistence paid off. He claimed he loved Rita and intended to be the father of Rita's children with or without Viola's approval. Consequently, Viola approved.

At 11 a.m. February 10, 1966, after dating for nearly a year, the couple got married in the home of an Anderson family friend. Bob was 21 and his bride was 19 at the time. Within days, Bob left for Delaware.

Cedella Booker was not aware of her son's marriage until much later. Bob only revealed to his mother that he loved Rita. Later, he gushed about her beauty and loving personality. But soon Cedella noticed that Bob was not taking the calls of local girls. Rita must be more than a girlfriend, Cedella thought. Cedella advised her son to go out and have a good time while he was still young and unmarried. Only then did her son reveal that he and Rita were indeed married (White).

It was during this time that Haile Selassie visited Jamaica and deeply impacted young Rita. She quickly wrote to Bob, claiming to be interested in the teachings of Jamaicans. It was with Rita's influence that Bob embraced the religious beliefs of Rastafarianism. Perhaps Rita was unaware at the time, but the life of a rasta woman is far less exciting than for the men with whom they have relationships. Women are segregated from men, especially when menstruating because at this time they are viewed as being unclean. Women act as child bearers, fire bearers, cooks, honored servants and the like. Makeup and perfume are prohibited and their heads must be covered. They are prevented from making important decisions and often aren't even allowed to participate in decision making. Rita could not have known then that she eventually would fall from her respectful position as wife to a less fulfilling role in her husband's world. Later, as Bob's career accelerated, Rita was increasingly left to look after children, thus stalling her own recording career.

Sadly, Rita and Bob’s marriage existed purely in name over time, as Rita became a worker, a sexual giver, a secretary, a backup singer for the Wailers, and a watcher of children. She was paid a salary like every other worker for the band, and not given any special attention. Emotional and physical abuse became a part of their lives. Because their marriage was grounded in Rastafarianism, it was not viewed as abnormal that Rita should take such a backseat in her husband’s life. However, that did not mean Rita was not hurt by her husband’s actions.

About Bob’s extramarital affairs, she states "I am a normal woman and things can happen that depress you" (Whitney). Her manifestations of jealousy did nothing to prevent Bob from having intimate relationships outside their marriage. Consequently, Rita acknowledged his actions, and did her best to remain neutral and to protect the children. She accepted her husband’s children with other women as her own. After Bob’s death, it is possible that being surrounded by the children helped ease her pain. Over the years, Rita has collaborated musically with many of the children and remains on good terms with Cindy Breakespeare. Such behavior goes beyond the role of wife in my American eyes.

Rita cared for her husband throughout his illness, with help from other women in his life, and was there until the moment of his death. Rita states "Bob was the king and as his queen I must carry on" (White).

Rita and Bob's Children

Together, Rita and Bob had five children: Sharon, Cedella, Ziggy, Stephen and Stephanie. Sharon, the oldest, was conceived with an unnamed man when Rita was only 17. After coming into Sharon's life when she was only eight months old, Bob adopted her. She is said to have been Bob's "favorite" (White). At age 25, she is married and goes by the name of Sharon Marley Prendergast. In 1983 and '84, Sharon took time off from her college studies in business administration to help her younger siblings record two debut albums under the name The Melody Makers. In 1989, she made an attempt at acting with her half-sister Cedella in the film The Mighty Quinn, starring Denzel Washington and Robert Townshend. Presently she is curator of the Bob Marley museum in Jamaica. Of her childhood, Sharon states "We had a lot of music in our household. We listened to a lot of gospel music and music from other cultures. We used the music to keep us spiritually grounded" (online, …legacy/children). However, music was not something her father wanted her to get involved in because he knew that the business aspect had its snags. Yet, Sharon also says "But music is our life I guess. What we are doing now is nothing we haven't been doing for the last fifteen years at least." Sharon also works with the Caribbean business Ghetto Youth United, and is keeping busy in trying to open a day care training center in Jamaica, the first of its kind.

Cedella Marley, Rita and Bob's first child conceived together, was born in Kingston in August of 1967. The Wailers celebrated her birth by releasing the single "Nice Time", which later became her nickname. Educated in public schools, the girls took a liking to her musical surroundings and helped form the Melody Makers. Her talents as a songwriter, singer and dancer within the band have developed over the years. Cedella must balance the demands of the band with her work as CEO of Tuff Gong International, the record label her father developed in the early 1970's, and with her role as a mother. Cedella says, "Music was never a subject in our house. You know, it was like food on the table, it was just there. Daddy wanted me to become a doctor or lawyer, and Ziggy to be something else and Sharon to be something else, but we decided we wanted to play music for a while" (online…legacy/children).

David, or Ziggy as he is known, is the second child of Rita and Bob. He was born on October 17, 1968 in Trenchtown just as the pro-African movement began. As a child he recalls listening to Stevie Wonder in particular. The physical resemblance to Bob is eerie: both have a sharp chin, high cheekbones and pointed dark eyes. Some highlights of his life include watching his father perform in Zimbabwe and accepting his father's Order of Merit, one of the highest honors to receive in Jamaica. Known to many as the head of his siblings group The Melody Makers, Ziggy insists that the name is only the Melody Makers and that each member brings unique features to the band. For the past two decades, Ziggy has been singing, writing and producing music. He also keeps busy with charity, including Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment (U.R.G.E.) which does community service in Jamaica, Ethiopia and other countries of lesser wealth. His companion is Lorraine Bogle, with whom he has two children, Daniel and Justice (White).

The fourth child was born April 20, 1972 in Wilmington, Delaware when Rita was living with Bob's mother. Stephen is the fourth member of the Melody Makers, working as a singer, deejay, writer and producer for the group. He was only six years old when the group released their first track. "We've been making music together since birth. Our first song was produced by our father, called 'Children Playing in the Streets'" (online…legacy/children). He also developed the record label Ghetto Youths United. In the late 1990's, he was kept busy remixing his father's hits with the likes of Erykah Badu, Lost Boyz and Lauryn hill. It was his work with Lauryn Hill that led the Melody Makers to perform "No Woman, No Cry" with the Fugees at the 1997 Grammy Awards in New York City.

Stephanie Marley may possibly be Rita and Bob’s fifth child. Sources vary but Timothy White writes that Cedella Booker alleged that the girl was not fathered by her son. Rather, she asserts, Stephanie was fathered illegitimately by a man named Ital. Whatever the truth may be, Stephanie is recognized as Bob’s child and did indeed receive a sum of money from his estate.

Cindy Breakespeare

The woman most often linked with Bob, other than Rita or his mother Cedella, is Cindy Breakespeare. A clerk at the Sheraton Kingston and a dancer at the Dizzi Disco, Cindy first met Bob when the two became tenants at Chris Blackwell's house on 56 Hope Road during the early 1970's, when Cindy was only a teenager. They occupied different rooms in different areas of the house. Don Taylor asserts that Bob had made many passes at Cindy but it was not until he became famous and owner of the house that she paid him any attention (Taylor). Upon first meeting him, Cindy thought "Get involved with this dude and he'll change your life forever" (Whitney). It is rumored that "Waiting in Vain" concerns Bob's waiting for Cindy to accept his offers.

Coming from an upper class, highly educated background, Cindy was at first reluctant to date a Rasta but a relationship that taught her "a lot about how to be a woman" soon developed (Steffens). Initially, she did not know that Bob was married. It was actually Cedella Booker that first told her of Rita, but by then Cindy was pregnant with Bob's child. On Friday, November 19, 1976, Cindy rose from reigning Miss Jamaica Bikini and Miss Universe Bikini to Miss World, a campaign that was actually financed by Bob. Shortly after, Bob was shot. The following year, Bob "spent much of his time in exile from Jamaica with Cindy" (Steffens).

Knowing that Bob feared jealous women, Cindy was content to not ask for too much. She claims that his behavior towards her was always respectful because she was honest with him on every matter they discussed. She also says that though Bob was attracted to Babylonian women, he truly believed that a look absent of makeup and perfume was superior. Because of these beliefs he pressured Cindy to refrain from the use of makeup, razors, and nail polish.

Don Taylor believes that Cindy was the only woman Bob ever loved because she was the only woman he ever chased after. Cindy got respect from Bob more so than any other woman did. He bought her a house in the Cherry Gardens area of Kingston as well as gave her $100,000 starting capital for her Ital Craft store. Their relationship continued until his death, though in the final years their relationship became more of a friendship.

Today Cindy is married to jazz guitarist and airline pilot Rupert Bent and lives in the Stony Hill section of Jamaica. She keeps busy with her Ital craft shop and with her career as a singer. Cindy regards Bob today as "a true hero" (Steffens).

One child was born out of Cindy and Bob's relationship: Damian. Born on July 21, 1976 in Jamaica, he is knick named "Jr. Gong" (White). One of Bob's last requests was for his son's name to be changed due to a movie linking the name to the devil, which Bob though inappropriate for a Rasta. However, Damian's name remained. Like his siblings, he is also a musician. At 13, he formed a band called The Shepherds, which performed locally in Jamaica as well as at the Reggae Bash '92 and the Sunsplash '92 Bob Marley Tribute (online…mm/juliandamian.html). Damian performs with his half-brother Julian, often opening for the Melody Makers on tour. His last album, entitled Mr. Marley, was produced in part by Stephen Marley under the Ghetto Youth International label. The album features Damian deejaying over "new school" music as well as more traditional music (online… mm/juliandamian.html).

Janet Dunn (Hunt)

A dancer in a club, Janet met Bob Marley sometime in the 1970's. Literature on her origins or her first encounter with the King of Reggae is nearly nonexistent. In fact, there is even a discrepancy over her name. In Catch a Fire Timothy White credits Janet Hunt with giving birth to Rohan Marley, whereas the Wailer family tree lists his mother as Janet Dunn (online… wailerft.htm). Whatever the case may be, little is known of Bob’s affair with this woman.

Born in May 1972 to Janet, he was later brought by Bob to stay with Rita at the age of four because his mother was not properly caring for him. From that age on, Rohan stayed with the Marleys. He attended the same school as Ziggy and Stephen but unlike them he was rowdy and incorrigible to the point where he was sent to live with Cedella Booker in Miami. Cedella eventually adopted him. Rohan came to be starting linebacker for University of Miami’s Hurricane football team. In the 1990’s, Rohan was charged with trying to run over a Miami police officer with his pickup truck. Two years ago, he married singer Lauryn Hill.

Pat Williams

In 1970, Bob began a relationship with a woman from Trenchtown named Pat, and again sources are conflicting as she is referred to as "Pat" in Songs of Freedom but referred to as "Lucille Williams" in Catch a Fire. She came to know Bob through her stays at 56 Hope Road. On one particular evening, she approached the naked Bob in the moonlight. There in the yard she seduced him. Bob was so affected by the tryst that the next morning he wrote the lyrics to "Midnight Ravers" on a Kingston telephone book. The rendezvous bore a child Robbie, who was born in 1972. Eventually Robbie also fell under Rita’s care. Robbie attended the University College of the West Indies and is presently contemplating a career in computer graphics.

Janet Bowen

Little is also known of this "baby mother" other than many sources used for this paper did not even list a last name, simply referring to the woman as "Janet in England" (online… wailerft.htm). She gave birth to Bob’s daughter Karen in 1973 in England. Karen lived in Jamaica with her great grandmother in Harbor View, St. Andrew where she attended school. Eventually she became a regular visitor of the Marley clan though she initially feared Bob. When Bob fell ill, he asked Rita to care for Karen and enroll her in the same school as daughter Stephanie.

Lucy Pounder

A resident of Barbados, Lucy gave birth to Julian Marley on June 4, 1975. She raised her son in London and often brought him to visit Rita and Bob in Jamaica and Miami.

Julian recorded his first song when he was five years old and has since established himself as a bassist, drummist, and keyboardist. He released his first album Uprising in 1989. After moving to Jamaica in 1992, he has since released Lion in the Morning, which was produced in part by Stephen and assisted by Rohan, Kymani and the Melody Makers. Julian has toured in Japan, Brazil, and Mexico. In 1996, he was also featured as part of the "Marley Magic" tour in North America (online…mm/juliandamian.html).

Anita Belnavis

In 1977 Anita, the Caribbean table tennis champion gave birth to son Ky-mani Marley. Little is known about this woman. Ky-mani spent summers with his father and surrogate mother Rita and moved to Jamaica in 1992.

Yvette Crichton

Yvette is the last woman with whom Bob is officially recognized as fathering a child. Out of their union was born Makeda Jahnesta Marley in 1981. By 1992, Makeda was a regular at Rita’s house and later became a beneficiary of the Marley estate.

Other lovers that weren’t mothers

There is a slew of other women with whom Bob is rumored to have had affairs. As Cindy Breakespeare says "Women were always throwing themselves at Bob’s feet" (Steffens).

Girlfriend Esther Anderson is indirectly cited in one of Bob’s songs. The lovers’ favorite hideaway was a fishing village past Negril. And on one evening, the two encountered a roadblock while crossing the island. This was the impetus behind "Rebel Music."

Diane Jobson was Bob’s attorney but that is not how her role in Bob’s life initially began. She "was a fairly typical example of an upper class woman completely under his control. She was a real uptown girl, whom Bob had taken and bred into the Rasta faith in the early seventies and, after he got bored with her, gave the day-to-day task of being his lawyer," says Don Taylor.

Pascalene, the daughter of the president of Gabon, was interested in Bob. In Reggae King of the World the author describes her as "a woman he was to woo and conquer, and with whom he had one of his last serious affairs" (Whitney).

Yvette Morris can be listed as another girlfriend. Don Taylor credited her and Allen Cole as aiding Bob in several important business decisions (Taylor).

Bob openly dated, and had sexual relations with, three of Cindy Breakespeare’s friends during the time he was with Cindy. Though sisters, Virginia and Nancy Burke did not seem to mind sharing their lover. Sandra Kong, another friend of Cindy's, also was linked romantically with Bob.

In 1977 in London, Bob was linked with Princess Yashi, the daughter of the oil minister of Libya. Described as having a "smooth olive complexion and the gait of a thoroughbred" the two frequented London clubs (Taylor). Yet, Bob still preferred to be surrounded by as many women as possible.

In that same year, Island Records threw several large lavish parties in Paris and Los Angeles for Bob and the Wailers. Several photos showing the artist dancing with pretty women in discos in both cities appeared at the time in European and American papers. At about this time, Bianca Jagger encountered Bob and was reportedly smitten by him, though no relationship evolved.

There are countless other unknown women with whom Bob had affairs but their identities may never be known. All together, Marley had eleven legally recognized children but some relatives estimate that he fathered as many as twenty-two (White).

Bob’s thoughts on Marriage

A common dispute that arose between Bob and Rita was his wife’s use of his last name. He claimed that the only reason he married Rita was the children they were to have and so it would be easier for Rita to get into the United States.

"Me never believe in Marriage that much. Marriage is a trap to control me. Woman is a coward. Man is stronger" (Taylor). Bob went so far as to refer to Rita as his sister when questioned by the media.

In an interview with Wanda Coleman in December 1973, when Wanda asked about a special lady in Bob’s life he replied "No really a one lady yet…No, I don’t really settle down with lady. Me not ready" (Coleman). When Bob was asked if he would ever marry Cindy, he claimed he would not because she was simply a girlfriend. In the song, "She’s Gone" Bob sings, "she felt like a prisoner that needs to be free," perhaps describing himself more than any woman he dated as no woman ever left him. Rather he left them, a further echo of his belief that marriage equals a trap.

Bob’s thoughts on Children

Those who knew the reggae artist knew he had a special affinity for small children. On many occasions, Bob stopped his vehicle to play with children by the roadside. He felt strengthened by them and felt blessed at his own brood. "Children are wonderful. It don’t take plenty y’know. Just a nice girl who don’t take birth control. Sexual intercourse is a lovely thing" (White). Bob also said he wanted to "’ave as many child as dere were shells on de beach." (White).

Two of Bob’s songs make pledges to his children: "High Tide or Low Tide" and "So Jah Sey". In the latter, Bob swears that none of his "seeds" will have to sit "in the sidewalk and beg bread." His children were very important to him. During his illness, the father of many stressed that above anything else, his estate was to go to the care and wellbeing of his children.


The greatest reggae artist of all time certainly kept a busy sexual life. Perhaps several early signs foretold this aspect of his life. Consider the following.

In the time that young Marley lived in Kingston before his life as a musician, Bob worked as a welder. Welding, among Rastamen, is slang for sex (Davis).

Rita once met a woman at a dryer cleaner’s place. Once the worker spotted the last name, she asked if Rita was related to the singer Bob Marley. When Rita replied in the affirmative, the young women revealed that her name was Constance Marley, and her father was the same man that had conceived Bob. Bob never got to meet his half-sister and was distressed. Upon telling his mother Cedella the story, she replied "Yuh fadda de cause of plenty-plenty grief and travail" (White). Perhaps, like his father, Bob also caused the mothers of his children grief and pain.

About the lack of clarity regarding Bob’s affairs, Timothy White offers "No one who was connected with Marley, no matter how intimately, had a complete picture of the man. The network of restrictive confidences that Marley developed over the years was extensive, encompassing business arrangements, extramarital affairs, daily comings and goings, and songwriting collaborations."

Yes, Bob Marley, Reggae King of the World, fathered many children and had numerous lovers. In this sense, he typifies the Rastaman who treats women as means to sexual gratification and as domestic slaves. Yet, he is atypical of his bredren because he held himself financially responsible to the children that were born from his sexual encounters.

As evidenced by the positive works written about Marley and his ongoing influence on the world, Marley’s legend lives on, be it through his children, or his music and positive messages. Gilly Gilbert, Bob’s Ital cook, says "Whatever Bob do, Bob do more right than wrong."

Works Cited

Boot, Adrian and Chris Salewicz. Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom. Penguin: New York, 1995.

Coleman, Wanda. "Interview with Bob Marley." The Beat 1994: volume 13, #3, p.44

Davis. "A Visit with the Black Prince of Reggae." Reggae Bloodlines 1979: p. 22-47.

Morris, Dennis. Bob Marley: A Rebel Life. Plexus: London, 1999.

Shearborn, Kirk. "The Party in Jamaica." The Beat 1995: volume 14, #3.

Sheridan, Maureen. Soul Rebel. Thundersmouth: New York, 1999.

Steffens, Roger. Bob Marley: Spirit Dancer. Norton: New York, 1994.

Steffens, Roger. "Forward." The Beat 1994: volume 13, #3, p. 6.

Steffens, Roger. "Cuisine Heart-- Gilly Gilbert, Bob's Ital Cook." The Beat 1994: volume 13, #3, p 56.

Taylor, Don. Marley and Me: The Real Bob Marley Story. Barricade: New York, 1995.

White, Timothy. Catch a Fire. Holt: New York, 1998.

Whitney, Malika and Dermot Hussey. Bob Marley: Reggae King of the World. Pomegranate: San Francisco, 1998.