☀ You can borrow and read No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley free below. ☀
Bob Marley had at least a dozen children — three biological children with his wife Rita, plus one child he adopted that Rita already had when she met Bob, plus another child he adopted that Rita had by another man during her marriage to Bob. Plus Bob had at least seven more children, by seven different women, while he was married to Rita, some of whom Rita ended up raising.
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.” That was one of his lines, “taking the burden off you.” “Because I know you have to work,” he’d say, “I know you want to work. I know you have to sing.” But then, when the possibility of my working solo did arise, he was less understanding than controlling.
from worrying about putting food on the table to worrying about being shot and killed
When Rita was five, her mother left to start a family with another man, taking her lighter-skinned brother with her. Rita was raised by her father and her “aunty”. And then her father moved to London, and she was raised by her aunty in Trench Town, the slum in Kingston, Jamaica, that Bob made famous in his songs.
She and “Robbie” met when she started singing backup for the Wailers in the tiny local recording studio. He found out she had a baby when milk started leaking from her breasts during a recording session.
Bob said, a little surprised, “What’s that? You have a baby?” It was not said unkindly.
Although I was terribly embarrassed, I couldn’t deny the evidence, so I just nodded.
And he said, “I could tell. Why you didn’t let us know? Why you didn’t ask to go home early? Is it a boy or girl?”
“Well, it’s a girl,” I said.
“Where is she? What is her name? Where is her father? Can I see her?”
All these questions came fast, with great concern. I stood there, looking at him, unable to answer right away. I found that concern to be very mature for a young man still in his teens—like caring and at the same time maybe seeing me through a different eye. His interest in my baby made me feel proud instead of ashamed. That to me was a good sign, but so unexpected. Finally he said, “Go home and feed your baby and I’ll see you later.”
And this is where my love came in. I looked at him and thought, uh-oh, such a nice guy. And I got weak in the knees. Oh my God, I thought, oh my God.
That evening, he did come by. Sharon was about five months old then. When I brought her out, he loved her. And she loved him. When she learned to talk a little she couldn’t say “Robbie,” so she called him “Bahu.”
From that day on, when you’d see Bob, I’d be his tail. He’d have me by the hand, walking me, come on, Rita. When all this first started, Sharon’s father and I were still corresponding. Bob didn’t like that and made his position clear. In fact, he insisted that I end the relationship — why was I having anything to do with a man who wouldn’t help me or the baby?
It was stressful living in a room in Rita’s aunty’s house, or living in the country with no electricity or water, and somebody was always going off somewhere to try to make money. Two days after Rita and Bob got married, he left to go to relatives in Delaware, where he worked in a Chrysler factory and then at the Hotel Dupont. After eight months Bob came home, saying living in Delaware was going to kill him.
Once Bob started having some mid-level success, life in Jamaica got really strange, with manager Chris Blackwell setting him up in a dilapidated mansion where lots of people lived and lots of sketchy stuff happened. Later, once Bob was famous, life became dangerous, with various political factions wanting to claim him and use him, and bullets flew and people, including Rita, were wounded or worse. After Bob became a superstar, Rita often toured with him as a backup singer, so that’s a whole other scene that she shares stories about.
Throughout these dramatic events, Rita is a powerhouse, always working, looking out for her kids, coming up with what she has to — a survivor and a thriver.
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