Stephen Marley (musician)
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Stephen Robert Nesta "Raggamuffin" Marley (born April 20, 1972) is a Jamaican American musician who is the son of Bob Marley and his wife Rita Marley. Stephen is an eight-time Grammy Award winner, three times as a solo artist, twice as a producer of younger brother Damian Marley's 'Halfway Tree' and 'Welcome to Jamrock' albums, and a further three times as a member of Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers.
Stephen Marley performing in 2007
|Also known as||Raggamuffin|
April 20, 1972 |
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Executive producer, singer|
|Labels||Tuff Gong, Ghetto Youths International|
|Associated acts||Damian Marley
In his self-produced solo albums Mind Control (2007), Mind Control Acoustic (2008), Revelation Part I: The Root of Life (2011) and Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life (2016) Stephen has displayed artistic creativity previously associated with American legends such as Stevie Wonder and Prince; where the artiste composes and produces all the songs on his album, and plays a variety of the musical instruments himself.
He currently lives in Miami, Florida, where he has a home and a private recording studio.
In 1979, a seven year old Stephen started his musical career as part of the child band the Melody Makers alongside older siblings Ziggy, Sharon and Cedella - the children of Bob Marley and wife, Rita. The Melody Makers recorded the song "Children Playing in the Streets" written by their father Bob Marley. Proceeds of the sale of the song went to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). In 1980, Stephen performed the lead on the Melody Makers' single "Sugar Pie" and dedicated the song to 'all the pretty girls' when the group performed at Reggae Sunsplash 1981.
Stephen and older brother Ziggy - Bob Marley's two eldest sons - were directly mentored into music by their father and performed alongside Bob Marley and the Wailers at the 1978 One Love Peace Concert in Kingston, Jamaica, 1979 Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay and at Zimbabwe's independence celebrations in Salisbury, Rhodesia (Harare, Zimbabwe) in 1980. The brothers performed, alongside the Wailers and the I Threes, at their father's funeral on May 21 1981.
After Bob Marley's death, the Melody Makers continued with Ziggy taking over as the group's leader, composing songs such as "What a Plot" in 1982, as well as "Lying in Bed" and "I Met Her on a Rainy Day" in 1984. In 1985, the group released their first album, Play the Game Right.
It was with the release of the third album, Conscious Party, that the group found international fame. Now called "Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers" with Ziggy performing the lead vocals, Sharon, Cedella and their close friend Erica Newell the background harmonies, as well as Stephen playing instruments, the group shot to international fame with hits such as "Tomorrow People," "Tumblin' Down," "Lee and Molly" and "Conscious Party."
Released on April 5, 1988, 15 days before Stephen's 16th birthday, Conscious Party made Ziggy an international star. Ziggy wrote all the songs on the album and performed the lead, ably backed by sisters Sharon, Cedella and brother Stephen - who co-wrote and performed the lead vocals on the song "A Who a Say". The album went platinum in the United States, and the Melody Makers would become the youngest recipients of the Grammy for Best Reggae album for Conscious Party.
Their follow up album One Bright Day released in 1989 featured the hit "Look Who's Dancing" written by Ziggy and Stephen. Just 17 at the time, Stephen shared the lead vocals with his big brother and performed dancehall toasting on the song, which also featured energetic backing female vocals by Sharon, Cedella and Erica. Stephen earned the nickname "Raggamuffin" or "Ragga" as he was the first Marley to engage in dancehall rap/deejaying.
Other albums released in the 1990s included Jahmekya, Free Like We Want to B, Joy and Blues, Fallen is Babylon and Spirit of Music. Stephen played a mostly background role, as an instrumentalist, songwriter and co-producer, but performed the lead vocals on some songs such as "Keep On," "Postman," and "One Good Spliff." Stephen shared the lead with Ziggy on songs such as "Works to Do," a track produced by Stephen himself, and "Water and Oil" adding ragga toasting to Ziggy's singing. Another Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers song written and fronted (lead vocals) by Stephen was "Tapsy Dazy" featured in the soundtrack of the 1997 Hollywood film Anaconda. Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers won a total of three Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album.
In 1999, Stephen produced Chant Down Babylon a remix album of Bob Marley's music, modernised to appeal to a modern audience, featuring hip hop, R&B and rock stars including Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Guru, Busta Rhymes, MC Lyte, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Chuck D (Public Enemy) and The Roots. The single "Turn Your Lights Down Low" featuring Lauryn Hill became a huge hit internationally, Stephen modernising a song that had received little attention as a B side song in the 1977 Exodus album.
In 1996, Stephen produced debut albums by younger brothers Julian and Damian Marley (Bob Marley's sons from relationships outside his marriage to Rita). Stephen was particularly successful in Damian's musical success, producing his brother's first three albums, Mr Marley (1996), as well as the Grammy Award winning Halfway Tree (2001) and Welcome to Jamrock (2005). Stephen contributed production of three songs to Damian's collaboration album with Nas, "Distant Relatives" (2010). On that album Stephen produced the songs "Patience," "Leaders" and "In His Own Words," lending vocals to the latter two tracks.
Stephen also worked with the Fugees in their mid 1990s remake of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry," and produced music for popular hip hop artists such as Krayzie Bone ("Revolution" from 'Thug Mentality' album 1999), Erykah Badu ("In Love with You" from 'Mama's Gun' album 2000), Eve ("No, no, no" from her 'Scorpion' album, 2001), and Mr Cheeks ("Mama Say" and "Till We Meet Again" from the 'John P Kelly' album, 2001) . He also produced music for dancehall artists such as Capleton, ("Sunshine Girl" from the "Reign of Fire" album, 2004) and reggae legends Inner Circle, ("Smoke Gets in My Eyes" from the 'State of Da World' album, 2009).
After spending many years in the background as a producer, and backing big brother Ziggy as a Melody Maker, Stephen finally became a solo artist, releasing the albums Mind Control (2007), "Mind Control Acoustic" (2008), "Revelation Part I: The Root of Life" (2011), and "Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life" (2016). His first three solo albums won Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album, adding to the three Grammy awards he had already won as a member of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers and the two other Grammy awards he earned for producing younger brother Damian's albums Halfway Tree and Welcome to Jamrock."
Mind Control, which featured the single "Hey Baby" featuring Mos Def peaked at number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100, while Revelation Part I: The Root of Life reached position 92 and "Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life" peaked at position 129. All Stephen's albums reached the number 1 position on the Billboard reggae charts.
In its Mind Control album review published on April 13, 2007, the Austin Chronicle wrote:
- Stephen Marley's solo debut is everything a modern reggae album should be. Producer of myriad Marley family recordings, Stephen has developed an ambitious ear... Mindful of the music's deep roots yet awash in dancehall toasts and hip-hop beats, Mind Control layers sound skilfully...the tradition rests in strong hands.
In reviewing Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life, Jon Pareless, writing in the New York Times on July 20, 2016, noted that:
- Being Bob Marley’s son has given Stephen Marley a voice with archetypal familiarity, some instant brand recognition and a cultural responsibility. On “Revelation Pt. I,” Mr. Marley stayed close to the roots reggae sound Bob Marley perfected in the 1970s with the Wailers, though his album added a few guest rappers. “Revelation Pt. II” is far less purist; it strives for both innovation and radio-friendly crossover. Mr. Marley’s aching voice suits love songs just as well as protests...and more often than not, Mr. Marley lives up to the ambition that his last name demands of him.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Sales|
|Mind Control Acoustic||
|Revelation Pt. 1 – The Root of Life||
|Revelation Pt. 2 – The Fruit of Life||
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
- Grizzle, Shereita (2014) "Stephen Marley Lets 'Rock Stone' Loose", Jamaica Gleaner, March 30, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2014
- Bobmarley.com (2016) "Stephen Marley announces the release of his new album", May 16, 2016. Retrieved May 22, 2016
- "Stephen Marley & Pitbull set to perform 'Options' on Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon". bobmarley.com. 4 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- "Pitbull ft. Stephen Marley: Options". The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Official YouTube Channel). 4 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- Jackson, Kevin (2014) "Jo Mersa: comfortable in his own skin", Jamaica Observer, 6 June 2014. Retrieved 7 June 2014
- "Stephen Marley > Chart History > Billboard 200". Billboard.
- "Stephen Marley > Chart History > Reggae Albums". Billboard.
- "Stephen Marley > Chart History > Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard.
- "Stephen Marley > Chart History > Independent Albums". Billboard.
- "Suche: Stephen Marley". Hitparade.ch.
- "Upcoming Releases". Hits Daily Double. HITS Digital Ventures. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016.