Melody Maker | Info Freako | 26 March 1994
CEDELLA MARLEY BOOKER
A FAMILY AFFAIR
A friend has made me a tape of a brilliant reggae LP by Cedella Marley Booker, who he claims is Bob Marley's mum. Can you verify this? What else can you tell me about this record?
Cedella Marley Booker is indeed Bob Marley's mother. Her one and only album was originally issued under the title "Redemption Songs" on her son's 56 Hope Road label, an offshoot of Tuff Gong, in 1984. Although it was not made generally available outside of Jamaica, a slighly revised version appeared as "Awake Zion" on the cassette-only ROIR imprint some four years ago.
Booker's first experience of the recording studio came in 1977, when Bob Marley asked her to help out on his "Exodus" album. She laid down the bulk of "Redemption Songs" in 1982, a year after Marley had died of cancer. Produced by Aston "Family Man" Barrett, The Wailers' bass player, and with backing vocals from Pearl Livingstone, Marley's half-sister, the tracks include "Mother, Don't Cry", which was inspired by her son's dying words.
Within a few months of the release of the album, Booker initiated an annual memorial concert at Bob Marley's birth place in Nine Miles, Jamaica, where she ordered a permanent outdoor stage to be built on a hillside. She also dropped her long-held Christian beliefs in favour of Rastafarianism. No wonder she's been dubbed "The Queen Mother Of Reggae" by some critics.