All aboard the Zion train

Ziggy Marley - son of legendary reggae singer Bob Marley - is getting ready to jam in Israel.

ziggy marley 88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
ziggy marley 88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Following in one's father's footsteps is never easy - all the more so if your dad was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Yet singers Julian and Sean Lennon and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane have had successful careers, as have artists like Natalie Cole, Hank Williams Jr. and others. David "Ziggy" Marley, eldest son of reggae legend Bob Marley, has been making music since early childhood, and is a prominent member of this elite group. In his decades-long career he has released 13 albums - most of them with his group the Melody Makers, which includes some of his brothers and sisters. He has also toured the world many times and been the recipient of three Grammy awards, making him one of the most successful reggae artists. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1968, Ziggy Marley grew up during the zenith of Bob Marley's popularity and during a time when reggae exploded into world consciousness with its wild combination of driving rhythms, Rastafarian religious conviction, dreadlocks, marijuana activism and social commentary. He learned to sing and play drums and guitar from his father, and in the late '70s formed the Melody Makers with his siblings Stephen, Sharon and Cedilla. One of their early performances was at the 1981 funeral of their father, taken by cancer at the untimely age of 36. The Melody Makers continued and released four albums in the '80s, including 1988's Conscious Party - the breakthrough release that garnered the top-40 single "Tomorrow People" and won the Grammy for best reggae album. Their next two albums, One Bright Day (which also won a Grammy) and Jahmekya, were critically and commercially successful and showcased Marley's ability to mix pop and R&B with traditional reggae. Staying active with the Melody Makers throughout the '90s, Ziggy Marley then took a more political stance, and in 1999 formed U.R.G.E. (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment) - a charity organization which has donated to diverse projects such as an environmental education program for elementary schools in Jamaica and a soup kitchen run by a Reconstructionist Synagogue in Santa Monica, CA. He also, along with some of his brothers, formed Ghetto Youth United, a record label dedicated to the next generation of reggae artists. The extended clan (Bob Marley had 12 children) is extremely close-knit and, led by Ziggy's mother Rita, keeps a tight rein on all aspects of Bob's legacy while striving to extend it - most notably through management of the song catalog, merchandising and a Bob Marley museum in Kingston. Many of Ziggy Marley's siblings have solo careers as artists or producers, most notably youngest brother Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley, whose 2005 dancehall album Welcome to Jamrock won two Grammies. Ziggy Marley's first album without the Melody Makers was 2003's Dragonfly, which combined folk and rock with roots reggae and received mixed reviews - some felt he had strayed too far, while others praised his quest to find a personal voice. Released earlier this month, Love Is My Religion is Ziggy Marley's second solo album. A clear return to his roots, the recording is a rock-hard reggae album and Marley's voice, more than ever, echoes his late father's lilt and inflection. "It's all about love and all aspects of love," he recently told Billboard magazine. "In the past, I was very artsy and did a lot of artistic things, which was just for me. Now I'm grooving for everybody." Marley and his band arrive in Israel after a whirlwind tour of Europe, and will continue on to North and South America after their show here. Originally scheduled for two Israel concerts - one in Tel Aviv and one at Achziv beach near Nahariya - his visit will now feature only one concert, this Thursday night at the Amphipark in Ra'anana, because of the ongoing war in the north. Speaking with The Jerusalem Post from his hotel room in Munich, Ziggy Marley - whose wife is Israeli - seems unfazed by the recent violence in the region. "At this point in time I am not fearful at all, but determined to go wherever I can and to tell the people the truth. We have to love one another," he said. It's amazing that despite the sudden conflict, artists of Marley's caliber are still coming. With Israel's strong reggae community and a populace in need of some feel-good vibes, Marley's concert could prove to be the highlight of the summer. Ziggy Marley performs on Thursday July 27 at the Amphipark in Ra'anana. Tickets can be ordered by calling (03) 524-7373, and gates open at 5 p.m. NIS 180/150, children 12 and under accompanied by a parent are free. Gavriel Fiske's full interview with Ziggy Marley will appear in the daily Jerusalem Post's Entertainment page in the coming days.