IS THE MARLEY BRAND LOSING ITS ROOTS?

Cedella Marley & Bob Marley—

WITH a restaurant, coffee, and a musical associated with his name, is there a danger of anti-establishment hero Bob Marley being over-commercialised?

That was the question pitched to the reggae legend’s daughter Cedella recently by Speakeasy magazine.

She said no, pointing out that her father, who would have turned 69 tomorrow, was more than a singer/songwriter.

“We have to remember Daddy was in the music business and it’s a business. At the same time, we keep the integrity of the man separate from the integrity of the musician,” she explained. “It’s a fine line because I don’t think lots of people know Daddy was a very smart businessman. He started his own record label, built his own studio, started his own distribution company where he was pressing records,” Cedella added. “He was very strict when it came to his business. He was the first person to print a Bob Marley T-shirt [laughs], let’s not get it twisted! He would wear his own T-shirt because that is the music business.”

She pointed out that T-shirts remain one of the most visible and profitable forms of Marley merchandise. There is also Marley coffee which is produced by her younger brother Rohan.

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On Thursday, Cedella’s musical Three Little Birds (based on one of Marley’s most famous songs) opens at the New Victory Theatre in New York City.

Not all Marley merchandise have been a hit. A shoe line, launched in the 1990s, was shelved. Plans for a Marley beer never materialised.

Cedella spoke about plans for a One Love Café and also commented on the challenges of tracking illegal use of the Marley image.

We’re trying to combat a lot of the bootlegging. Every single day I get 100 letters from the lawyers. ‘Infringer, infringer, infringer’. So you try take care of all of them. As soon as you close one down you have 10 more that pop up,” she said. “The laws are different in various parts of the world, and you spend a lot of time and money doing infringement work. But an easier way to deal with that is almost like you have to step into their place because there’s a need for it,” Cedella continued. “If there wasn’t a need for that product, people would not be doing it. If we can do it in a more respectful manner, keep the integrity and message of our father, we’re always open to finding ways of making things a little bit better.”

Bob Marley died from cancer in May 1981 in Miami at age 36.

Three Little Birds is scheduled to end its run on February 23.

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