After 60 years in music, Queen of Reggae Marcia Griffiths remains as influential, talented, and, of course, humble as ever. It would be easy for an average Joe to get caught up in her magnitude of success, but for her, everyday interacting with her fans is like any other opportunity to meet with distant relatives—as she puts it. At age 73, she said that 60 years moved at the speed of lightning, and even she is surprised that the diamond milestone is here.
To reflect on this legacy, although there could never be enough words to paint the picture of her life, DancehallMag had a discussion with the living legend, which was so cheerfully welcomed! “Oh, that would be so lovely,” she said in accepting our request for the interview. Below, you’ll find our conversation, where we delved into her past, discussed ongoing projects—including the much-awaited Bob Marley biopic—and then some.
Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. After 60 whole years, how would you summarize your career?
Wow…I can’t find the adjective to describe it. It’s like a flash of something like a beautiful lightning, you know? It strikes, but it wasn’t anything that I could sleep on. Everything just moved so fast; everything was just happening—good and bad. Looking back, it seemed like just yesterday I started, and I don’t feel a day over 30 years old.
What do you attribute to your longevity? Sixty years is a very long time!
Ah telling yuh! As I said, I don’t know where the time went, but it just went…you know, I’ve been thinking about this question all my life in my career because I honestly believe that it is something much deeper than what I am seeing. If this was not ordained by the Almighty God, it would not be possible. I have to give credit to the fact that I could recognize that I was chosen. Many are called, few are chosen. So, I do accept and admit the fact that I think I was chosen by God as a missionary on a mission from God to do this work, and as I said, it has to be right and positive otherwise it would not have been. I give all the glory unto God Himself. He has preserved me that I can still be around after such a long journey.
The most beautiful thing for me is that I see where I cut across age barriers because if I’m doing one of these shows with artists from the 60s or 70s, the amount of young people that attend that show! I’m always surprised when I look in my audience and see so much young people. They wanna know about the music and whatever little they hear now, they love it! These are songs that will live forever. They were done in such purity and innocence and I think I am blessed to have been a part of that experience.
With all this experience, what are your thoughts on modern Reggae music?
Life itself changes and that’s what makes it interesting. Everyday a star is born and we have to make way for the next generation and the talent that we are seeing everyday that come alive. I wanted to highlight young talent…that was way before Rising Star (the TV show). I spoke about it on my 25th anniversary when I was preparing to do something and that was one of the things I wanted to manifest: to pass on a lot of the experience and the knowledge and I personally was looking forward to doing something like that but we give thanks that other people have good ideas…the music itself has changed and one of the things I’ve seen that I’m not happy with is the fact that this generation, well some, don’t realize the position that they hold being a part of the music. You have to be so special—you are special! What you’re able to do who can communicate to the world through the medium of the music and the message in the music is the most important thing. So, when we think about a young, upcoming artist, we want to make them realize that ‘hey, listen…special. This generation loves you and they look to you and the opportunity that you have is to make sure you’re sending out good messages to teach, educate, uplift and unite the world.’ This generation needs so much guidance and the music is our only weapon that we have to use in a positive way.
For the Exodus and Kaya Albums, it is said that you did most of the background vocals. What was that experience like?
It was a beautiful experience just the same. Sister Rita and myself, we went to London to do the tracks. Sister Judy was not able to come so we had to just double up on doing most of the harmonies…that was still a beautiful experience because those songs are still some solid music…still on the Billboard Charts, still going strong, still relevant. Exodus was Album of the Century years ago, and it’s a beautiful accomplishment!
Have you seen the trailer for the ‘Bob Marley: One Love’ biopic?
Yeah, I glimpsed it, yeah.
What do you think about it?
It’s very interesting and I think it’s gonna do very, very well. I don’t know if I can just use that short clip to judge the entire thing or to make any comments, but I think it’s gonna do very well and something like this was overdue. I have to see more though.
Do you have any expectations of the film, especially from Naomi Cowan, who is playing you.
(Laughs) I think I’m satisfied with the person that is playing my role because it’s someone that I love and have a beautiful relationship…me and her parents we have a beautiful relationship and she’s like the daughter that I never had. I actually was one of them who voted for her being the person to play my part. She has a little of everything that I can remember myself being on all of those moments on tour, recordings and everything. I think she did a good job.
While you were an I-Three, is there any moment that stands out to you as the most memorable?
After so long, there is no one moment that stands out. There are so many special moments. First of all, I think it’s a blessing that we call came together: The Trinity. We had each other; we leaned on each other’s shoulders as sisters, we shared each other’s burdens, we share each other’s pains and it was so beautiful that we could come together and reason and we were filled no matter how painful it was or what was going on. I remember I-Three working in Toronto and as usual, 9 out of 10 times, the women are seen for their favours and they give us hard luck stories… no pay! That particular time after working, out hard luck story was CAD$700. Long and short of it is that that CAD$700 was invested in a keyboard called the ‘Rhythm Box’ that gave me Electric Boogie.
I usually say out of evil cometh good ‘cause we didn’t get pay, but I bought that little rhythm box, took it to Jamaica and I love every sound it had and since Bunny and I went all the way back to kindergarten, I showed it to him and he fell in love with the box too recorded the drum beat and piano sound called the ‘repeater’ and took it home to Portland and came back the following day with the Electric Boogie and the rest is history.
Would you say that that song has been your most successful collaboration?
Definitely, definitely! And I wish people would let go of this thing of me re-recording Bunny’s song… nothing like that! The song was done originally by me from that little rhythm box and released, written, produced by Bunny Wailer and song by me and it was not until 1989 when the song just got so big in Washington, DC, when they put the dance to the song.
If you could say anything to your supporters as you mark this milestone, what would it be?
It’s not an easy thing to reach this milestone…60 years in the business and it’s not like I was sitting for a year or two years, I’ve always been out there consistent as far back as I can remember even if I was giving birth or I had a death in the family because I had three deaths in one year and it’s the music that saved me. If I should say something to them, I would say that I am truly thankful that God preserved me that I can see this time but what would I be without the fans which I call my family. I accept the fact that God preserved me, but if the fans were not there for me, I would be lost.
Thank you so much. Bless you!
Thank you so much, my little sister!