In what some of their followers have described as a “clapback” against Cindy Breakspeare, Ziggy Marley this morning bestowed on his mother, Rita Marley, the titles of “Bob’s ride or die wife” and “an African Queen,” while his sister Sharon has lauded her as the “Real Queen”.
Cedella Marley, too, in a comment on Rita’s Instagram page, has described her mother as “the one and only,” adding that “many were called but you were chosen. Go deh Mrs. Marley.”
The saga unfolded after the mother of Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley, Cindy Breakspeare made a birthday post to the late reggae icon on Tuesday. The tribute was criticized for Breakspeare’s reflection on their affair while the Marley matriarch still lives. Others criticized Rita for sticking out the marriage and adding background vocals for the ballads Bob wrote for the 1976 Miss World, like Turn Your Lights Down Low and Waiting in Vain.
Though he’s been busy promoting the Bob Marley: One Love biopic worldwide, Ziggy Marley took the time to add a regal narrative about his mother’s decisions in an Instagram post on Friday.
“When a woman tek a bullet in her head because she loves and stands with you, and still show up days after to stand by your side again with no concern about her own safety, it does something to a man,” the Grammy award-winning singer wrote. “It tells a man something he will never forget and forever cherish. A woman like that is impossible to find, one in a billion.”
He went on to describe his mother as a “ride or die” in a hashtag, before continuing his tribute in the comments.
“I admire @officialritamarley strength, courage and dignity,” he said. “She is truly from a lineage of African Queens and it’s not just because she is my mother. I have truly seen and every one who knows her how royal she is. I’ve got stories from my childhood of her standing up under threat that, to this day, is etched in my memory. This woman is no ordinary woman.”
His sister Sharon Marley also wrote in a comment: “No woman can walk in my mother’s shoes. She is the real QUEEN 👑. Thats just facts. No hard feelings.”
Many Jamaicans had taken umbrage to Breakespeare’s post, which shared details of the many places they created memories, alongside slides of herself, Marley, and their son.
“Bob, on what would have been your 79th Birthday, I celebrate the incredible impact you’ve had globally, cherish our amazing son Damian, and reminisce about the beautiful times we shared,” Breakspeare wrote. “From 56 Hope Road to your mother’s home in Delaware and Miami, New York, Oakley Street in London, The Bahamas, Trinidad and beyond. The memories are countless, but our love for you is endless. Happy Birthday to the people’s hero, loved and revered by all. ❤️💛💚”
In responding to the Marley siblings’ remarks, fans expressed glee that they had risen to their mother’s defense.
“Rita Marley kids a mek some serious CLAP BACK. Defend the QUEEN, yes 🙌🏾,” one follower wrote, while another added: “Which is right. One Queen and that is Queen Rita.
“As they should😍😍😍 protect your mother at all cost,” one woman added.
Rita and Bob met as struggling, aspiring artists who soon fell in love with something beyond the music, and tied the knot in 1966.
As reported by The Voice, the Cuban-born singer said her husband “never really checked for girls” prior to stardom.
“He was shy and he was very…I would say snobbish…so I was very surprised when he started having all these women, because that really wasn’t him – that was not his lifestyle…” she said.
“In fact, it was a very long time before I was able to even touch his hair. That’s how serious he was, not against women, but he was just so focused on making something of his career. So back then, there was no notion of him being about girls, girls, girls. That only came after fame, popularity and stardom.”
Rita wasn’t only the mother to some of their children (one he adopted), but a motivator in his dream of positively impacting the world through her talent in his backing group, the I-Threes. Unfortunately, Rita’s allegiance to Bob also made her a victim of gun violence in 1976 when a failed assassination attempt on Bob’s life saw her being shot in the head. Thankfully, the bullet was successfully removed during surgery.
In British director Kevin MacDonald’s Marley documentary, Rita spoke about transcending from a wife to a mother/big sister figure to Bob, and how she was able to overcome his infidelity and maintain her sanity for the sake of her children. Despite his Casanova ways, she also believed he really loved her.
“He didn’t want to see any other man look at me; he was very jealous… That gave me an assurance that he really did deeply, dearly love me, and he still does because his spirit remains with me… I find it amusing sometimes the way the other women threw themselves at him… Deep down in his heart, he maybe only had one love. The other things were like a fling, or a period of time that created that sense of fantasy that comes with show business.”
His “fling” with Breakspeare started a year before her crowning, though she revealed in a 2014 Bob Marley lecture that she didn’t know he was still married until she gave birth to their son Damian ‘Jr Gong’. The women were by his side as he fought and ultimately succumbed to cancer in 1981.
Rita further enriched Bob’s legacy following his demise, turning his $250,000 estate into a mega operation which earns at least $20 million each year according to Forbes. Through her leadership (and righthand/daughter Cedella), Bob’s brand expanded to a museum, recording studio, vinyl and CD pressing plant, record stores and a book division, and a slew of family-approved merch and products like headphones, coffee and CBD products.