Sunday, July 25, 2021

Rita Marley at 75

Tokin' Woman Rita Marley turns 75 today. A tribute concert happening at 2 PM PDT will feature her fellow I Threes members Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt.

Born to a musical family in Jamaica, Alpharita “Rita” Anderson began singing at weddings at an early age, and later sang lead in her girl group The Soulettes, known as “The Supremes of the Caribbean.” At the age of 19, she married Bob Marley and had four children with him, as well as helping to raise several of the children he had with other women. Along with Griffiths and Mowatt, Rita formed the I Threes and sang backup for Bob on the tours that brought reggae music to the world. 

When Rita first began to embrace Rastafarianism and ganja smoking, neither were well accepted in Jamaica. “My Aunty began to worry, my God, is Rita smoking that stuff, that terrible stuff that would make you go crazy and put you in prison,” Rita wrote in her autobiography No Woman No Cry. “I had started smoking a little herb….I liked smoking for the way it made me feel—cooled out and meditative….” 

After meeting with Rasta elders, she writes, “The whole thing seemed intelligent to me; it wasn’t just about smoking herb, it was more a philosophy that carried a history with it. That’s what really pulled my interest, the powerful history that hadn’t been taught to me in school.” 

Rita’s 1981 hit song “One Draw” was controversial because it was set in a school, and make Tokin' Woman's list of Top 10 Rock & Reggae Songs by Women. In March 2014, she released “One Draw” for the first time in a digital format, saying, “Marijuana is a herb which helps produce the serenity and insight, it is a healing herb when used properly. . . . I support legalization of Marijuana, as Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to mankind and I know this because I have my one draw occasionally.” 

Upon the announcement of worldwide cannabis brand Marley Natural in November 2014, Rita said, “My husband believed ‘the herb’ was a natural and positive part of life, and he felt it was important to the world. He looked forward to this day.”

Rita is considered an expert on Jamaican food; Ital dishes are sold at the Queen of Sheba restaurant at the Bob Marley Museum in Trench Town. Rita and Bob's daughter Cedella is a cannabis cookbook author and was included in the 2019 "We Are Mary Jane" exhibit at the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Barcelona.  

CelebStoner reports that Rita has had health issues and uses the functional mushrooms products offered by the new Marley One company. "She sampled every single one," Cedella says. "She was the taste tester. She’s very excited about Marley One, I must say.”

The Rita Marley Foundation will give three scholarships to young women this year: one to a nursing student; one who has experienced a teenage pregnancy; and one heading towards a nontraditional career like firefighting. 

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