Rita Marley Still Feels Like Bob Marley’s Partner 43 Years After His Death

With the release of “Bob Marley: One Love, the film biography of reggae legend, Bob Marley, moviegoers wanted to know more about what his wife, Rita Marley, is doing now. The short answer is that she is closely involved with the reggae artist’s estate and continuing his legacy while remaining a strong presence in the reggae scene.

Still his partner

Bob Marley met Alfarita “Rita” Constantia Anderson in the 1960s, and they were married in 1966. Their relationship has been described as “tumultuous,” with both partners having affairs and children with other people. Throughout it all, however, and while they pursued their music careers, they continued to love ach other until Bob died in 1976. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2000, Rita stated, “I still feel I’m working with him. I feel I’m still his partner.”

Rita Marley’s career and achievements

Rita Marley was born in 1946 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. She moved with her family to Kingston, Jamaica, when she was three months old and was raised by an aunt after her parents separated. Raised in Trenchtown, she was a founding member of the Soulettes group, which released several rocksteady tunes. She recorded at Studio One and was coached there by Bob Marley. When Bob returned from Wilmington, Delaware, in 1966, he joined Bunny Wailer and Peter Rosh in recording under their own label. When Bunny Wailer was imprisoned for possession of cannabis, Rita Marley joined The Wailers. She, Tosh, and Bob Marley were signed by Johnny Nash’s manager in 1968 and recorded in Kingston for the Nash-owned JAD label. Rita sang vocals on the rocksteady and soul tracks. Rita did not record with Bob until 1974 when he formed the I Three vocal group comprising Rita, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt, and they recorded with Bob Marley and The Wailers on the “Natty Dread” album, which brought them international attention. Later on, Rita bought Ken Khouri’s Federal Records recording studio and Jamaica’s first  record pressing plant, which continues to operate to this day. The Tuff Gong Studio is currently one of the largest in the Caribbean and has the second-largest live recording space in Jamaica.

Her many honors

Rita Marley received the Order of Distinction from Jamaica’s government in 1996 for her contributions to Jamaica’s music and culture, and in 2010, received the Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013, she became an honorary citizen of Ghana after living there many years. She received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of the West Indies in 2013 and a second honorary Doctorate from the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. In 2019, she and the other members of the I Three received the Iconic Award for a Duo/Group from the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association. She was presented with the Jamaican Consulate General’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022 and also honored by the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Her influence on Bob Marley

According to Ziggy Marley, Bob and Rita’s son, his mother represents the “backbone of everything.” Without Rita, he said, none of his father’s career would have unfolded as it did. They complemented each other, he said, adding, that everyone needs “someone like that by your side. You can’t do it alone. You could neve do it alone.” After Bob Marley died, Rita was responsible for his estate, and she is the founder and chair of the Bob Marley Foundation, the Bob Marley Museum, Tuff Gong International, and the Rita Marley Foundation.

Where is she now?

Rita Marley suffered a stroke in 2016, and she now resides in Miami, Florida, but daughter Cedella Marley has said she still sees “glimmers” of the “fierce woman” she remembers. In a 2021 Rolling Stone profile, Cedella said, “I know when she’s watching too much YouTube because her [blood] pressure goes up.”

Photo – Tuff Gong