The Influence of Bob Marley's Absent, White Father

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“My fadda was a guy yunno, from England here, yunno? Him was like…like you can read it yunno, it’s one o’dem slave stories: white guy get the black woman and breed her. He’s a English guy…I t’ink. Cos me see him one time yunno. My mother? My Mother African.” (Bob Marley, 1978)

The psychological aftermath of being an abandoned child of a biracial marriage was something that heavily influenced reggae superstar Bob Marley for his entire career. Many of Marley’s most loyal fans and the vast majority of reggae enthusiasts are unaware that he was, indeed, born to a white father, Captain Norval Marely, and a black mother, Cedella Booker. Bob Marley grew up angry with his father who he felt had mistreated him and his mother. Marley was also partially ashamed of his white heritage. This childhood mentality of resentment and embarrassment sculpted Marley’s youth and eventually influenced the ideals and work of his musical genius for his entire career. The sentiment of abandonment and the lack of a father figure forced Bob Marley to look to other means, like the ideals of Rastafarianism, for direction, comfort, and a sense of belonging. The strong allegiance to black culture that resulted from the absence of his white father also partially attributed to Marley’s unwaveringly sense of Pan-Africanism. The imperfections and almost total absence of Bob Marley’s Caucasian father, Captain Norval Marley, had a profound psychological influence on the great reggae icon.

The effects of racial issues on human nature and thought are highly debated and viewed quite sensitively by many. Often, people even find their feelings and observations difficult to discuss with regard to the subject matter. With this in mind, it needs to be stated that Bob Marley was not a bigot in any way. In reality, Marley was a “missionary for a form of personal and collective identity he called “Rasta” a word that both signified a history of racial oppression, and pointed to a definition of community beyond the language of race” (Stephens 149). It should also be stated that Marley was a member of the early movement of Rastas who were rooted in Garvey’s Black Nationalism, and in an ancient tradition of “Africanized” Christianity known as Ethiopianism (Stephens 149). Early Rastas adopted the ideals of Kenyan anti-colonial rebels, their call to action being: “Death to the white oppressor” (Stephens 149).

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