PICTURED: Ziggy Marley performs at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on April 17. Photo by Tim Cadiente/Courtesy of Tuff Gong Worldwide
by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Ziggy Marley, due to touring, does not get to spend a lot of time with his children, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that.
The relationship has inspired him to release a handful of children’s projects — a clothing line in collaboration with Appaman, which launched April 12; a 2020 album, More Family Time; and a book, My Dog Romeo, set for release in July.
“One of the things COVID brought to light to me was how little time we spend with our kids,” Marley said. “They’re in school and I spend most of my time away. I’m getting to know my kids better.
“They taught me that, even if things go back to normal, I’m going to spend more time with them.”
To keep their sanity during the pandemic, Marley and his family exercised, developed a camp idea, climbed trees and gardened around the house.
“As his son, it’s very intimate”
Marley will spend time with Ventura fans during two shows on Saturday, April 17, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds for the Concerts in Your Car series. These will be only the second set of shows he’s played since the pandemic began. It’s not going to bother him that it’s a drive-in show.
“When I play music, I don’t even care what’s happening outside of music,” said Marley. “It doesn’t matter. The music and the spirit of the music is going to move me.”
The shows will celebrate the life of his father, Bob Marley, who died 40 years ago this year. (In honor of the reggae legend’s 75th birthday, Marley also recently curated Bob Marley: Portrait of the Legend, a book of photographs released in October 2020.) He’s excited about the upcoming concerts, but don’t call them “tribute” shows.
“It’s funny,” he said. “Calling it a ‘Bob Marley tribute,’ for me, is weird. I’m just playing his music. As his son, it’s very intimate. It’s more than a ‘tribute,’ it’s a part of me. It’s inside of me.
“It’s me, in a way. It’s bittersweet. Every time I listen to my father’s music it’s hard because he’s not here. He was so young and such a good man. I feel an emotional connection when good people like that are gone at such a young age. It’s very emotional, but the music resonates. It has that emotional connection, as somebody whose blood runs through my veins. I have a strong spiritual connection.”
The fact that it resonates is a blessing and a curse, Marley added. He said some fans can be disrespectful to him about his father’s music.
“Sometimes, they think they know so much,” Marley said. “They said, ‘Look, Bob wouldn’t do that.’ I just say, ‘How do you know Bob? Do you know my father?’
“But it’s all good for me. I love the fans, but sometimes they think they know more than you do about your own blood, really. Sometimes people have a relationship with expectations of it being ultra-pure or ultra-something. None of us are ‘ultra’ anything. We’re just human beings.”
Fans who do know him are his children, who are 5, 10, 13, 15, 20 and 30s. During the pandemic, he worked with them to collaborate on a children’s clothing line, a kids’ album and a book. This is his way of helping change the world, he said.
“I feel like me being in that world is something that is very essential,” he said. “The whole philosophy of using music and life as a positive vehicle for changing the world is good. Another element of that is it’s giving us a platform. The more we express things in the world of children, it’s better for us and the world.”
His kids are his test audience for his children’s products. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not so good.
“If they like it, I say, ‘Yeah, let’s go,’” Marley said. “I take their feedback very seriously. This is the perfect opportunity to create things for children.”
The children’s music started simply, with his now-5-year-old son saying “goo, goo, gaga,” when he was younger.
“I started writing songs that were normal songs I would write,” Marley said about the tracks inspired by George Floyd, the rise of racism and Donald Trump’s presidency. “I wrote songs inspired by these social situations and how I felt. But then the children thing came up in my mind. For some reason, my 5-year-old son said something when he was 4 — goo, goo, gaga. I wrote a song about that.
“That kind of started the cascade of more ideas for children’s songs. Instead of going in the direction of writing songs pertaining to the situation in the world at the time, I shifted course and started writing songs for families.”
Children, too, are suffering during the pandemic. Marley said his music will alleviate some stress as the pandemic seemingly winds down and will give something special to families. For example, he used his dog, who they acquired just before the pandemic, as a source of inspiration.
“We stuck with the dog and he stuck with us,” said Marley with a laugh. “We always wanted a dog, and the kids always wanted a dog. We learn so much from him and the kids learn a lot. I’m inspired by everything around me, though. I wrote a song about a dog. I’m inspired by these things. I’m just inspired by everything.”
Ziggy Marley presents a live tribute to his father on Saturday, April 17, at 5 and 8:30 p.m. at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura. For tickets and more information, visit www.concertsinyourcar.com.