No woman no cry ‘
A reggae star in her own right, Bob Marley’s mother has written her story of his life. She speaks to Gill Roth.
Fifteen years after the death of reggae star Bob Marley, his mother, 70-year-old Cedella Marley- Booker has ﬁnally written her account of his life. ‘I had it in my mind all these years and people always ask me about Bob and I think the time has come to tell it as it is,‘ she says. ‘I wanted to share my joys and sorrows with the world and it helped me a lot to think about things that are so long in the past.‘
Mother Booker, as she is known, is now a reggae artist in her own right. but her book is not so much about the life of a legend as an intimate portrait of a son and a testimony of a mother's unconditional love. If that sounds a bit sentimental, it isn't. Booker displays a sharp wit and candour. She slips from English into her native Jamaican patois to portray vividly her rural Jamaican childhood and family, her seduction by the ageing Captain Marley at the tender age of sixteen, Bob’s impoverished childhood, his embrace of Rastafarianism and his terminal illness.
There are plenty of routine memories and anecdotes. It comes as no surprise to read that Bob was always a singing child. that mother and son would harmonise together when he wasn‘t jamming with Desmond Dekker in his bedroom, and that she was very proud of him when his first song ‘Judge Not' was played on the radio.
She is upfront but uncritical about his stormy relationship with his wife Rita and the seven baby- mothers who bore some of his eleven children. Ignoring the inﬂuence of feminism and betraying her age and culture. she says men should manage their women. admitting she laid into Bob‘s girlfriends if they got too mouthy. But what marks this account of rags to riches fame and early death from the rest. is that Booker’s portrait of Bob Marley's short life is an interesting read. not least because she is obviously a much more exotic mum than most.
In between accounts of domestic struggles. juggling jobs and men in order to support her growing family in Kingston's mean streets and later in the US. Booker tells us about her belief that Marley was born with psychic powers, sent by Jah as a messenger of truth and enlightenment to the world. Maybe this is taking mother love too far. but considering the
Cedella Booker: a much more exotic mum than most
amount of weed the Marley family plus entourage must have consumed in the name of Jah, sometimes it must have been difficult to keep a grip on reality. it’s hard to imagine the mothers of Liam and Noel Gallagher or Jarvis Cocker coming up with anything half as colourful.
Booker lost her mother when she was only ten, followed by her sons Bob and then Antony, who was nineteen when he was killed. She has had her share of tragedy but is remarkably upbeat about what life has thrown at her.
‘We don‘t know how long we‘ve got so it suits us to be watchful and prayerful at all times.’ she says. ‘Sometimes we miss our loved ones because they pass on so soon. I am outliving two of my sons but this is for a reason. Jah know what he is doing.‘
Bob Marley: An Intimate Portrait By His Mother by Cedella Bunker is published by Viking at f I 7.
.lo Brand may be renowned ior her predilection ior cakes, clggies and all things plump, but behind the one-line put-downs there is a woman who cares a little bit more than she might like us to believe. Take A load 0! all! Ball Crunchers, her selective guide to 50 women who have had an impact on the course oi history.
The patent Brand oi humour is in evidence, oi course, and she is suitably scathing about the posh and the privileged. Yet she can’t mask her solidarity with those who she believes have been done down tor the wrong reasons. Even when the subject is Fergle. Not, it must be said, a terribly
Jo Brand: protesslonal ball cruncher
wise choice at subject considering the revelations made between the writing and publication oi the book. ‘Part oi me ieels a bit sorry ior Fergie,’ admits Brand. ‘From the point oi view of her being iemaie, she has had a very rough time. The papers have attacked ior iairly spurious reasons, like big arse and ginger hair, which is not really something someone can do anything about.’ Much oi the humour oi Ball Brunchers lies not in what Brand says about her subjects, but what she leaves out. It reads much like a standard level history paper, written by someone with an over-developed preoccupation with getting a decent seeing to. Anyone who did, especially ii they had to overcome size and ugliness, is generally A Good Thing. Ilnless they are upper class iasclst
Unity Mitford or size-traitor Roseanne Barr.
’It is irritating when you are constantly having to try and find something iunny,’ admits Brand. ’You may well think “do I really want to be iunny about this person?“ or “do they really deserve it?“. But it i had wanted to be serious about them and write something longer, i would have been a historian I suppose.
’It is an uneasy compromise between something that has a sentence and a big picture on each page so you don’t have to do so much work - which is what a lot oi comedy books are - and a relatively serious analysis oi what these women are all about.’ (Thom nibdin)
A Load 0! old Ball crunchers ls published by Simon & Schusier at £12.99.
The List l8-3l Oct 199697 I