Bob Marley’s Widow on His New Album, His Estate and Her Mother-In-Law

The Wall Street Journal interviews Rita Marley for its Speakeasy blog.

When Bob Marley took the stage in 1980 for what would prove to be his final concert, he was so deathly ill that his wife, Rita, called his mother from the dressing room, begging her to help stop the reggae legend from performing. The show went on anyway–and it was a great one.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Marley, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 36 on May 11, 1981. To help mark the event, Universal Music Enterprises/Tuff Gong International today released a 2-CD set of his final concert titled “Bob Marley & The Wailers—Live Forever.” The performance was recorded at The Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Sept. 23, 1980, and wasn’t officially released in the U.S. until now.

Rita Marley, Bob’s widow and former backup singer, talked to Speakeasy about the new album.

The Wall Street Journal: What made you decide to release this album now?

Rita Marley: Because it’s the right time. It’s Bob’s 30th anniversary this year, 30 years since he passed away. It’s 2011 and so we’re in a different era.

Why did it take so long?

Everything takes time. It gets better with time. We could have kept it longer, but we decided the time was right now.

Were there any moments that stood out to you during that concert in 1980 in Pittsburgh?

All of Bob’s performances were different. He never repeated. He was determined to do the concert. He got ill in New York before we came to Pittsburgh so we decided to cancel Pittsburgh. But his determination and willpower overruled and he decided to do the concert. I was surprised to see him on stage. He did the concert from the beginning to the last drop, to the end. And no one could tell that Bob was sick.

What were your thoughts during the concert in Pittsburgh?

I was wondering “What are we doing here? We should be going home or seeing the doctor or something.” I was not really enthused. I got into the dressing room and I called his mother, “Come on and get your son because he seems not to be feeling well. And I don’t think we should continue the tour.”

What did Bob say to you about the performance?

He told me “This is it.” That was a performance we will never forget.

What are you doing to help the Bob Marley estate to flourish?

We’re maintaining his legacy  by keeping his music alive. That’s the only thing we can do–take the work that he left behind and take it to another level. We have seen that a lot of artists, their work lives after them.

Do you think they’ll ever be a Bob Marley dramatic feature film?

Yes, I think so. We can never say something will never be. There are other generations that are going to come after us, and one day they might want to do it. If we don’t do it, someone will want to do it, I’m sure.

Who could play you in the movie?

There is something of Lauryn Hill that reminds me of me. If someone is going to be me, it would be Lauryn Hill. That would be my request. [Note: Lauryn Hill, with Bob’s son Rohan, is the mother of five Marley grandchildren.]

Who could play Bob?

It’s hard to get someone to play a Bob Marley. Bob Marley was so real, that anyone who does it and is not real, you don’t know how the audience is going to react. That’s hard to find.

For the original interview go to

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