Have you seen the movie Selma? Or read about Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr?
Have you heard of Bob Marley and the Wailers?
I bet you have. Last weekend, I was watching a documentary on Netflix (Marley) about Bob Marley’s life, and a lot of things struck me as interesting – how his mother got pregnant at 16 by a white man who was in his 60s, how his community considered him an outcast because of his mixed race and his paternal relatives shunned him – not surprising given the era he was born in. Hell, I’m sure some people still get teased for being mixed.
Bob was also terribly shy, and a very strict father according to he and Rita Marley’s children. And I found the singer’s energy and personality hella sensual and attractive though I was watching decades old footage of him.
Rita. Here’s where I drew the parallel between her and Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Remember the stories floating around about Dr. King’s infidelity? The same was true for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad – and I’m sure other great male leaders of past times.
Bob and Rita were married in 1966 when she was 20 years old and he was 21. Although he went on to have eleven children by seven different women altogether (three with Rita), she remained a backup singer for Bob Marley and the Wailers, and she remained his wife, friend and confidante through many ups and downs and even an extramarital affair of her own. And to his credit, Bob adopted two of Rita’s children who were not biologically his (bringing his total number of children up to thirteen).
According to Rita, she understood that they were “on a mission” [and that was bigger than his extra marital relationships.] His purpose, of bringing peace to Jamaica and the rest of the world was bigger than their relationship. One of her daughters offered that at times Rita was in pain obvious emotional pain, and the kids witnessed this, and those were the times when their father gathered them up and took them for ice cream to change the mood.
In her autobiography, No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley, Rita Marley wrote of his affairs and two pending children with other women : “I was very upset at first to learn about all this, though it’s common in Jamaica. But since then, I’ve come to love both of these boys and to think of them as my sons.”
I have a newfound respect for Rita after watching the documentary. “I was his guardian angel,” she said. “I was the one he called to come and get women out of his hotel room. And I would say come on ladies, [let Bob rest] we have a show to do tomorrow.”
I don’t know if I could have been that selfless. Surely a heavy burden comes with being a super star’s wife, and especially a leader who has answered the call to change the world and raise the consciousness of millions of people – they’re traveling, they’re ministering, they’re risking their sanity, their lives and their own emotional well-being. And their family’s well-being. I learned that Rita and Bob, and some of their band members were shot by a rogue gunman from one of Jamaica’s dueling political parties.
I guess I could take a lesson in patience from Rita Marley, and Coretta Scott King. Maybe. Or maybe a lesson in selflessness for the greater good of the majority? Maybe a lesson in supporting your husband (or wife) no matter how heavy the weight or the emotional toll.
I’m sure he was a fierce supporter of hers as well. I would imagine so.
Maybe the upsides outweighed the pain. Both of these women were right by their mens’ side amidst the tumultuous making of history. And I bet at the end of the day, neither of them would have traded the overall experience for anything.
In fact, Rita reminisced happily about their experiences on the road – both good and bad. And when her husband was in his final days, dying from cancer in a hospital in Miami, she gathered up his children in Jamaica – even the ones from other mothers, and said “come on children, your daddy wants to see you” and boarded a plane with them to grant his wish.
That I could do. I love her for that and I’m inspired. It just reminds me that it’s bigger than “us.” So much bigger.
Watching the documentary, I could never gauge what all went on behind the scenes – what type of agreement they had as husband and wife. Bob openly said he disagreed with the “Western” concept of marriage. But I know she suffered. As did he.
Bob Marley was a phenomenal artist (an understatement), and watching him perform, I feel like there was some force other than his own that guided him to write those powerful lyrics and move the masses. The messages are still very much valid today.
Are you qualified to marry a great leader in this regard? One who fathers children outside the marriage and keeps what is presumably a harem of women at some odd times or others? Or even one other woman?
Do you think you would be aware of the magnitude of the mission your spouse was called to carry out and just do your best to play a supporting role? I guess one could gather or argue that the women were also called, and their role was prominent. And therefore they were rightly qualified from the outset.
Some also call into question certain leaders’ greatness because of their extramarital affairs. Does one thing have to do with the other?