David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley was born October 17, 1968, in Kingston, Jamaica. He learned how to play guitar and drums from his father, Bob Marley, the legendary reggae singer. His mother Rita called and baptized him David. There are two versions of how he became to be known as Ziggy. One version claims that his father Bob Marley nicknamed him “Ziggy” in reference to a big spliff (a Jamaican word for a rolled cigarette with marihuana). Another version is that he was nicknamed Ziggy in reference to British singer David Bowie and his 1972 album, The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust .
In 1979, Ziggy and his siblings, Cedella, Stephen and Sharon, made their recording debut with their father, “Children Playing in the Streets”. The Melody Makers, as the group came to be known blended blues, R&B, hip-hop and roots reggae. They played occasionally for several years, including at their father’s funeral in 1981. Their debut LP was Play the Game Right, which was a very pop-oriented album, earned Ziggy some derision from critics. After their first two albums, Play the Game Right (1985) and Hey World! (1986), The Melody Makers earned their first Grammy (Best Reggae Recording) for Conscious Party (1988), an album produced by Talking Heads Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth which included the hit songs “Tomorrow People” and “Tumbling Down.”
Subsequent albums included the Grammy-winning One Bright Day (1989), Jahmekya (1991), Joy and Blues (1993), Free Like We Want 2 B (1995), their third Grammy winner Fallen Is Babylon (1997), The Spirit of Music (1999) and Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers Live, Vol. 1 (2000), which featured some of their biggest hits as well as a cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” While selling records by the millions and selling out countless concerts with the Melody Makers, including a recent European tour, Ziggy Marley has never lost sight of his foundation of faith, fellowship and family.
After two decades as the driving creative force behind The Melody Makers, Ziggy Marley stepped out on his own with his first solo album. Dragonfly was released on April 15th (2003) by Private Music.
Never content to rehash the success of his past, Ziggy used Dragonfly to explore new ground and create his own distinctive musical identity as a solo artist. “Working on my own gave me a chance to take my time and experiment a lot,” said Ziggy. “It took one year to finish this record ” it’s the longest I’ve ever worked on one album. It”s different when you’re on your own. At some point it”s scary, and then at another it’s a drive that makes you focus more.”
Ziggy also felt it was time for a change of scene. He wrote the album’s songs in Jamaica but recorded them in Miami and Los Angeles. “As an artist I need to experience different things, to see the world and have different energies. It helps me grow as a person to be outside my element.”
Ziggy provided his voice for the Rasta jellyfish that appears in the 2004 animated film Shark Tale. He also collaborated with Sean Paul on a cover of his father’s song “Three Little Birds” for the soundtrack.
Ziggy also sang the theme song for the popular PBS children’s show “Arthur”. In addition to his work in 2004 he also decided to marry a VP at William Morris Agency, with whom he has a daughter.
In 2006 he released Love Is My Religion. In November 2007, Ziggy Marley announced the re-release of his Grammy-winning album Love Is My Religion, including three bonus tracks as well as an independent distribution deal. In a bold move, Marley eschewed the traditional record industry formula and big name labels, instead penning a distribution deal between Tuff Gong Worldwide and Ryko Distribution.
Love Is My Religion was originally released in the US exclusively at Target Stores and was re-released in 2007 with additional material including live recordings of Jammin, Dragonfly, and Look Who’s Dancin’. These live tracks were recorded at Los Angeles’ Avalon during the 2006 Love Is My Religion world tour.
In addition to his skills as a singer, songwriter and producer, Ziggy founded U.R.G.E. (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment), a non-profit organization that benefits a wide range of charitable children’s causes in Jamaica, Ethiopia and other developing nations. More recently, he has lent his support to the Youth AIDS campaign.
Play The Game Right (EMI, 1985)
Dragonfly (Private Music, 2003)
Love Is My Religion (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2006)
Love Is My Religion: Live Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2008)
Family Time (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2009)
Wild And Free (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2011)
In Concert (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2013)
Fly Rasta (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2013)
Ziggy Marley (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2016)
Rebellion Rises (Tuff Gong Worldwide, 2018)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.