Update No. 29
Volume 4: Issue 2: April 2004

Nui Te Koha talks to reggae master Aston Barrett about his fight for recognition

Bob Marley had four days left to live. Cancer had eaten away at his body to the extent that, after six months of last resort treatment in Germany, Marley weighed 38kg and could not hold a guitar.

But, according to Al Anderson, a guitarist with the Wailers, the absence of brothers Aston and Carlton Barrett was duly noted.

"They don`t send for Carlton, they don`t send for Familyman?" Marley asked his bedside assembly. Marley then broke down in tears.

Since 1974, Marley Carlton and Aston "Familyman" Barrett had been partners, signed to a contract as Bob Marley and the Wailers.

"Everybody else was in Germany, but they all went there for money." Familyman now says.

"Even my guitarist (Anderson) went up there to get money, too."

But, Barrett says, Anderson also returned with explosive revelations about Marley`s dying wish.

"Bob asked the doctor, 'tell me the truth. Is I going to make it`?" Barrett says. "Doctor says 'no', then Bob asks 'how many days?' Doctor tells Bob only three or four days left.

"So Bob decides to pack up everything and fly away home. But before that" Barrett claims, "he writes a note saying I was to be in chargeof the record shop, the studio- in fact, 60 per cent of what he has is to be administered by Familyman."

In the same note, Marley left 40 per cent of a massive fortune to Rita and his 11 children, Barrett claims. But Barrett claims Rita Marley destroyed Bob`s deathbed note.

"She couldn`t handle me having 60 per cent, so she took 100 per cent and ate me like a python," Barrett laughs, uneasily.

"But I would let she control the 40 per cent, then the both of us administer the 60 per cent. But she is too greedy, trying to be the great Mrs. Marley, flying up and down the place.

All she need to know now is that it`s payback time for Familyman. I will smoke them out of their cages, and have them all on the run."

Barrett`s claims, and Anderson`s account of Marley`s dying wish, will be heard in the High Court in London. Until then, the Marley camp will offer no comment.

Barrett brought a lawsuit against the Bob Marley Estate and Island Records for copyright infringement, business defamation and breach of fiduciary duty in May, 2001.

Barrett`s lawyers have previously represented Danny Sims, Marley`s former manager and song publisher, in a copyright lawsuit against the Marley Estate. During that litigation, Rita Marley admitted that she had forged Bob`s name in order to transfer stock in his corporations to herself.

In March last year, London`s High Court said Barrett should be allowed to present claims that he was cheated out of royalties.

"It`s sad that I have to fight for these things. If Bob were alive, this whole situation would not have occurred," Barrett says.

Marley saw Carlton and Aston as partners, Barrett says, even more so than high-profile former Wailers Bunny Livingstone and Peter Tosh. But why would Bob Marley leave 60 per cent of his empire to Barrett?

"Because I made it happen," Barrett answers. "None of those people who inherited the money made it happen. Not Bunny Livingstone, not Peter Tosh, not Rita Marley, not Island.

"It was I and my brother."

It is difficult to dispute that Bob Marley did feel the same way about the rhythm section juggernaut of Aston and Carlton Barrett.

Self-taught, Aston`s first bass was homemade with one string, while Carlton whacked tins and pots for a drum kit. They were in the Hippys Boys, the Upsetters and the Aggrovators before Marley asked to meet the bass player widely known as Familyman.

"When Bob meet me, he was surprised. He said, 'you mean this youth here, it is him they call Familyman? It is him with a bassline to rock the place? He couldn`t believe a youth would give himself the name Familyman, yet Bob was just a year older than I."

Aston and Carlton Barrett joined the Wailers in 1974. With Marley they signed a contract with Island Records for the breakthrough album Natty Dread, and 11 subsequent albums. His favourite Wailers tracks are Crisis, from 1978`s Kaya, and Forever Loving Jah, from Marley`s final studio album, Uprising.

Familyman was, and still is, the Wailers musical director.

Wailers keyboardist Tyrone Downie once said: "Familyman controls reggae. It was Carlton and Aston who gave Bob the paper to write on." Barrett chuckles at that compliment. "Yes sir," he confirms "we were the architects of reggae."

Yet, amid the success, so much tragedy. Carlton Barrett was killed in 1987. His wife and her lover were later charged with murder. A year earlier, the Barrett`s father was kidnapped and held for ransom. He was killed and dismembered by his abductors.

"What happened to my brother was like a movie or a soap opera, and the killers brought it to life," Barrett says. "They were charged, found guilty, sentenced, filed appeal and get out!"

Familyman says that he has no option but to live with the violent culture that surrounds him.

"It`s rough, it`s militant. You mind your Ps and Qs all the time. But it`s a sign of the times, and it`s part of the hurt of life. Jamaica is not alone in these things taking place. Just turn on your television and go to CNN. It is the way of the world."

So why, after the legal tussles with the Bob Marley Estate and Island Records, does Familyman tour the music that only makes the empire richer?

"Because Bob Marley and the Wailers music is my music," he answers. " It is my band. I created it all. I produced them all. Bob Marley, I and my brother were partners since 1974.

"I have the authority as a musician. I have to keep playing."

Familyman, the architect of reggae, has taught a new generation to play, too. Robbie Shakespear, from the rhythm killer duo Sly and Robbie, is Barrett`s star pupil.

"I told him that while I`m on the road with the Wailers spreading the message, I want him in Jamaica to culminate the place with bass," Barrett says.

"He was a real smooth kid from the start. I didn`t want him walking on the wild side, so I taught him to play bass. I gave him his first bass, too."

Familyman says his fight to get royalties and recognition is for the best intention - his honour.

"Give me back my place in history," he says. "I have earned it."

In That pursuit, he has the admiration of the new wave of reggae and dancehall stars, including Shaggy, Sean Paul and Beenie Man.

"We all know one good artist inspires another. Reggae inspired hip-hop which inspired dancehall. We know that," Familyman says.

"Some is leaves and some is branches, but I and I is the roots."

Many thanks to Kent Goodall from Melbourne, Australia for passing on the article.


The following article by Matt Roper appeared in the Daily Mirror newspaper on Wednesday 31 March 2004.

My Husband Bob Marley Raped Me

TO millions she was the luckiest woman alive - married to Bob Marley, the international superstar of reggae, recognised the world over as a living icon.

But for Rita Marley life with the "Negus" of reggae was far from a fairytale, as she watched the man she dearly loved disown and betray her at every turn.

When she tried to put her foot down by denying him sex until he stopped playing around, the young Jamaican adored by millions as a peace-loving legend forced his way into her home and raped her.

Talking publicly for the first time about that day in 1973, Rita, now 57, says: "Bob wouldn't take no for an answer. He said to me, 'No, you're my wife and you're supposed to.' So he forced himself on me, and I call that rape. Afterwards I felt so terrible. I screamed at him, 'I hate you, I hate you!"

The rape happened after years of Marley's cheating with a stream of women, many of whom bore his children.

But despite everything, Rita insists she still adores him as much as the day they first met in 1965.

""Just because he did these things and cheated on me doesn't mean he was a bad husband. He always provided for me, always gave me anything I wanted."

"But he was corrupted by showbusiness, by the girls who would throw themselves at him. This is what I've come to understand."

The Cuban-born Alpharita Anderson met Robert Nesta Marley when she was 18 and he was 19, in the Trenchtown ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica. Robbie was the shy guitarist of local "rocksteady" group the Wailing Wailers, who would pass Rita's house every day on their way to the studio.

One day, Rita and her friends stopped the group and performed an impromptu song - Bob was immediately won over. He invited them to sing backing vocals on some tracks they were recording and the pair soon became lovers.

"We were so in love. Bob was so romantic and faithful, and I thought we would always be like that. We'd be rehearsing and looking into each other's eyes and singing, and then we'd put our mouths to each others'. It was magic."

In 1966 the couple had an "impulse" wedding. From then until 1972, when Bob signed to Island Records, Rita sold his early recordings from a makeshift record shop at their house.

When international stardom arrived she toured the world with him as one of his I-Threes backing singers.

Days before a peace concert in Kingston in 1976, she was caught in the crossfire when a gang of youths tried to assassinate Bob. Rita was shot in the head and was lucky to survive.

In the early days, Rita would wash Bob's only pair of underpants by hand every night in the tank outside their first house in St Ann.

But as Bob Marley and the Wailers earned global fame, Rita could only look on helplessly as the husband she adored succumbed to its trappings. "Every country he'd go to Bob would meet the Miss So-and-so or the local beauty queen. And then at night, she's there, in the bedroom, and then the next morning she's still there.

"And of course I'd be there too because I was a backing singer in his group as well as his wife. So I would see all this going on and it would really hurt, the jealousy.

Once, asked by a New York newspaper about his wife, Bob replied: "Oh no - Rita's my sister."

"For most of the time I was Mrs Marley, but it was only a title, nothing more. I considered divorcing him many times. I just thought, 'To hell with this', especially when he started bring back the babies of women he'd got pregnant, wanting me to look after them.

But Bob's charm would always win her over. Drawing a circle in the palm of his hand, he explained: "You see this circle, this is like life. And you see this line around it? Nobody can break that line to come into the circle with you and me. So don't worry yourself, man, you're safe. You're my queen, my wife, my life."

Rita, now a reggae star in her own right, admits: "As much as I love him, if Bob were alive today I honestly don't think I'd still be married to him. Because of the frustration and insult that I had to face, and in spite of the good face I showed to the world, Bob's lifestyle was killing me."

When Rita complained about the babies Bob was fathering, he explained that he wanted lots of children but didn't want his wife and backing singer to be burdened with childbirth.

"He'd say, 'I don't want you to get pregnant every year. So some of that is really just taking the burden off you and your body`."

Yet despite Bob's constant womanising, he was still extremely possessive.

"Even though he was carrying on right under my nose, mostly one-night stands, he remained very suspicious of my having an affair.

When we argued, my line was always, 'Who cares? I'm your wife but I'm not your slave, you know. I'm not going to be your call girl. When you want to have sex, you call me to your room? Or we have a relationship when you feel like? No, no, no.'"

Returning to Jamaica from a tour of Britain in 1973, Bob told Rita about a girl in London he'd made pregnant, and he wanted Rita to take care of the baby.

At the same time he was having a relationship with Cindy Breakspeare, the Jamaican beauty who would win Miss World three years later.

For Rita it was the last straw, and when Bob arrived at their home in Bull Bay, she drew the line. "I felt I was being taken for a ride, and it seemed like it was going to be a long ride. So I decided I wasn't going to play the game.

I told him plainly, straight out, if you're going to be doing this, we will not have a sexual relationship.

WE didn't have Aids at that time, but there were other diseases and I thought, 'This is getting crazy now.'

"Something was going to happen to me if I continued having sex with him. I didn't know if he was using a condom, but I doubt it, because he was a Rasta man. I was also trying to punish him, because I knew he wanted me but I was being stubborn to show him what he was missing.

"I wanted to put the pressure on, because the kids were growing up and they were starting to ask, 'What's going on?'

"When I told him, 'I'm not going to have sex with you,' Bob immediately thought I was having an affair. He was angry and he wouldn't take no for an answer.

"We had sex, it wasn't love-making, just sex. And afterwards I felt terrible. I screamed at him, 'I hate you, I hate you!' I think that's when I got pregnant again. When I discovered I was going to have another child, my first thought was, 'My God, what is this? Despite trying to overlook everything and be the good sister, I'm so sick of his ways.'"

RITA and Bob's third daughter, Stephanie, was born in 1974. But despite the hurt and humiliation, Rita continued to love and support her husband and be a mother to his many children.

She held Bob in her arms when he died of cancer in 1981, aged 36. Now she takes care of the Bob Marley Foundation in Jamaica, as well as running her own charity which works with poor children in Ghana, West Africa.

She is, after everything, forgiving.

"Bob was a good person and a good husband. Just because he had other women doesn't mean he wasn't a good husband.

"I was always there for him and I'll always be there for him. He knew I wasn't there for the glamour, the fantasy or the fame, but because I loved him.

"And I'm determined to keep his memory alive."

An Opinion From www.wailers.co.uk
The above article will undoubtedly shock and hurt many of Bob Marley`s fans. The truth of what happened on that night in 1973 is known only to Rita, but her decision to go public with the allegation must surely come into question. Bob is no longer here to defend his reputation, so it is his fans who will be left to take issue with the claims.

That Bob Marley was no saint is beyond doubt. The man`s appetite for extra-marital relations is well documented, as is the fact he fathered many children from these encounters. But he is neither the only reggae star, Jamaican, or man of any nationality for that matter, to have acted with such infidelity. Marley grew in a society where women were often subserviant to their male partners, and while this may be considered archaic in modern society, it is important to note when discussing the many facets that made up his character.

Rita comments that "I think that's when I got pregnant again." In the next paragraph the article suggests that the resulting child was Stephanie. However, years after the childs birth, Rita confessed that Bob was not Stephanie`s father, but actually the offspring of a union with Bob`s friend Ital - Rita`s own infidelity is not discussed in the article. While Rita`s understandable pain at Bob`s affairs are laid bare, the pain Bob suffered over Rita and Itals relationship is also not mentioned. The same paragraph also calims that she was Bob`s third daughter, when in fact Rita`s first child, Sharon, was born from a previous relationship.

Such factual inaccuracies, and others that appear (such as Bob dieing in Rita`s arms, when she was not actually present when he passed), do not tell the true story. In typical tabloid style, the article is sub-titled " The Sinister Side Of Reggae`s Superstar", and anyone with little or no knowledge of Marley`s story could be left with the idea that he was a predatory womaniser and rapist - despite Rita`s comments that "Bob was a good person and a good husband".

The article closes with the quote that Rita is "determined to keep his memory alive.", but making such claims can only darken his legend, while giving detractors ample ammunition to fire in any future character assasinations.

So why does Rita Marley make such statements now? It`s been 23 years since Bob passed away in Miami, and over the intervening years, there have been previous ocassions when she has discussed Bob`s human failures, but never mentioned the rape allegation.

Maybe the answer is that she is due to publish a book in May of this year. Despite Bob Marley being one of the best selling recording artists of all time, his current profile in the UK press is at a relatively low thresh-hold. Had the rape story not emerged, I wonder how likely it is that she would be given a 2 page spread in a national newspaper.

Rape is a terrible, heinous crime, and cannot be trivialised in any manner. Given the eratic nature of the Daily Mirror article, this website felt compelled to put forward the above opinions.


To voice you opinions on Bob Marley and the Wailers issues, head over to the excellent www.bobmarleymagazine.com website, and join the discussion forum. Here you will be able to air your views, contact other fans, and become part of the growing Forum community.

The site also carries a number of excellent, and exclusive, Wailers related interviews that offer unique insights into life with the Wailers.

Previous Updates:
Number 28, January 2004

Number 27, October/November 2003    Number 26, August/September 2003

Number 25, July 2003     Number 24, June 2003

Number 23, May 2003    Number 22, April 2003

Number 21, March 2003    Number 20, February 2003

See side links for full on-line www.wailers.co.uk archive.

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The OFFICIAL Wailers website: www.wailers.com

www.bobmarley.freeserve.co.uk     Django! Ska, Rocksteady & Reggae

http://robertnestamarley.free.fr     http://intelligentdiplomat.free.fr

www.melodymakers.de     bobmarleyshop.com

www.caceinternational.com     The Wailers News

Bob Marley Magazine     http://go.to/bobmarleyshows

www.mentomusic.com     http://membres.lycos.fr/semayat

Contact: jahlight@wailers.co.uk