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No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley    by Rita Marley & Hettie Jones order for
No Woman No Cry
by Rita Marley
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

With beautifully-expressed musical tones, Rita Marley brings to life her family, youth, friendship and marriage in her revealing memoir, No Woman No Cry. In this loving tribute, Rita relates the strong bond that she formed with Robert (Bob) Nesta Marley, famed reggae superstar. Rita Marley is the person who knew Bob Marley best throughout their marriage and the ups and downs of his career. She stayed by Bob's bedside during his illness - melanoma cancer - until his untimely passing at age 36.

Born in Cuba, Alfarita (Rita) Constantia Anderson grew up in the slums of Trench Town (Kingston, Jamaica) - in surroundings of poverty and violence. Rita's mother abandoned her and her brother Wesley at an early age, leaving their father Leroy Anderson with the children. The raising of Rita and Wesley is largely credited to their father's sister -- feisty, intense and energetic 'Aunty' Viola (Vie) Anderson Britton. Music was always a part of Rita's life. Not only is she herself a talented signer, her father was a tenor sax musician, and Aunty Vie and brother Wesley were also musically-inclined. Rita participated in youth competitions and was always elated to hear the words 'and the winner is Rita Anderson'.

Rita became acquainted with the 'Wailing Wailers' singing group (which included Bob Marley) as they passed by on the way to Coxsone, the neighborhood recording studio. Bob was the shy member of the group and Rita saw him as a gentle person. Bob and Rita became close friends and he took to heart her baby daughter Sharon. From this solid friendship grew a life-long love, leading to their marriage in 1966 at ages 21 and 19. A few days after their marriage, Bob was invited to America to live with his mother and her new husband. During their eight months of separation, Rita and Bob corresponded daily. Unhappy with life in America, Bob returned to Jamaica, Rita and daughter Sharon. Their bond grew stronger with the birth of their children. However, Bob's liaisons with other women (some of whom bore his children) was kept low-key by the press to prevent tarnishing Marley's career image. Rita knew of these relationships but, even during trying times and separations in their marriage, she raised some of Bob's other children alongside her own.

The memoir is an important vehicle to understanding Bob Marley as artist, husband and loving father, and it also documents Rita Marley's contribution to reggae history. She rode her bicycle for miles in Trench Town to bring Bob's latest songs to media and townspeople, she opened an eatery named the 'Queen of Sheba Restaurant', and she worked as a housekeeper in Delaware to help support her young family. Rita Marley became a force in her own right as spokesperson for the 'Bob Marley Foundation', handling legal and business interests associated with her husband's name and estate. She was a performer in her own reggae group, the 'I-Three' and mentored her children's musical venture, 'Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers.' Her continuing humanitarian accomplishments in Ghana and Ethiopia are also to her credit.

At Bob Marley's deathbed in Miami, Rita said, 'Bob, please, don't leave me.' His reply: 'Leave you, go where? ... Rita! Just keep singing ... I will never leave you, wherever you are I will be.' To his son Steve: 'Money can't buy life,' and to his son Ziggy: 'On your way up, please take me up; and on your way down, don't let me down.' Steve said to his mother: 'Mommy, you remember what Daddy says, 'No woman no cry.' ... So come, let's go to Jamaica.' No Woman No Cry is a book that needed to be written. Now -- it is a book that must be read. Rita Marley is a strikingly beautiful woman, inside and out, devoted to her husband's legacy and to her children. When Rita hears Bob's singing, 'she also hears herself.'

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