'Dear Dad, where's the family in our family?' Bob Marley, the late reggae superstar, sang about peace and love. Yet, according to a new book by one of his children, Ky-Mani Marley, a family war, driven in part by battles over his estimated $600m musical estate, has been raging between the singer's legitimate and illegitimate children. Leslie Goffe reports.

Author:Goffe, Leslie
Position::BOOKS
 
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KY-MANI MARLEY IS THE NINTH of Bob Marley's 10 children and one of the five born illegitimately from affairs the great reggae star had with five women while married. Three of Marley's children were born to him and his wife Rita and two others were adopted by the couple. But, today, according to Ky-Mani Marley, there is no peace in the family.

"This cold war that gets waged on the inside of our family between the so-called legitimate and the somehow perceived illegitimate siblings is madness," writes Ky-Mani in his book, Dear Dad: Where's the family in our family, today?

Bob Marley's infidelities were an open secret. He claimed he lived as a true African man should, and that his Rastafarian faith entitled him to have as many "queens" as he wanted. His wife, Rita, sometimes played host to his "outside" children at the Marley home in Jamaica and seemed to accept the unusual arrangement.

But Ky-Mani says in the book that his mother, Anita, told him that Rita said after Bob Marley's death (in 1981, from cancer, aged only 36), that "All of Bob's dutty baby mothers and bastard children will suffer."

Ky-Mani, now 34, is--like his father and several of his siblings--a singer. His book takes its title, Dear Dad, from a song on one of his CDs. In the book, Ky-Mani tells how he lived a rough and tumble, hard-knocks life because he was an illegitimate child born from a brief affair between the then 31-year-old Bob Marley and Ky-Mani's then 17-year-old mother, Anita Belnavis, a Jamaican table tennis champion, who made a name but no money from her sport.

Ky-Mani--his East African name means "adventurous traveller"--was born in 1976 just as his father made an international breakthrough with his Rastaman Vibration album, a clever fusion of reggae and rock that won Bob Marley millions of fans in the US, Europe and Africa.

Away from Jamaica, touring most of the time, Marley hardly saw any of his children. When he was at home, he paid the occasional visit to Ky-Mani and sometimes had him stay over at the Marley home with his siblings. "Everything you could want in that house, it was there," Ky-Mani writes in wonder. "Gym, different bedrooms ... cooks, gardeners." Ky-Mani, by contrast, lived in poverty in a two-room shack without bathroom or kitchen in rural Jamaica with his mother and seven other relatives.

In 1982, a year after his father's death, Ky-Mani and his mother moved to the United States to better themselves. But able to afford only a home in a crime-infested...

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