Bob Marley's Son Ziggy Picks Up His Late Father's Reggae Beat

updated 03/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ziggy Marley made his first record when he was 11, despite some misgivings on the part of his father, reggae music superstar Bob Marley. On the one hand, says Ziggy's sister Sharon, 24, the elder Marley, fearing his kids were too young to be exposed to the seamier side of the record business, asked their mother to keep them out of the studio. But something—pride, perhaps—kept him from enforcing the edict. After all, says Ziggy, now 19, "He could have stopped us if he had wanted to. It was his studio."

These days Ziggy has no problem arranging studio time or a little musical help from noteworthy friends. His third album, Conscious Party, due next month, was produced by Talking Heads Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz and features appearances by Rolling Stone Keith Richards and cast members of the Broadway musical Sarafina! But the most obvious influence on the LP, and in Ziggy's life, is Bob Marley, who died of a brain tumor in 1981 at age 36. Ziggy looks and sounds eerily like his father, creating expectations among reggae fans that the quiet-spoken and introspective Ziggy finds intimidating. "I don't really see it as that, the mantle of reggae," says Ziggy. "I am a musician, and I sing and play music. I haven't yet gone through as much as he did. With age comes experience and knowledge."

In some ways he is already experienced beyond his years. As a child, he traveled with his father to Africa and learned to feel comfortable onstage. When he was 8, gunmen invaded the family's Kingston, Jamaica, compound and shot his father in the arm. Violence and political strife in Jamaica—Peter Tosh, the country's other internationally known reggae star, was shot and killed by robbers last September—have made Ziggy prudent. He works out on a Soloflex machine and has a bodyguard named Sky High. "We are not people who anybody can come in on and take advantage of," says Ziggy, who still lives with his mother, Rita, 40, and five brothers and sisters in Kingston. "We will defend ourselves."

That sentiment, broadened into a political philosophy, is reflected lyrically in his music. "The most important thing my father taught me," Ziggy says, "is that every man has to stand up for his rights."

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