10 Things you did not know about Damian Marley

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1.  It was not his superstar father’s musical legacy that led Damian Marley into the music business.  “Pretending to be like Shabba Ranks is how I got into pursuing further,” he explained in a 2012 interview. “When I started going to concerts as a youth and seeing people like Shabba Ranks, Tiger and Super Cat perform live that’s when I really started to get excited about music and wanting to do it also.”

2.  Contrary to popular belief, Damian Marley actually met his father on several occasions.  Their last meeting was in Miami in early May 1981 when Marley was in the hospital as described by Cindy Breakspeare in her 1993 interview with Roger Steffens:

“And we went into intensive care and he recognized me and say,’Hmmmph, think you never did a come.’ Which is to say he thought I wasn’t going to come. So I said, ‘No, man. I must have to come.’ He said, ‘No you don’t must.’ So I said, ‘Yes, I must.’ But by then he looked quite different. Unrecognizable really.”

“Did he say anything specifically to Damien that you remember?” asks Roger.

“No. No, he just touch his hand and, you know.”

3.  At age 13, he formed a musical group by the name of the Shephards, which included Yashema Beth MecGregor, the daughter of Freddie McGregor and Judy Mowatt and Shiah Coore, son of Third World’s Cat Core. The group opened the 1992 Reggae Sunsplash festival.

4.  Born into a family that has lived its entire life on tour buses and in hotels, Damian Marley’s very first tour as an artist was in 1993 when he was asked to join the Shabba Ranks World Unity Tour.

5.  Damian Marley released his first single as a solo artist in 1993 with the Stephen Marley-produced “Deejay Degree.”  The single, which was released on the Tuff Gong label, features Damian employing a monotone spitfire chant, which was unique among his siblings, all of whom are primarily known as singers (and musicians).  This unique vocal style has been widely influential and is now used by several well-known contemporary reggae artists (check Protogé for instance.)

6.  In 1995, 17-year old Damian Marley gained significant exposure as spokesman for the Leaf of Life Foundation, a Jamaican organization that helps HIV-positive children.

7.  Damian Marley’s music first took hold in the United States where his vocal style, closely akin to rapping, was familiar among young urban radio listeners and concert goers.  By 1996, he had three hit singles in Hawaii: “Me Name Junior Gong,” “One Cup of Coffee,” and “Now You Know.”

8.  Damian spent much of 1995 and 1996 touring with brother Julian.  He made his U.S. stage debut in 1996 when the Marley Magic tour hit NYC’s Central Park Summerstage.  I was at that show and I have several photos which have never been shared:

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9.  The Distant Relatives project with Nas was built upon several Afrocentric tracks from Damian’s Welcome To Jamrock sessions that did not make the LP.  Marley initially envisioned releasing a solo EP with content dealing only with Africa.  However, when they collaborated on “Road To Zion,” Nas came with the idea of building Distant Relatives around the tracks.

10.  It is Damian Marley who is responsible for pushing Nas to title his 2012 solo album Life Is Good.  He explained in a 2012 interview with Vibe:

“I’ve heard some of the tracks in the studio. I’m not sure of all of what made the album as yet. The phrase ‘Life is Good’—he use to say that all the while when he was on tour. He would walk up to me and just say ‘life is good.’ And I said, ‘yo you should make that your album title,’ until he really did. And I said you’re joking, and he said no, you’re right, life is good [laughs]. So me love it!”

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