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All About Bob Marley's Parents, Cedella Booker and Norval Marley

Bob Marley named one of his daughters after his mother

<p>Bob Marley instagram</p> Left: Bob Marley and his mother Cedella Booker. Right: Bob Marley

Bob Marley instagram

Left: Bob Marley and his mother Cedella Booker. Right: Bob Marley's father Norval Marley.

Reggae icon Bob Marley's upbringing with his parents, Cedella Booker and Norval Marley, inspired a lot of his music.

The singer’s parents met in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica, and got married in 1945, around the time Bob was born. They welcomed their son, whose full name was Robert Nesta Marley, on Feb. 6, 1945. Booker and Norval’s marriage was short-lived, and they split soon after Bob’s birth, due in large part to Norval's status as a White middle-aged plantation manager and Booker's identity as a Black teenager.

Growing up biracial in Jamaica, the singer faced bullying about his heritage. In a 1975 interview with Rock's Backpages, per The Guardian, Bob shared how he chose to focus on his message of peace and love, a theme further explored in the 2024 biopic Bob Marley: One Love.

"Because my father's White, my mother's Black. You know what them call me, half caste or wh'ever,” he said. “Well, me don't dip on nobody's side, me don't dip on the Black man's side nor the White man's side, me dip on God's side, the man who create me, who cause me to come from Black and White, who give me this talent.”

Related: Bob Marley's Children: All About the Reggae Legend's Sons and Daughters

As for who the “One Love” singer took after, Booker revealed in a 1995 interview with Toyin Adekale that she believed her son was more similar to her.

“I would say Bob took after me. Yeah, I would say that,” she said. “Because most of his actions, is you know that Christianity way in him, I think he get all that from me. I’m sure.”

Here’s everything to know about Bob Marley's parents, Cedella Booker and Norval Marley.

They met in Jamaica and married in 1945

<p>Allan Tannenbaum/Getty</p> Jamaican Reggae musician Bob Marley

Allan Tannenbaum/Getty

Jamaican Reggae musician Bob Marley

Booker and Norval, a British naval officer, met in Nine Miles, a rural village in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica, in the early 1940s.

The pair married in 1945, per Bob’s official website, and welcomed their son the same year. Booker was 18 years old when she gave birth to the future reggae star.

Bob was their only child together

Booker and Norval had Bob on Feb. 6, 1945, and shortly after his birth, the couple separated.

While Bob was the pair’s only child together, Booker went on to have three more children. She shared a daughter with Taddeus Livingston and two sons with her second husband, civil servant Edward Booker, per The Independent.

Norval died when Bob was 10 years old

According to Bob’s website, Norval’s family strongly disapproved of his union with Booker.

After their separation, Norval provided financial support for the family but hardly saw his son, and visits stopped altogether when Bob was 5 years old.

Five years later, Norval died from a heart attack.

Booker and Bob’s move to Kingston inspired his music

<p>Pete Still/Redferns</p> Bob Marley performs at Crystal Palace Bowl in London in 1980

Pete Still/Redferns

Bob Marley performs at Crystal Palace Bowl in London in 1980

Booker and Bob eventually moved to Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, and settled in an area referred to as Trench Town, per The Independent.

The poverty and political violence Bob and his mother faced in the community informed some of his most popular songs, including “No Woman, No Cry” and “Trench Town Rock,” according to Bob’s official website.

Booker initially didn’t want Bob to pursue music

<p>Ebet Roberts/Redferns</p> Cedella Marley Booker performing at Central Park Summerstage.

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Cedella Marley Booker performing at Central Park Summerstage.

Bob left school at 14, and Booker encouraged her son to pursue a trade instead of music, according to the artist's website. He worked as a welder’s apprentice until an incident where a small steel splinter became embedded in his eye caused Bob to quit and focus on music.

Although it wasn't her initial hope for Bob, Booker spoke about being emotional when she saw her son perform. During a 1993 interview with Roger Steffens, Booker recalled the first time she saw Bob at a concert in April 1976.

“That was my first sight of seeing Bob perform. As a matter of fact, it start from the house because he sent a limousine to pick us up,” she said. “About 10 of us packed in that car, and then we went there. And even on the way ... going to listen to my son perform, and everybody’s so excited about it to hear talking all over and things. I tell you, I was excited myself. Oh man, that night it bring joys, it bring tears, everything.”

Booker was a singer and author

<p>Boris Spremo/Toronto Star/Getty</p> Cedella Booker at a ceremony at Toronto city hall on May 6, 1992 to proclaim Bob Marley Day.

Boris Spremo/Toronto Star/Getty

Cedella Booker at a ceremony at Toronto city hall on May 6, 1992 to proclaim Bob Marley Day.

Bob’s music is known worldwide, but Booker also put out two albums of her own, a 1984 gospel album called Awake Zion! and a 1992 children’s album titled Smilin’ Island of Song. In her 1995 interview with Adekale, Booker revealed that her mother and sisters were also singers, and it was Bob who convinced her to release music.

“I wasn’t even thinking of singing to the public myself,” she said. “But as Bob asked me, he said, ‘Mom, I want you to do a gospel album.’ We started it before he left."

Booker added, “I live in Miami and all that, so you know, time run off, and I didn’t get to finish ... then after Bob pass, then The Wailers backed me up and then let the dream be a reality because I really really wanted to do that for him because he asked me to.”

In honor of Bob, Booker created the 9 Mile Music Festival in 1993, which included all types of musical artists from reggae to R&B. She also released two biographies of Bob’s life, Bob Marley: An Intimate Portrait by His Mother (1996) and Bob Marley: My Son (2003).

Bob named his eldest daughter after Booker

<p>JB Lacroix/WireImage</p> Cedella Marley attends the Los Angeles premiere of "Marley" on April 17, 2012 in Hollywood, California.

JB Lacroix/WireImage

Cedella Marley attends the Los Angeles premiere of "Marley" on April 17, 2012 in Hollywood, California.

Bob’s oldest daughter with his wife Rita Marley was named after Booker. In a 2016 interview, Cedella Marley revealed a letter that her grandmother had written her two years before she died explaining why she believed Bob passed on her first name.

“I’m writing to let you know how I feel. You are my role model. Ever since you were born,” Booker wrote in the letter, according to Cedella. “That’s why your Dad found it in his heart to name you after me, my first G.D. [granddaughter]. We are one of a kind.”

Related: Who Is Bob Marley's Wife? All About Rita Marley

Booker died in 2008 at 81 years old

Booker died at age 81 on April 8, 2008, at her home in Miami, per the Los Angeles Times.

She died in her sleep from natural causes nearly 27 years after Bob died at age 36 from melanoma.

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