Half The Story Has Never Been Told
The whole world knows the Bob Marley legend, but how many overstand the fact that his wife Rita is an accomplished singer in her own right? Alpharita Constantia “Rita” Anderson was born 70 years ago in Santiago, Cuba and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She first met Robert Nesta Marley in the mid 1960s, when both were teenage recording artists at Sir Coxsone Dodd’s legendary Studio One, the “Motown Records” of Jamaica. Rita was lead vocalist for The Soulettes while Bob’s group was called The Wailing Wailers. The two would eventually get married and later tour the world, with Rita backing Bob as a member of his harmony section the I Three. Earlier this week Rita Marley was hospitalized after reportedly suffering a stroke. Our prayers go out to her family and fans around the world. In the meantime, let the music play. Audio After The Jump…
1. Rita Marley “Who Feels It Knows It”
Released in 1981, the year of her husband’s passing, the title track from Rita’s debut solo album was more psalm than pop song. “I said I feel it, and I know it.” And we all felt it.
2. Rita Marley “One Draw” (12″ mix)
Despite being banned on Jamaican radio, “One Draw” is probably Rita’s best-known tune. The extended version of this dancehall banger—which can still rock a party 35 years after its release—features an interlude in which a classroom of unruly students shock the teacher by professing their love of Jah herb.
3. I Threes “Many Are Called”
No appreciation of Rita’s music would be complete without an I Three selection. Bob Marley’s harmony trio was anchored by Rita alongside Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, who handles most of the leads on this 1978 cut, produced and mixed by dub visionary Lee “Scratch” Perry at the legendary Black Ark Studio. The I Threes are all a union of three voices, a trinity of sound.
4. Rita & The Soulettes “(You’re) My Desire”
The Soulettes sound like a girl group destined for greatness on this Studio One rock steady gem. The tasty guitar work and “London Bridge is Fallin’ Down” organ lick pale in comparison to Rita’s sweetly pleading vocals.
5. Rita & The Soulettes “One More Chance”
The Soulettes provide the harmonies as Rita pours out her heart over a Studio One ska groove from 1965: “That’s all I ask, my dear,” she wails, her voice cracking with emotion before Roland Alphonso’s saxophone takes over. Even as the track fades she’s still making her case.
6. Rita Anderson “A Deh Pon Dem”
“Beggars can’t be choosy I know,” sings Rita, appearing without The Soulettes on this Studio One selection about a lover’s dilemma. Fortunately her bredrens The Wailing Wailers are on hand to lend their voices to the cause (Peter Tosh’s baritone is unmistakable). The title means “I’m on to them.”
7. Rita & The Soulettes “Friends and Lovers”
The Wailing Wailers lay down a signature harmony arrangement while Rita goes for broke on the lead. What are the chances that teenage Bob and Rita would cut a record about being “friends and lovers forever?” Can’t make this stuff up. Call it destiny. Word, sound & power.
8. Rita Marley “Love Iyah”
Rita’s voice soars on this churchical Niyabinghi chant off her 1988 album Harambe. “Bless all those who curse you,” she advises. “Do good to them that hate you. Pray for those that oppress you.”
9. Rita Marley ft. Wyclef Jean “Take Me To The West Indies”
Haiti meets Jamaica on this single from Rita’s 2003 album Sunshine After Rain. “Monday morning I will tell the boss that I need a small vacation,” Rita sings. “By Friday I’ll be on my way to my favorite destination.” Clef concurs. Nana Rita’s spoken word outro is everything.
10. Rita Marley “Harambe”
“Harambe” is a Swahili word that means “working together, pulling together in one love, peace and harmony.” So explains Rita on the title track of her 1988 album. As she says it’s “the African way.” This song is not to be confused with the recent tragedy involving a young boy and a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo—and all those Internet memes it inspired. But the man who raised the unfortunate ape later said he had been listening to Rita’s song when he picked the name.
BONUS: Rita Marley “Harambe”
(Stephen “Ragga” Marley x DJ Delano Remix)
Rita Marley’s classic tune remixed by her son Stephen “Ragga” Marley alongside DJ 3D and DJ Delano of Renaissance Disco. This 18-minute dance mix, which features samples of vocals by Bob Marley, Buju Banton, and others, premiered at Cedella Marley’s runway show during Caribbean Fashion Week 2015.
Big up Nice Time every time.
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