Today marks the 35th anniversary of the music icon’s death. Here’s a look at how his family has kept his legacy alive through enterprise.
Though Bob Marley died of melanoma on May 11, 1981, the singer’s popularity remains alive as ever. His ongoing celebrity has helped Marley’s estate continue to make money (according to Forbes magazine, Marley earned $21 million in 2015, making him the deceased star with the fourth-highest income; proceeds go to his 11 children and his widow). While some of these earnings were from music — more than 75 million of his albums have been sold — Marley’s post-mortem income also reached the stratosphere because his name and image are now used in numerous business endeavors. Here are some of the most interesting products that are tied to the artist and his legacy.
Even the most casual Bob Marley fan knows about the musician’s appreciation for “the herb,” so it makes perfect sense that the Marley family entered into a licensing agreement in order to bring Marley-branded marijuana to the legalized market. The product line debuted in 2016; one of Marley’s children, Stephen, told Billboard, “If my father was here physically, he would be up front advocating for this plant, so we are very proud to put our Marley Natural brand out there.”
Right now Marley Natural offers four varieties of cannabis that are tailored to meet needs from anti-inflammatory use to a “full-body experience” (they’re only available in places where possession is legal). Other Marley Natural products include lotions and soaps made with hemp seed oil (anyone, even in locations without legalization, can purchase these items).
Legalized marijuana is already a multi-billion dollar business, and it’s going to get bigger as more places weaken or eliminate laws that restrict possession for personal and/or medical use. And Marley Natural is getting ready to welcome more customers as the market expands — as Rohan Marley, another one of Bob’s sons, revealed in 2015, “We are absolutely preparing ourselves for when [marijuana] is completely legalized.”
Marley Beverage Company
If cannabis in any form just isn’t your thing, yet you’re still interested in finding a way to de-stress your life, there’s another Marley product for you: Marley’s Mellow Mood beverages. These are decaffeinated teas and carbonated drinks whose ingredients — such as valerian root or lemon balm — are supposed to have calming and relaxing properties.
In 2012, Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s daughter, explained the impetus behind the product’s launch the previous year: “I thought it was the perfect time, because everyone was Red Bulling it. There were too many hyper people running around in the world, ya know?” (Some stimulation is acceptable, however, as Marley Beverage Company also offers One Drop coffee drinks.)
Should you decide to have a Mellow Mood drink, be careful not to share them with any kids (as the product label advises). When a middle school in New Jersey stocked the drinks in its cafeteria in 2012, some students who drank Mellow Mood ended up feeling lethargic, nauseous and lightheaded.
Thanks to Rohan Marley, there’s more Marley-affiliated caffeine out there. In 1999, Rohan bought some property in Jamaica and found that his new place was known for coffee. Inspired by the land, and by his father’s unfulfilled dream of rural retirement — Rohan told The Splendid Table, “He would always say in his interviews that one day he was going to stop playing music and go back to the farm” — Rohan eventually went into the coffee business.
Marley Coffee’s offerings now include “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Smile, Jamaica,” “Lively Up!” and “Mystic Morning.” Yes, those names should sound familiar — in addition to being a great musician, it turns out that many of Bob Marley’s song titles are perfect for coffee. Who knew?
Marley for Kids
If you’d like to inspire young Bob Marley fans in your life, there are products out there for them as well. For example, Cedella Marley used her father’s lyrics as a starting point to write children’s books. In an interview with the Huffington Post, she noted, “My father, he speaks to everyone. He can speak to a child and he can speak to an adult.”
The books produced by Cedella (so far) are: One Love (based on the song of the same name) and Every Little Thing (from the song “Three Little Birds”). In addition, the young girl from the book One Love has appeared as a “One Love Doll.”
Cedella’s writing also served as a starting point for her to create a children’s musical featuring some of Bob Marley’s songs (meaning that things had come full circle, as a song originally inspired the children’s book the musical was based on). When she attended a performance of Three Little Birds in Washington, D.C., Cedella was delighted with the young audience’s response, as she later told The Wall Street Journal: “To see the little children in the audience singing along — I thought maybe they would know 1-2 songs, but they knew so many.”
The Future of Marley
Of course, there are many other Marley products out there: House of Marley adheres to Bob Marley’s ethos of sustainability by producing eco-friendly speakers, headphones and more; and Marley Apparel has clothing that’s inspired by Bob Marley’s style. Plus there are numerous items — from T-shirts to posters to lava lamps — with Marley’s face on them.
However, there doesn’t seem to be a saturation point for Marley — when asked by Philadelphia magazine in 2015 what it was like to see his father’s face on so much merchandise, Stephen Marley responded, “I love seeing my dad’s face everywhere,” adding, “It’s more than him being my dad, it’s what he stood for. He’s so strong. When I see the image, it does the same thing for me as if I wasn’t his son. He’s a leader and is like a book to guide us through life.”
And by sharing products inspired by Bob Marley — and increasing his estate’s value — the Marley family is following in his footsteps. As Rohan Marley told The New Yorker in 2014, “My father was the first entrepreneur in the family. He started his own record label, his own restaurant. He knew that, in order to give something back to the people, he had to create. You can’t be no philanthropist, no Warren Buffett, unless you make something first.”