All About Bob Marley's 12 Children

Including his adopted daughter, reggae icon Bob Marley had at least 12 children as his own. Although his wife, Rita Marley, helped to raise many of Bob's children, they were not all hers biologically. In fact, it is believed that he had children with at least seven other women. While this might seem like an unconventional family to some, as described by Bob's mother, Cedella Marley Booker, in her 2003 book, "Bob Marley, My Son," in their family having more children was considered a positive thing. "It was no secret that [Marley] had other women in his life and that many of them bore him children ... In this, he was not unusual. Rastas are believers in scripture which instructs us to go forth, be fruitful and multiply," she said. 

While his older children, like Ziggy Marley, lived with their father and were able to spend a lot of time with him, Bob died tragically young at only 36 years old. His younger children didn't have the opportunity to make many memories with him. They have all had to navigate a world in which their father was a legendary figure, either by embracing and carrying on his legacy or working to step out of his long shadow and be known to the world for their own talents and skills.

Sharon Marley

When Bob Marley married his wife Rita Anderson Marley in 1966, she already had a toddler named Sharon. After the wedding, he legally adopted his stepdaughter, making her the oldest of his 12 children.

Sharon Marley has described her early childhood growing up in Trenchtown, Jamaica, as a very happy one. Far from leading a celebrity lifestyle in the public eye, Sharon didn't even realize her father was famous when she was younger. Tragically, her carefree life was turned upside down by the assassination attempt on her father's life in 1976, during which both Bob and Rita were shot. Sharon told Irie FM (via World Music Views) that was the night everything changed for her and her siblings: "That was the first time we knew what fear was because the police car came for us in the middle of the night ... We saw the blue lights flashing at the gate, that moment in time will be forever printed on my soul."

Sharon considered several different careers in her early life, from being an actress to a pediatrician, but after her father's death, she was inspired to devote herself to following in his footsteps and becoming a musician. She started out by collaborating with her siblings Ziggy, Stephen, and Cedella in the award-winning family band The Melody Makers. Today, Sharon splits her time between philanthropic work, including with the Bob Marley Museum, the Rita Marley Foundation, and her own music. She is expected to release a new solo album in 2024.

Cedella Marley

The year after Bob and Rita Marley were married, they had their first child together: Cedella Marley. As described in an interview with Rolling Stone, Cedella stated that as his oldest child (not including her adopted sister, Sharon) she has always felt a tremendous amount of responsibility for her father's legacy. When she was 10 years old, Bob told her that he wanted her to take over the family business. According to Cedella, at the time she was confused because she only thought of him as a musician. As an adult, she has come to understand that he was always a businessman, too. "Most people overlook that side of Daddy. He started his own record label ...He was the first one to design and wear a Bob Marley T-shirt. He was very savvy," she said. 

Cedella certainly has taken on that responsibility. Today, she is the CEO of the record company Bob Marley founded, the director of the Bob Marley Foundation, and manages the rights to any merchandising of his name and appearance. She has also designed multiple clothing lines, including one named "Catch a Fire" after her father's album, and written several children's books and a stage musical inspired by her father's music.

Ziggy Marley

David Nesta Marley, who would eventually go by the name Ziggy, was the first son of Bob and Rita Marley. Even though Bob Marley was famous, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Ziggy recalled his childhood as being no different from those of the other kids he grew up around: "We weren't well-kept kids. We were like, rough kids ... Some people think when Bob was around, he had a lot of money. That's not how we were ... Bob was down to earth."

Ziggy Marley is also a musician and has had a tremendously successful solo career – but he started making music with his family. Bob Marley wrote a song called "Children Playing in the Streets" for his children to perform, and it became the first song for their family band, the Melody Makers, which Ziggy was the frontman for. The siblings' album "Conscious Party" went platinum. Today, eight-time Grammy Award winner Ziggy splits his time between his musical career and the U.R.G.E. Foundation, which he created to help children living in Jamaica.

Stephen Marley

Stephen Marley, the third child of Rita and Bob Marley, started making music at the age of 6, and sometimes even appeared onstage with his father. When they were children, the rest of the family believed that Stephen was their father's favorite. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Stephen recalled that he and Ziggy Marley once asked a technician at their father's recording studio to leave the microphones on. "We went into the vocal booth and started singing every song of our father's. And when we came out, our father was sitting there listening to us, and we didn't even know the whole time he was there! He didn't say anything, but he didn't leave before we were done," Stephen remembered.

After performing with his siblings in The Melody Makers, Stephen began recording and releasing albums on his own, but he still frequently collaborates on music with his brother Ziggy, and is a director of the nonprofit Ghetto Youth Foundation with brothersDamian and Julian. Between his time in The Melody Makers, solo career, and producing work, Stephen has won eight Grammy Awards. His most recent album, "Old Soul," was released in 2023 and includes a song with his older brother Ziggy.

Robbie Marley

Bob Marley's son Robert Nesta Marley (pictured, middle) was born in 1972 to a woman named Pat Williams. Although he was not Rita Marley's son, he grew up with the couple and his half-siblings. In an interview with Collider, Robbie Marley described his father as strict. Both he and brother Stephen Marley described how their father would discipline his children but also stated that he always tried to bring his children together. Robbie recalled, "There was one time when me and Steve were fighting and I got a smacking, and then later he came to me ... telling us that brothers shouldn't fight and brothers should love one another."

Unlike many of his siblings, Robbie is not a musician himself. On his Instagram, he describes himself as a graphic artist, poet, and motorcycle daredevil. He is only occasionally in the public eye, but he has spoken about his father in the 2012 documentary "Marley" and appeared alongside his brothers in the "Marley Africa Road Trip" docuseries.

Rohan Marley

Rohan Marley is the son of Bob Marley and a young woman named Janet Hunt. As described by Rita Marley in "Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley," by Timothy White, Hunt was a dancer who was unable to raise Rohan. When he was 4 years old, Bob brought his son back to his home so that he could see a dentist and a doctor. Although Rohan didn't live with them full time, he spent a lot of time staying at his father's house. Because he would sometimes get into trouble at school, often getting into fights with other students, Rohan was sent to live with his grandmother.

"I was not born with a golden spoon in my mouth ...," Rohan stated in an interview with Open. "My mother taught me to fend for myself. Sometimes, I would have to search for bottles and sell those bottles to get something to eat. If not bottles, I would find some mangoes, or use a slingshot to hunt birds."

As a young man, Rohan went on tour with The Melody Makers as their bodyguard before a successful football career, beginning with becoming the starting linebacker for the University of Miami Hurricanes. Today, Rohan is an entrepreneur and has worked creating a line of audio products through House of Marley and selling Jamaican coffee as Marley Coffee.

Stephanie Marley

Stephanie Marley is believed to be the daughter of Bob and Rita Marley, although in 1996, a full 15 years after Bob Marley's death, his mother asserted that Stephanie's father was actually someone else. Even if this is true, however, Stephanie was raised by Bob Marley as his daughter, alongside the couple's other children. It's unknown exactly how much time Bob Marley was able to spend with his daughter Stephanie. She was only 7 years old at the time of his death, and according to Stephanie's older siblings, Bob typically spent more time with his sons than with his daughters. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Ziggy Marley stated, "Because of our culture and my father's lifestyle, the girls didn't get to hang out with him as much as we did."

In 2015, Stephanie Marley told the Jamaica Observer (via Clinton Linsday Foundation Radio Network) that she had founded a modeling talent agency specifically for Jamaican models, but otherwise she has chosen to stay out of the public eye.

Karen Marley

Bob Marley's daughter Karen Marley was born in England to a woman named Janet Bowen, who was never a major part of her child's life. Although Karen was not Rita's biological daughter, she raised her as her own, and Karen has stated that she considers her to be her mother. While many of Bob Marley's children have made continuing their father's legacy a large part of their lives, Karen Marley has spoken about a desire to be known as herself first, rather than simply being one of Bob's daughters. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she explained, "I'm not my dad. I'm Karen. People come to me expressing their like or dislike with what the family is doing. We're not Bob. We're his kids. We try to carry on his legacy, stay true to it as much as possible, that's number one. But at the end of the day we're all individuals, doing our own thing."

Today, Karen Marley is a fashion and interior designer, and although she wants to be recognized as an individual, she still honors her roots. In an interview with Shondaland, Karen explained that she has drawn inspiration from her father's sense of style and passion for the environment. Like many of her siblings, she sometimes collaborates with other members of the Marley family. Most notably, she and Cedella Marley worked together to design the 2012 Jamaican Olympic uniforms, worn by Usain Bolt when he beat his own record for the 100m sprint.

Julian Marley

Julian Marley was primarily raised in England by his mother, Lucy Pounder. As Julian described in an article by The Hour, Pounder collected records, so he was always surrounded by music from a young age, although he didn't understand what a big deal his father was when he was young. He told Rebel Base that one of his earliest memories is of being 4 or 5 years old and watching his father performing onstage in 1980. Bob Marley died only a year later, before Julian could spend much time with his son.

Julian toured with Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers before becoming a musician in his own right and releasing several critically acclaimed albums. Although he is inspired by his father's work, he stated in an interview with Guardian Life that he doesn't feel pressured by Bob Marley's legacy, saying, "You can't do twice as much. You have to do what you can do ... You cannot do what the father do, you can do what you do."

Ky-Mani Marley

Ky-Mani Marley grew up with his mother, table tennis champion Anita Belnavis, first in a small overcrowded home in Falmouth, Jamaica, and then in Liberty City, Miami, where he regularly witnessed gang violence. Although he always knew that he was Bob Marley's son, Ky-Mani didn't get to know his father or enjoy any of the benefits of being his son. As recounted by Ky-Mani in an interview with Dolce, he was only 5 years old when his father died, and he wasn't able to be at the funeral. He had to watch it on TV instead.

Initially, Ky-Mani feared comparisons to Bob Marley. In an interview with Elle, he stated, "If I was to follow in my father's footsteps, then what would they say? 'Oh, he's trying to be like his dad.' Then if I take a different path, they say, 'He's supposed to be like his father.' ... I just have to be true to myself and true to my art and do what comes naturally to me."

Ky-Mani became a musician, released multiple albums, and has even been nominated for a Grammy. Drawing on both his own childhood experiences and his father's beliefs about unity and togetherness, Ky-Mani founded a charity called Love Over All to help children in poverty.

Damian Marley

Bob Marley had a relationship with 1976 Miss World Cindy Breakspeare, who eventually gave birth to his son, Damian Marley. In an interview with Vlad TV, Damian explained that his mother had been living in an apartment in a building that Bob Marley owned. Even after Bob's death, Damian remained close with the rest of his siblings and spent holidays with the Marley family. Although his father died before Damian was old enough to truly get to know him, he has still had a profound impact on his life. "I used to have a little Fisher Price turntable and I would put on [Bob Marley's] songs and pretend to be onstage. That was like a nightly ritual before going to bed," he recalled.

Damian Marley has gone on to live his childhood dream of performing like his father, even winning five Grammys for several of his reggae albums. According to Damian, music isn't the only way that he feels connected to his father. In an interview with Okayplayer, Damian stated that for himself and his siblings, "Our father is really a part of our everyday life ... with the lessons and the morals and the example that he set carries us through everything that we do."

Makeda Jahnesta Marley

Makeda Marley is believed to be the youngest of Bob Marley's children, born the same year that Bob Marley died in 1981 to mother Yvette Crichton. Her birth wasn't exactly rejoiced among the Marley clan. Rita didn't want much to do with the baby, according to Bob's mother Cedella Booker in her book "Bob Marley, My Son." In order to ensure Makeda was provided for, Booker ended up being the one to sign the paternity papers. Rita did eventually come around, and by 1992 she was spending summers with her siblings and ultimately brought into the financial fold. 

In 2008, Makeda was arrested for growing marijuana plants in her home, and she received seven years probation in a plea deal in 2010. Today, Makeda is a motivational speaker and DJ, and in 2023 she released a single about the justice system called "Freedom is Not Free," which features a sample of an incoming collect call from Makeda while in jail. The song references Bob Marley, calling him a freedom fighter.