Reggae icon Ziggy Marley says nature, and his children are his greatest creative inspiration.
Eight-time Grammy winner and accomplished children’s author Ziggy Marley reflects on growing up in Jamaica and life in lockdown for the inspiration for his books, My Dog Romeo and Little John Crow.
The father-of-seven reveals the enchanting story for My Dog Romeo, illustrated by Ag Jatkowska, was born after he adopted an adorable Italian Water dog (Lagotto Romagnolo) with a “lovely personality” during the pandemic.
“The kids have wanted a dog for so long, for years. My wife was reluctant because it’s a big responsibility to have a puppy. It’s like having another child,” Marley said.
“I mean, the kids were excited, but still, they weren’t ready for the responsibility. Then they realized you have responsibilities that go with taking care of an animal,” he added.
The singer’s third solo album ‘Family Time’ won a Grammy and an Emmy Award in 2009 and was followed up by another successful album, ‘More Family Time,’ last year. The reggae superstar reveals spending time with his kids, particularly his 5-year-old son, Isaiah, spurs creativity.
“It gets me in that childlike mode where, you know, we play together, we have fun together, and he brings out my imagination,” Marley said.
“These books are a part of my experiences with my kids, especially Isaiah, the youngest one. So they play a big part in me delving into the world of children’s books.”
The 52-year-old admits he didn’t grow up around children’s books in Jamaica. While his parents, Rita and Bob Marley, were on tour, his grandmother regaled them with ghost stories and shining tales of nature and humanity, a theme that lives on through Marley’s own infectiously positive art.
“So we used to hear stories. That’s how we used to tell our stories, especially my Grandparents,” Marley said.
“My Grandmother was the one who would tell us type of like typical traditional Jamaican stories about ‘Anansi,’ which is a spider, and, we call them ‘duppy,’ a ghost. I love it. I love stories.”
Reflecting on that time, Marley sees the necessity of self-acceptance, open-mindedness, and exposing children to cultures of all kinds for an inclusive society. Marley’s other book, Little John Crow for kids a little aged 5-10, is an enthusiastic tale co-written with his wife, Orly Marley, and beautifully illustrated by Gordon Rowe.
“John Crow is what we used to call the vultures in Jamaica, “ Marley said. He recalled throwing stones and “looking down on them” as a kid until he realized the role they play in the ecosystem and how “important it is.” He added, “It’s about finding yourself, accepting yourself, and fulfilling your destiny and understanding that each of us, even as individuals in this world, plays a role. A big superstar is just as important as somebody who does a menial job. That’s what the story is about.”
He continued: “Have people accept you for who you are rather than what they want you to be or even what you want to be. I think it’s something within all of us that there comes a time we have to be true to who we are.”
Marley says he attributes the themes of “love, spirituality, and unity,” to Caribbean culture. While living in Los Angeles, he added that he misses his “Caribbean food, culture, and everything” and wished to attend the Toronto Caribbean Carnival this weekend. “That would be so much fun for me. I mean, next year I’ll be there because… I miss that.”