Stephen Marley Remembers Night Parents Were Shot


On December 3, 1976, Bob Marley, Rita Marley, Lewis Griffths and Don Taylor were shot and injured in an attack at 56 Hope Road, St Andrew.

On December 3, 2016, in a Smile Jamaica event at the same address, now the Bob Marley Museum, Stephen Marley said he remembered the night of the shooting, which took place when he was close to five years old.

He told the audience “some things stand out in your memory.” Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, two weeks ago, Stephen expanded on the memories of a night he could have become an orphan.

“That time we live a Bull Bay. My mother was in a play,” he said, giving the theatrical production’s informal title as Brashana. “So sometime me would go rehearsal fi de play wid har, sometime me go rehearsal wid me father.” Stephen laughs when The Sunday Gleaner asks which one he preferred. “Me always prefer fi go wid him still,” he said. “She govern we. Him jus’ ‘yu aright, yu out inna de yard’. Him no business. Him no really watch you like dat,” Stephen said, noting that Bob just wanted to know the children were OK.

“That evening me was fe go rehearsal. True sometime she no waan carry me to the play wid har, she wait til me drop asleep an den me wake up an frenzy out. So me kinda aware she a wait til me drop asleep fi leave. Anyway, drop asleep, wake up an she gone, me do me frenzy ting,” he said.

He was in familiar company, though, as with both parents deeply involved in the demanding creative process, his grand-aunt, Viola Anderson (Rita’s aunt), took care of them.

“Me used to sleep with she. In har bed an’ ting.” Stephen said. She would wake him for a treat, Stephen laughing as he imitated her saying “Steve, Steve, season rice ready,” when she woke him up after “them run a little late boat”.

It was a different kind of wake-up call on the night of December 5, when Aunty called to Stephen (who had fallen asleep again) to say “wake up, your father get shot”.

“By the time she say dat though, Diane Jobson, who a me father lawyer dem time deh, everybody a move up in de house an it was jus’ from de house to de police car, police car take we go Strawberry Hill. There, he saw his father. “Me remember how me see him too, see him a look pon him han (where he had been wounded). But him all a laugh an everything. Ziggy have da style deh too, laugh,” Stephen said.

“Me remember bout dat,” Stephen said, quietly.

Although he was that young, Stephen understood the seriousness of gunshots.

“Tell you de truth, the only thing was little confusing was we never know if that mean demise or hurt,” Stephen said of the initial effect of hearing the news. “That was de only confusing ting. Den, everything kinda still a move fas’, ’cause dem move we out a Bull Bay fas’. When we inna de car dem kinda tell we say him alright, tell de bigger one dem whe we a go, say alright we a go Strawberry Hill.”

The Chris Blackwell-owned Irish Town property in the Blue Mountains was “well familiar” to Stephen, “’cause dem place deh have a little maze vibe, an as a likkle yute, you run up an down the different steps.”

“But it really imprint as a young child,” Stephen said of the shooting.

The Sunday Gleaner, asks Stephen if the incident put him in the frame of mind to always protect himself and he flatly says “of course. One hundred per cent.” He repeats “one hun-dred per cent”, emphasizing each syllable.


It changed things in the family as well, as Stephen said “him too”, about Bob after the shooting. “Him never feel like nobody woulda waan harm him. Dat hurt him more dan anything else. But then (afterwards), him say him nah go make nobody hurt him. Him say no guy no bad like him, a true, a powerful man,” Stephen said.

So after the shooting, he said “a different ting man. Him leave go a de exile (the time in London before coming back to Jamaica to perform at the One Love Peace Concert in 1978). When we go see him, it was make sure we militant, y’nuh. Him start instill da whole togetherness deh.”

Stephen recalled a night when Bob led his family out to investigate a possible intrusion. Back in Jamaica, one night they were at home and the dogs were barking “non-stop.” A number of them were there, including Ziggy, Uncle Richard and someone named Robbie. “An him say come. We go outside y’nuh, we line up, like inna dem movie deh, we line up behind him,” Stephen said, laughing.

“Him go a de edge a de wall an him say ‘who dat, who dat!?’ til a likkle bredda say ‘Bob is me’. Him kinda screw an say don’t do dat again. You coulda get hurt an ting. De whole soldier ting deh, yeah, and togetherness,” Stephen said. “After the wound, definitely, definitely, definitely.”

Still, questions remained.

“Next ting me kinda realize was cause wha we did waan know was why? Cause a no him alone get shot, Remember Mummy, Mummy get graze in har head back. Don get shot up in him groin an ting. But it was why? She say she look an she see so she kinda (Stephen makes an evasive movement), she hear ‘bow!’, ketch har in har head, graze har,” he said, reminding The Sunday Gleaner, that Rita performed at the Smile Jamaica Concert in a hospital gown. “Is from the hospital she come,” he said.


Stephen stayed at Strawberry Hill under “heavy security” while the historic concert took place at National Heroes Circle.

Within five years of the shooting, Bob Marley was dead from cancer. The Sunday Gleaner asks Stephen if the short time he knew his father is something that he thinks about and he says quietly, but firmly “Of course. Yeah man. But then, a couple things. A wouldn’t him always gone, but him was always traveling. So you still did always get a short time with him anyway. So dat kinda help ease it. You kinda used to him absence. Is not like every day you come home an yu daddy deh deh, den him gone. Yu understan’ whe me mean? Right.

“So because him was always out, you kinda still ease yourself. Yu no think about it so much, because we used to him being gone. So you don’t think about him not coming back. We assume, one day we ago meet again,” Stephen said. “An him leave all these tools, instructions til’ him come back, get this done.”

Source: Jamaica Gleaner

Mel Cooke

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