A five-time Grammy-winning musician, actor, artist, activist and humanitarian, Ziggy Marley has established his presence on the public stage for over a quarter-century. Which is why, perhaps, there’s a wisp of irony in naming his upcoming album Wild and Free, given not only the focused writing and recording of his fourth solo studio album, but also Ziggy’s concurrent involvement in an ambitious tour stretching through this spring and summer, as well as other projects in the realm of publishing and filmmaking. And with the arrival of a new baby requiring his attention, it’s remarkable Ziggy is able to capture the energy to keep his sound wild and free!
The overall theme of the album is a powerful one, as it propels Marley to challenge social injustice along with the political weapons of ignorance and fear. Wild and Free (Tuff Gong Worldwide), his fourth solo album, may be Ziggy’s most political and personal to date. Set for release on June 14th 2011, Wild and Free was produced with friend and collaborator Don Was at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood, CA as well as Marley’s own studio.
“The thing that makes this new album special is that Ziggy has embraced the more traditional and familiar textures and rhythms of reggae, while further defining the unique artistic vision that sets him apart,” says producer Don Was. “His quest to find his own voice within the framework of tradition is the real story of the album.” In that quest, Marley finds company in the immense and varied talents of guitarist Takeshi Akimoto (Raya Yarbrough, Dry & Heavy), bassist Darryl Jones (The Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Sting), keyboardist James Poyser (Eryka Badu, Common, Mariah Carey), drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis (Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear) and percussionist Rock Deadrick (Ben Harper, Chicago, Kenny Loggins).
With themes of freedom and responsibility, tempered hope and intemperate love, Wild and Free affirms Marley as a master storyteller with an innate sense of soul. It opens with its title track, “Wild and Free,” a rock-fueled reggae anthem with a funky, Stevie Wonder-esque synthesizer solo, written in support of California’s Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana. Swapping verses with his friend, actor Woody Harrelson, the two envision “hemp fields growing wild and free” and the far-reaching effects of legalization benefiting small farmers and a myriad of others. Marley provided a free acoustic version of the song to his fans on his website under the alternate title, “A Fire Burns for Freedom.”
From there it’s the funky and fun-loving “Forward To Love,” segueing into the first of several cautionary songs, “It” (joined by rapper Heavy D), which implores people to examine long-desired goals. Ziggy rides a swift reggae current on “Changes,” joined by songwriter/producer
Linda Perry as well as his own son, Daniel, who lends vocals. The self-empowerment anthem “Personal Revolution” opens with a military drumbeat, before adding hot guitar licks and thick Hammond organ fills; in contrast, it’s a Wild West guitar that opens “Get Out of Town,” moving into a dark beat to take aim at the pollution of the planet and the corrupt powers that control it. Politics is also in the side-view mirror in the spirited “Road Less Traveled,” which extols the virtue of bravery in choosing paths that may not be familiar or comfortable.
“Mmmm Mmmm,” with its gospel-flavored chorus, gives us Ziggy Marley as he contemplates Jah’s view of mankind and our spiritual condition, while “Welcome to the World” (showcasing the newest “wailer,” baby Abraham Selassie Robert Nesta Marley) warns, “I can’t promise it’s a good place” and “you’ve got to stand up for who you are.” Ziggy suggests the consequences of not heeding the warnings of positive change in “A Sign,” before slipping into an easier, upbeat groove for the mantric “Reggae in My Head.” As Wild and Free opens with a political song, so does it close with “Elizabeth,” which casts a cynical eye toward government and its motives.
Following spring dates in South America, both as a headliner and teamed with international superstar Shakira, Marley will support the release of his new album with an extensive summer tour schedule. Additionally, a group of themed tribute shows, “Tuff Gong Worldwide and Ziggy Marley Salute the Legends of Reggae,” is planned for various Southern California venues, including the Hollywood Bowl.
Among other new Marley projects is the comic book Marijuanaman (Image Comics), published on the symbolically potent date of 4/20. Marijuanaman offers a new toke on a familiar genre: a superhero with a galactic view of Earth’s dwindling natural resources and how one versatile plant might help save us all. Based on an original character created and developed by Marley, the 48-page, full-color book is written by Joe Casey (Gødland, Butcher Baker) and illustrated by Jim Mahfood (Kick Drum Comix, Mix Tape).
Visiting the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, in the footsteps of his father’s famous trip to Africa 30 years before, Ziggy collaborated with brothers Robbie and Rohan to turn to the world of documentary filmmaking in Marley African Road Trip (http://marleyafricaroadtrip.com/wp). The documentary elevates a family vacation into a more meaningful communal experience. In the film, helmed by documentarian David Alexanian (Long Way Round, Long Way Down), Marley gives free shows in community settings, interacts intimately with his fans, motorbikes the back roads of South Africa, and discovers the joys and angst of camping with siblings.
Ziggy also continues to head Tuff Gong Worldwide, in honor of his father’s own music label Tuff Gong Records, which envisioned independent ownership of Marley music, leading the relaunch of Bob Marley’s official website and a May exhibit at the Grammy Museum in L.A. commemorating the 30th anniversary of his father’s passing in 1981. Ziggy recently reclaimed most of the publishing rights to his music from EMI, giving him a strong sense of fulfillment in light of the “independent spirit of what my father dreamed of.” This past year, with a mandate to support other Jamaican artists, Tuff Gong released Let’s Go Back...Way Back, Vol. 1: Dancehall Originators, the first in a planned series of compilation albums that seek to preserve and promote Jamaican music to new generations.
A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Ziggy Marley and his siblings first sat in on recording sessions with his father’s band, the legendary Bob Marley and the Wailers, when he was ten years old. Later, Ziggy joined with his sisters Sharon and Cedella and brother Stephen to become Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, allowing him to craft his own soulful sound which blends blues, R&B, hip-hop and roots reggae. The Melody Makers earned their first Grammy (Best Reggae Recording) for their third album Conscious Party (1988), produced by Talking Heads Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, which included the hit songs “Tomorrow People” and “Tumbling Down.”
Subsequent albums included the Grammy-winning One Bright Day (1989), Jamekya (1991), Joy and Blues (1993), Free Like We Want 2 B (1995), Grammy-winning Fallen is Babylon (1997), Spirit of Music (1999) and Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers Live, Vol. 1 (2000), featuring some of their biggest hits, as well as a cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” While selling millions of records and selling out numerous concerts, Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers never lost sight of their foundations in faith, fellowship and family.
After two decades as the driving creative force behind The Melody Makers, Ziggy’s first solo tour came in Summer 2002, on the 23-city Jeep World Outside Festival, joining such artists as Sheryl Crow, Train and O.A.R. The following year saw the release of his debut solo album, Dragonfly, followed by 2006’s Love Is My Religion, a Grammy winner that further explored personal, social and political themes amid a fragrant mix of roots reggae, traditional rock ‘n roll, African percussion and other varied musical elements. Recently, Marley won his fifth Grammy Award, in the category “Best Musical Album for Children,” for Family Time, a 2009 collection of reggae-inflected, family-oriented songs. Family Time features family and friends including; Rita Marley, Cedella Marley, Judah Marley, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Involved with a breadth of charities, Marley leads his own, URGE (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment), a non-profit organization that benefits efforts in Jamaica, Ethiopia and other developing nations. The charity’s missions range from building new schools to operating health clinics to supporting charities like Mary’s Child, a center for abused and neglected girls.
Ziggy Marley splits his residency between Florida, Jamaica and California.