Happy Birthday, Reggae's Heir Apparent, Stephen Marley

As the son of reggae superstar Bob Marley, Stephen Marley had a lot to live up to. Of course, that's no different from the challenge faced by any offspring of a musical legend, but given the impact Bob Marley made not only on reggae but on the whole of popular music, Stephen's attempts seemed especially auspicious. Born April 20, 1972, to Bob and wife Rita Marley, Stephen has managed to rise to the occasion, accumulating an impressive five Grammy Awards in a lengthy career that's wholly successful in its own right. 


Never mind that Stephen bears an astonishing resemblance to his famous father. It was equally obvious that he possessed his own talents at an early age. He began his career at age 8 alongside siblings Ziggy, Cedella, and Sharon in the preteen band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, more or less a reggae version of the seminal Jackson Five. While the band wasn't his vehicle alone, he was given the opportunity to sing lead vocals on several of the band's signature songs, among them "Sugar Pie," "Jah Is the Healing," and "Lord We a Come."

Marley's musical bond with other members of the Miami-based Marley clan extended well beyond his work with the Melody Makers. He produced each of his brother Damien's three solo albums and performed on several tracks from Damien's widely hailed Welcome to Jamrock from 2005. He also worked with Julian Marley and performed the song "Kinky Reggae" on the 1999 Bob Marley mashup Chant Down Babylon alongside Erykah Badu, Rakim, Lauren Hill, Chuck D, the Roots, and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. 


In 2003, Stephen and Damian reunited with their album Educated Fools, adopting the contemporary tag the Marley Boyz. Other reggae artists took part as well, but it mainly came off as another family affair, thanks to the participation of younger brother Ky-Mani Marley.

Mind Control, Stephen's own debut album, was released in 2007. Two years later, he went out on the road with Snoop Dogg and Slightly Stoopid as part of 2009's "Blazed and Confused Tour." Still, his greatest achievement was yet to come when, this past February, he was awarded the Grammy for Best Reggae Album for his latest effort, Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life

As previously mentioned, Stephen's one of several artists born to famous parents. Here's a short list of musicians that have birthed successful offspring: 


John Lennon and Yoko Ono 
Sean (born to John and Yoko) and Julian Lennon (son of John and his first wife, Cynthia) have each inherited their dad's musical muse, and yet they've pursued it in different ways. 

Julian's latest album, Everything Changes, was released late year and marks a comeback of sorts, a much-needed respite following some critical drubbing and the constant comparisons to his famous dad. (He was, after all, the inspiration for the Beatles' "Hey Jude," written for him by Paul McCartney following his parents' breakup.) Sean has been the more prolific -- and eclectic -- of the two, but both share the fact that they've each passed the age of their father at the time of his murder. 


Paul and Linda McCartney
Although he's occasionally contributed to his dad's LPs, James McCartney has been fairly modest as far as his own ambitions. However, with the recent release of The Complete EP Collection, a compilation of his efforts up until now, the push is on to cede him the spotlight. His resemblance to his father notwithstanding, James' penchant for pop takes him in a generally different direction, but having the elder McCartney in the producer's chair keeps matters all in the family. 


George Harrison
Dhani Harrison made his public bow during his participation in the Concert for George in the immediate aftermath of his father's passing, and it was striking how close the two resembled each other. Dhani has since exerted more of his musical might -- as part of the sometime supergroup Fistful of Mercy with Joseph Arthur and Ben Harper, the electronica outfit Thenewno2, and as coproducer (with Jeff Lynne) of his father's posthumous final album, Brainwashed. It's interesting to note that Dhani, Sean, and James have supposedly bandied about the idea of a Beatles' offspring band, although all parties involved deny any interest. 


Ringo Starr
Ringo's son Zac Starkey has proved his mettle many times over by sitting in on drums with some of the biggest names in the biz, like the Who, Oasis, Paul Weller, the Icicle Works, and Johnny Marr, not mention his dad's various All-Starr Band outings. At 52, he can't be considered a youngster but rather a respected musician in his own right.


Tim Buckley
Buckley's son Jeff very nearly overshadowed his old man's fame, coming into his own as a downcast singer/songwriter who reaped critical acclaim. Originally unaware of his famous lineage, he was raised by his mother and stepfather and given the name Scotty Moorhead, which he went by until he happened to discover his true identity. Sadly, he also met the same sad fate as his father, dying at an all-too-early age. The elder Buckley died of a drug overdose at age 28, while Jeff drowned after jumping off a dock in Memphis where he was about to embark on a new album. He was only 31. 


Loudon Wainwright III/ Kate McGarrigle/Suzzy Roche
All three of Wainwright's kids have been successful to varying degrees. Son Rufus, born to Loudon and the late Kate McGarrigle, has the highest profile, thanks to his richly arranged cabaret-style serenades. His sister Martha, also sired by Wainwright and McGarrigle, bears more of a brash attitude, as exemplified by her song "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole," supposedly inspired by her father. Daughter Lucy Wainwright was born by Wainwright's wife Suzzy Roche of the quirky combo the Roches, and so it comes as little wonder that Lucy shares her parents' folk finesse. Despite a famously tangled family history, all three kids guest on Loudon's latest album, Older Than My Father Now


Leonard Cohen
Leonard's son Adam seems to have inherited his father's penchant for pensive narratives and overcast musings, as evidenced by his excellent new album, aptly titled Like a Man. With two previous efforts to his credit and membership in the band Low Millions, Adam has slowly emerged as a talented singer/songwriter whot definitely bears watching. 


James Taylor and Carly Simon
Sally and Ben Taylor both inherited their parents' musical talent, although Ben seems to have taken the lead in terms of attracting exposure. He played -- naturally enough -- a folk singer in the retro sitcom American Dreams and made some noise with his fourth album, the inexplicably titled The Legend of Kung Folk. So far, his efforts at distancing himself from his famous kin seem to have succeeded, although the vocal and physical similarities continue to garner him unreasonable expectations.


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