Stephen Marley

Bob's second-born turns fame into art.


Considering that Bob Marley had 11 children by nine different women, it’s tough to reconcile his philandering with status as rastafari prophet to college students everywhere; nonetheless, he made sure the Marley name would inhabit the most shelf space of any record store’s reggae section. With the economic cachet and cultural heft that the Marley DNA carries, five of his offspring have recorded albums of their own with varying results. The latest, Stephen Marley’s Mind Control, features guests like Ben Harper and Snoop Dogg. Though it would be easy to cite the album’s invisible overseeing guest as Bob Marley, Stephen does a good job of stepping out, both lyrically and musically, from his dad’s shadow. He appears Sept. 30 at the Mystic Theatre.

Two particular tracks very nearly call out the old man, in a call-and-response that is hard to separate from Bob and Rita Marley’s not-always-rosy marriage. “Fed Up” describes a disregarded woman’s point of view (“She said how could you treat me this way? / What we had was more than words could say”) while “Hey Baby,” aided by a smooth-talking verse by Mos Def, seems to be the lamely executed answer (“Everyday I pray to Jah that one day you will see. . . I must fulfill my destiny / I hope you’ll find it in your heart and know these words are true / And please don’t cry, you know that I must do what I must do”).

With five Grammy awards to his credit and vast production experience, the younger Marley could have churned out Mind Control in a heartbeat; instead, through various title changes and rewrites, he waited for it to be perfect. Though not quite charting on the Billboard level of his brothers Damian or Ziggy, sales have nonetheless been brisk for Stephen, which is good. He’s got eight kids of his own to feed, after all.

Stephen Marley performs on Sunday, Sept. 30, at Mystic Theatre, 23 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 9pm. $30-$32. 707.765.2121.

Sonoma County Library