There is no bigger name in reggae than “Marley,” and Ziggy, son of Bob, is holding up the family moniker with pride. He’s won four Grammy awards and released two hugely popular albums. But perhaps more important to grade-schoolers, he also sings that jammin’ theme song on PBS’s Arthur, and did the voice of Ernie, the Rasta jellyfish in the movie Shark Tales.
Ziggy’s third solo album, Family Time, is his first kids’ CD, and it’s got a mind-blowing array of guest performers. (Willie Nelson! Laurie Berkner! Paul Simon! Even Jamie Lee Curtis shows up – twice.) The album was also a family affair. His mother and sister perform, as does his four-year-old daughter, Judah. (Ziggy has four other kids, aged 20, 17, 14 and 2.)
Ziggy talked to Babble about his interest in education, his famous dad, and the expertise he’s gained from raising all those kids. – Jennifer V. Hughes
You have some major stars on your new album. What was it like bringing together such a wildly diverse group of artists?
It was a privilege for me, you know what I’m saying? It was very exciting to bring in guest artists.
Is there a thread musically or emotionally between all of them and your work?
I felt something for them, when I was going to put together a group of people who I would work with, I had to find people I have a good feeling for, it has to be a good vibe. It’s a cool vibe, the spirit in their music. It’s hard to explain, but everything cannot always make sense – sometimes it’s just a feeling.
The proceeds from the sale of the CD will go toward the Chepstowe Basic School in Jamaica – tell me about that project.
The school is for the very young. I wanted to get into education for kids so I adopted a school and we started doing some development. Some of the money will help with more classrooms, more books, better pay for the teachers. I want it to be an example for the rest of Jamaica in terms of what we can do.
You know, I read that Ziggy is not your given name – it’s David. Where did Ziggy come from?
Ziggy came from my father – it’s from how I used to kick the soccer ball.
Maybe this is a silly question, but what do you think it is about music and children – why are children so drawn to music?
I think that music, beats, melody, sound are a natural part of our DNA, our vibe. It’s just a part of the cycle of our lives, we’re born, we have eyes, we have music. It’s part of us from the beginning. We’re drawn to it because it’s a part of us.
Other than reggae, what other styles of music do you and your kids listen to?
My kids listen to my father’s music, which is reggae of course. They just listen to music that makes us feel good – rock, jazz, anything. For me it changes depending on what I’m feeling. I’ve listened to Jack Johnson, Green Day, I listen to African music. I listen to a wide variety, I don’t think there is any constant. I go from one thing to the next.
Many of the songs on the album have messages – saving the earth, caring for your brother. What do you think little kids will take from those kind of songs?
I don’t know what they can take from it – I hope they take something. The songs have different layers to them, it wasn’t that it was important, it’s just how we did it. As the kids grow they can understand the deeper meanings of the songs. It will stay with you from birth to old age.
Your dad was such an influential artist, so renowned and beloved. What is that like for you, as a musician?
“I want my kids to be good people first.”
Well, I was just always trying to play music and create something. I’m very adventurous and so the aspect of being my father’s son never really struck me as any difficulty or a problem or whatever. I just wanted to make music. What he did was not a deciding factor for me.
What do you think you would have done if you were not a musician?
If I was not a musician, I’d still be a musician. Being a musician is just what I’m on earth for. I might not be talking to you, I might not be making records but I’d be making music.
Do you think any of your kids will follow in your musical footsteps?
I don’t know for sure – it’s possible, but I don’t care at this point. I’m not thinking about that now. I just want them to get a good education and a good upbringing and be good human beings. I want them to be good people first.
Since you have five kids – which automatically makes you a parenting expert in my book –
Oh, yeah? Really?
– what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to another parent?
I don’t know : it can’t be one thing for every parent because every child is different. Patience is important, discipline is important, you have to learn balance. I guess that would be my general advice, keep it balanced- don’t lean one way or the other way too far.
You know, come to think of it – the lyrics to “Three Little Birds” might just be good parenting advice :.
(Laughs) Oh yeah, sure.
Ziggy Marley is on tour! Check out his tour dates here.