Rita Marley’s, Judy Mowatt’s daughters on mothers’ influence

Walking in Mom's shoes

BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON Observer staff reporter livingstonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 08, 2011    

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ONE of the greatest joys for a child is to have parents they can not only look up to, but place as their role models. For Cedella Marley and Yashemabeth McGregor their mothers Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt are a perfect fit.

Cedella Marley describes her mom as "the backbone" of the family and a very big influence in her life.

"She is strong and dignified, wise, kind, optimistic, industrious, unselfish, caring. There's something really cool about a mom like mine," the younger Marley stressed in an e-mail query from the Observer, acknowledging her mother Rita as an obviously "rare breed".

Yashemabeth McGregor, who made her entrance into the music industry at age

nine singing background vocals for her mother Judy Mowatt, said she could not help but underscore her mother's influence.

"My mother has influenced me tremendously, but more so as an individual versus being an entertainer. My mother raised her five children on her own and was always a very independent woman who taught that through work we will see our rewards," McGregor reflects.

With music being part and parcel of their lives since birth, both Cedella Marley and Yashemabeth McGregor have undboubtedly drawn on the work of their mothers, who form two-thirds of the vocal group, the I-Three, along with Marcia Griffiths.

Cedella Marley continues, "First, her high energy is a rarity in itself. But most importantly, she always kept her family her number one priority. She taught me the art of multi-tasking with grace. She taught me about positive thinking. She demonstrated what unconditional love and commitment to a marriage and family is. She showed me that sometimes you have to make really tough decisions and stick with them. My mom made work look fun and exciting. She taught me that being successful in everything you do is a great thing because it provides endless opportunities for your family."

It's is the same for McGregor. "She reminded me that although music can be very rewarding, I should always have a back-up plan and that is why education is important. My mother was the first Jamaican female reggae artiste to be nominated for a Grammy award (Working Wonders in 1985), yet she remains very humble and always reminds me of where she came from so as not to take any blessing for granted. My mom's influence as a producer in her own right has motivated me to move forward as a woman in this industry and never to limit myself in terms of what the industry thinks a woman can and cannot do."

So what do these two young acts, like about their mothers' musical style? And a favourite song, perhaps?

When it comes to her mom's musical style Cedella can't seem to make up her mind as to what she likes best about it. Her favourite song by mommy is "unquestionably -- Beauty of God's Plan".

As for McGregor, she admires how her mother's music manages to reflect her personality, which she describes as dynamic and energetic. "She's also very soulful and loves to use her voice to capture the essence of the words she sings."

Over the years, Judy Mowatt has recorded a number of songs and when it comes on to choosing a favourite, she finds it a real challenge.

"This is a very tough question as I have many favourites of my mother's, but I would say the song that stands out for me is a song titled Many Are Called, and it's one of my favourites because of the message of the song and also because the era of the song is also one of my fave Judy Mowatt eras and lastly, because I laugh every time I hear my father singing the high harmony notes," McGregor shares.

Judy Mowatt can hardly hide the pride she feels in her daughter, as she talks about her musical growth from background singer to going to play with the band The Shepherds to balancing a solo career while working for her father -- reggae crooner Freddie McGregor -- and her brothers Chino and Stephen.

"Her focus now is to refurbish her solo career and my advice to her is this: if she wants to be a full-time musician or performer, there is no pension in this business and we are not guaranteed a weekly or monthly salary so having another skill under your belt/or investment that will ensure additional income is absolutely necessary."

Is Mowatt happy her daughter chose the same career path and is there anything she would have liked to see her do differently?

"I don't know the plans God has for her, but my desire is that His will and purpose be manifested in her life. God has truly blessed her, seeing that she is a singer/songwriter/ musician/producer/arranger, I would definitely want to see her owning her own recording studio to produce her own material as well as others," Mowatt notes.

When it comes on to her daughter's musical style Mowatt says she likes Yashemabeth's originality. "She has her own style. I admire her writing skills -- having that ability to complete a song at the drop of a hat. She has written a few songs for me, as well as we have co-written songs. In my opinion, if she pursues this talent as more than just a pastime, she would be among Jamaica's most recognised songwriters," notes the obviously proud mother.





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