A lifetime of song for Rita Marley
Rita Marley

RITA Marley is used to performing her songs for fans around the globe. However, on October 1, the tables were turned as she sat in the audience at South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center where the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) moved to her music.

The 76-year-old singer/philanthropist, widow of reggae legend Bob Marley, was pleased with the performance of Jamaica's most famous creative dance group, according to her daughter Sharon Marley.

"She raised her hands, and she was snapping her fingers and rocking to the beat. It was beautiful to see her really enjoying that moment," Sharon told the Jamaica Observer.

The NDTC, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, used five of Rita's songs during their set. They were Love Iyah, Good Morning Jah, A Jah Jah, Thank You Lord, and Harambe.

Rita Marley (front row, centre) with Jamaica's Consul General to Miami Oliver Mair (front left) and Marlon Simms, artistic director of the National Dance Theatre Company, at the October 1 performance by the group honouring her at South Miami Dade Cultural Center. Behind them are drummer Jesse Golding; Rita Marley's grand-daughter Donisha Prendergast; poet Dr Sue Davis; Sharon Marley; Colin Smith, president of the Louise Bennett Heritage Council; dancer Gillian Steele, dancer Patrick Earle; and choreographer Chris Walker.

She also received the Consulate General's Lifetime Achievement Award from Oliver Mair, Jamaica's consul general to Miami.

"It was great to see her enjoying her people and seeing her people enjoying her and appreciating her. She has gotten quite a number of awards, but I think the best ones for her have been from her people, her own Jamaican people," said Sharon.

The occasion, at times, was bittersweet. Guitarist Ricky Walters of the Fabulous Five Band, who died in June, wrote Love Iyah; Steve Golding, his former colleague in that band, attended the Miami show.

Last Saturday's show was the first of two by the NDTC, both organised by the Louise Bennett Heritage Council. The second event was scheduled for October 2 at Miramar Cultural Performing Arts Center in Miramar.

Though many fans associate her with the I Three, her husband's harmony group, Rita Marley came into her own after his death at age 36 in May 1981. She released a series of hit singles during the 1980s including Harambe, One Draw, and A Jah Jah.

In recent years she has suffered several strokes which have limited her movement. In 2019 Rita Marley was conferred with the Order of Jamaica, her country's fifth-highest honour.

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

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