Keepers of the legacy
The Melody Makers

The Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment Desk continues with the 22nd in its Child Month series highlighting some of Jamaica’s young performers who shot to stardom.

WITH three Grammy Awards, sibling band The Melody Makers are one of reggae’s formidable groups. Children of Bob and Rita Marley, the quartet — Ziggy (11), Stephen, Sharon, and Cedella — were introduced to the world in 1979 with the song, Children Playing in The Streets.

“The Melody Makers were typical kids who wanted to learn and wanted to be professionals. Ziggy and Steve were very young kids, the most I could do is help fi point dem in di right direction. But they were real fantastic youths,” saxophonist Dean Fraser, who toured with the Marleys from 1986-88, told the Jamaica Observer.

“They were really interested in their father’s legacy and di whole Marley situation. Dem was really, really interested in that. They showed a lot of interest... They wanted to be stars and they were ready to create their music and to go on their own. So it was a nice period to be in, where I just help to make young stars shine,” continued Fraser.

He said The Melody Makers were heavily influenced by their father and his music.

“They copied his attitude and everything, and they tried hard. Because at di time, Ziggy had to hold di mantle as di future Marley... All ah dem did well. Ziggy learn to play guitar, Steve learn to play guitar, Cedella and Sharon got a third singer, Erica Newell, so they were like a I-Three. It was a beautiful thing,” Fraser disclosed.

The I-Three were Bob Marley’s backing vocalists, comprising his wife, Rita, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt. Marley died of cancer on May 11, 1981 at age 36.

Fraser said after the reggae king’s passing, The Melody Makers began to develop their sound.

“That was definitely do right thing and di right way to go when Ziggy an’ Steve, and di Melody Makers created dat different sound — that Black My Story sound. It was a different way and a new way, which was di right thing. It nuh make sense dem sound like Bob Marley. Bob Marley ah Bob Marley,” he stated.

Black My Story was my tune. This where di Melody Makers came together. This is where they had their whole sound an’ everything. That album was the turning point,” Fraser added.

In 1988, The Melody Makers were signed to Virgin Records and recorded their third album, Conscious Party. It charted at number 23 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart and number 26 on the R&B Albums Chart. The single, Tomorrow People, charted at number 16 on the Mainstream Rock Chart and number 39 on the Hot 100. They received a Grammy for Best Reggae Album the following year.

The follow-up project, One Bright Day, released in 1989 also copped a Best Reggae Album Grammy. It included songs like Look Who’s Dancing, Black My Story (Not History), One Bright Day, Justice, and When The Lights Gone Out.

The Melody Makers secured their third lien on the Best Reggae Grammy Award in 1998 for Babylon is Fallen. The group disbanded four years later.

Fraser, now musical director for Tarrus Riley, believes their hard work has paid off.

“Ziggy and Steve are two major acts, right now. They did well. In fact, they did excellent,” he added.

The Melody Makers in their younger years.
Brian Bonitto

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