Cedella Booker

Cedella Malcolm Marley Booker (July 23, 1926 – April 8, 2008) was the mother of Jamaican reggae musician Bob Marley and a singer and writer.


Booker was born Sidilla Editha Malcolm in Rhoden Hall, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, daughter Albertha Whilby and Omeriah Malcolm, a farmer, a “bush doctor”, and one of the most respected residents of Nine Mile (son of Robert “Uncle Day” Malcolm, who descended from the Cromanty slaves shipped to Jamaica from the African Gold Coast in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries). At 18, Cedella Malcolm married Norval Sinclair Marley, a white Jamaican of British and rumored Syrian Jewish descent, whose father’s family came from England; the family of his mother, Ellen Marley (née Broomfield), came from the Levant. She became pregnant with his son, Robert Nesta (whose second given name “Nesta” means prophetically “wise messenger”). Norval Marley was an officer as well as the plantation overseer. His family applied constant pressure however, and although he provided financial support for them, the Captain seldom saw his wife and son. Bob was ten years old when Norval died of a heart attack in 1955 at age 70. Cedella and Bob then moved to Trenchtown, a slum neighborhood in Kingston. This was the only place Booker could afford to live at the time, being a young woman moving from the country to the big city on her own.

While living in Trenchtown, Booker gave birth to a daughter, Pearl, with Taddeus Livingston, the father of Bunny Livingston – aka Bunny Wailer – who formed the original Wailers trio with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh in 1963.

Cedella then married Edward Booker, an American civil servant, and resided first in Delaware, where she gave birth to two more sons, Richard and Anthony, with Booker. Anthony was killed in a shootout with Miami police after walking through a shopping mall with a 12 ga. shotgun and opening fire on responding police; Richard Booker survives her. After Edward Booker’s death in 1976, Cedella moved to Miami, Florida, where she was present at the deathbed of her famous son who died from cancer in 1981. Booker lived in Miami for the remainder of her life.

Called “the keeper of the flame,” Cedella grew voluminous dreadlocks, adopted Rohan Marley, Bob Marley’s son by Janet Hunt, and occasionally performed live with Marley’s children, Ky-Mani, Ziggy, Stephen, Damian and Julian Marley. Later, she released the music albums Awake Zion and Smilin’ Island of Song. Cedella Booker participated in the festivities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia commemorating Marley’s 60th birthday in 2005. She also wrote two Marley biographies.

Cedella Marley Booker died at the age of 81 in Miami, Florida on April 8, 2008.

The Malcolm house where her parents originally lived was torn down and replaced by the new Bob Marley Foundation building.

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