Before They Were Stars with Damian Marley
By Marc Parc
Following in the footsteps of a celebrity relative is hard enough. But when your father hails as the greatest musician to grace Jamaica's shores i.e. Bob Marley that job becomes tougher.
However, Damian Marley has not only managed to follow those footsteps successfully, he's established his own identity; moving from under his father's shadow to become one of Reggae music's most celebrated acts to today's generation. Like Tuff Gong before him, Junior Gong has managed to encapsulate fan bases worldwide with messages of peace, prosperity and social consciousness. But for Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, his journey to super stardom took much different turns.
Marley was born on July 21, 1978 to Bob Marley and 1976 Miss World winner, Cindy Breakspeare. Like his many siblings, Marley looked up to his iconic father but never got the chance to truly enjoy his effervescent presence as Bob Marley succumbed to bone cancer when Damian was only two years old. Despite only knowing his father for such a short time, Marley decided to follow in his father’s footsteps as he aimed to start a new family legacy.
During his teenage years, Damian Marley founded a group dubbed The Shephards. The group, including the daughter of Big Ship patriarch, Freddie McGregor (Yashema McGregor) and the son of Third World drummer, Cat Coore (Shiah Coore) immediately garnered buzz across the Reggae industry. This resulted in Marley, who was 13 at the time, leading The Shephards on the Reggae Sunsplash stage in 1992 as the show's opening act. Despite initial success, the group quickly disintegrated, leading Marley to pursue a solo career.
In 1996, Marley sought to surprise the music industry as he and his brother, Stephen Marley co-wrote singles for Damian's debut album, Mr. Marley. Instead of the soothing Reggae vocals fans were accustomed to from Bob and Ziggy Marley respectively, Damian graced the mainstream with a hard hitting, Dancehall style. Though he announced himself to the world as "Junior Gong," some listeners were thrown off by this change of pace; resulting in the lack of success the album ultimately achieved despite reputable efforts such as 10,000 Chariots and Old War Chant.
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