BOB MARLEY RAPED ME
Mar 31 2004
By Matt Roper
TO millions she was the luckiest woman alive - married to Bob Marley, the international superstar of reggae, recognised the world over as a living icon.
But for Rita Marley life with the "Negus" of reggae was far from a fairytale, as she watched the man she dearly loved disown and betray her at every turn.
When she tried to put her foot down by denying him sex until he stopped playing around, the young Jamaican adored by millions as a peace-loving legend forced his way into her home and raped her.
Talking publicly for the first time about that day in 1973, Rita, now 57, says: "Bob wouldn't take no for an answer. He said to me, 'No, you're my wife and you're supposed to.' So he forced himself on me, and I call that rape. Afterwards I felt so terrible. I screamed at him, 'I hate you, I hate you!'"
The rape happened after years of Marley's cheating with a stream of women, many of whom bore his children.
But despite everything, Rita insists she still adores him as much as the day they first met in 1965.
"Just because he did these things and cheated on me doesn't mean he was a bad husband. He always provided for me, always gave me anything I wanted.
"But he was corrupted by showbusiness, by the girls who would throw themselves at him. This is what I've come to understand."
The Cuban-born Alpharita Anderson met Robert Nesta Marley when she was 18 and he was 19, in the Trenchtown ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica. Robbie was the shy guitarist of local "rocksteady" group the Wailing Wailers, who would pass Rita's house every day on their way to the studio.
One day, Rita and her friends stopped the group and performed an impromptu song - Bob was immediately won over. He invited them to sing backing vocals on some tracks they were recording and the pair soon became lovers.
"We were so in love. Bob was so romantic and faithful, and I thought we would always be like that. We'd be rehearsing and looking into each other's eyes and singing, and then we'd put our mouths to each others'. It was magic."
In 1966 the couple had an "impulse" wedding. From then until 1972, when Bob signed to Island Records, Rita sold his early recordings from a makeshift record shop at their house.
When international stardom arrived she toured the world with him as one of his I-Threes backing singers.
Days before a peace concert in Kingston in 1976, she was caught in the crossfire when a gang of youths tried to assassinate Bob. Rita was shot in the head and was lucky to survive.
In the early days, Rita would wash Bob's only pair of underpants by hand every night in the tank outside their first house in St Ann.
But as Bob Marley and the Wailers earned global fame, Rita could only look on helplessly as the husband she adored succumbed to its trappings. "Every country he'd go to Bob would meet the Miss So-and-so or the local beauty queen. And then at night, she's there, in the bedroom, and then the next morning she's still there.
"And of course I'd be there too because I was a backing singer in his group as well as his wife. So I would see all this going on and it would really hurt, the jealousy."
Once, asked by a New York newspaper about his wife, Bob replied: "Oh no - Rita's my sister."
"For most of the time I was Mrs Marley, but it was only a title, nothing more. I considered divorcing him many times. I just thought, 'To hell with this', especially when he started bring back the babies of women he'd got pregnant, wanting me to look after them.
But Bob's charm would always win her over. Drawing a circle in the palm of his hand, he explained: "You see this circle, this is like life. And you see this line around it? Nobody can break that line to come into the circle with you and me. So don't worry yourself, man, you're safe. You're my queen, my wife, my life."
Rita, now a reggae star in her own right, admits: "As much as I love him, if Bob were alive today I honestly don't think I'd still be married to him. Because of the frustration and insult that I had to face, and in spite of the good face I showed to the world, Bob's lifestyle was killing me."
When Rita complained about the babies Bob was fathering, he explained that he wanted lots of children but didn't want his wife and backing singer to be burdened with childbirth.
"He'd say, 'I don't want you to get pregnant every year. So some of that is really just taking the burden off you and your body.'"
Yet despite Bob's constant womanising, he was still extremely possessive.
"Even though he was carrying on right under my nose, mostly one-night stands, he remained very suspicious of my having an affair.
When we argued, my line was always, 'Who cares? I'm your wife but I'm not your slave, you know. I'm not going to be your call girl. When you want to have sex, you call me to your room? Or we have a relationship when you feel like? No, no, no.'"
Returning to Jamaica from a tour of Britain in 1973, Bob told Rita about a girl in London he'd made pregnant, and he wanted Rita to take care of the baby.
At the same time he was having a relationship with Cindy Breakspeare, the Jamaican beauty who would win Miss World three years later.
For Rita it was the last straw, and when Bob arrived at their home in Bull Bay, she drew the line. "I felt I was being taken for a ride, and it seemed like it was going to be a long ride. So I decided I wasn't going to play the game.
I told him plainly, straight out, if you're going to be doing this, we will not have a sexual relationship.
WE didn't have Aids at that time, but there were other diseases and I thought, 'This is getting crazy now.'
"Something was going to happen to me if I continued having sex with him. I didn't know if he was using a condom, but I doubt it, because he was a Rasta man. I was also trying to punish him, because I knew he wanted me but I was being stubborn to show him what he was missing.
"I wanted to put the pressure on, because the kids were growing up and they were starting to ask, 'What's going on?'
"When I told him, 'I'm not going to have sex with you,' Bob immediately thought I was having an affair. He was angry and he wouldn't take no for an answer.
"We had sex, it wasn't love-making, just sex. And afterwards I felt terrible. I screamed at him, 'I hate you, I hate you!' I think that's when I got pregnant again. When I discovered I was going to have another child, my first thought was, 'My God, what is this? Despite trying to overlook everything and be the good sister, I'm so sick of his ways.'"
RITA and Bob's third daughter, Stephanie, was born in 1974. But despite the hurt and humiliation, Rita continued to love and support her husband and be a mother to his many children.
She held Bob in her arms when he died of cancer in 1981, aged 36. Now she takes care of the Bob Marley Foundation in Jamaica, as well as running her own charity which works with poor children in Ghana, West Africa.
She is, after everything, forgiving.
"Bob was a good person and a good husband. Just because he had other women doesn't mean he wasn't a good husband.
"I was always there for him and I'll always be there for him. He knew I wasn't there for the glamour, the fantasy or the fame, but because I loved him.
"And I'm determined to keep his memory alive."