Lashana Lynch's Striking Portrayal of Rita Marley in 'Bob Marley: One Love'

From left: Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch in "Bob Marley: One Love" and Rita Marley at the High Times Cannabis Cup in 1997

Despite lukewarm reviews, Bob Marley: One Love starring Kingsley Ben-Adir and Lashana Lynch as Bob and Rita Marley is the No. 1 movie in America with a $51 million opening weekend at the box office. While Ben-Adir's been criticized for being British (not Jamaican), too tall (there's an seven-inch difference between him and Bob) and even the fake dreads he dons, Lynch has earned nothing but praise for her powerful depiction of Marley's embittered wife.

What caused the problems between the Marleys? Away in London and touring Europe from 1976-1978, Bob became involved with "Miss World" Cindy Breakspeare, Damian Marley's mother, who's portrayed briefly in the film. Bob had a total of 13 children - Ziggy, Cedella and Stephen with Rita and eight more with other woman. Rita had two children – Sharon and Stephanie – with other men, both of whom Bob adopted.

In a pivotal scene, Bob and Rita argue about infidelity. Rita also complains that she put her career on hold to support him as a back-up singer and wife. Then, surprisingly, Rita slaps Bob. 

About the slap, director Reinaldo Marcus Green explains:

"Ziggy's protection was to tell the truth. Rita would get angry and she would slap Bob. For us to see that is great. Ziggy wasn't saying, 'Let's pretend that didn't happen.'"

Ziggy, Rita and Cedella Marley are producers of the film.

“She had to grow a very broad back to take on responsibilities she wasn’t prepared for," Cedella said about Rita in 2021. "And that made a lot of people pissed when he passed, because they thought they were going to be the second in command.” 

Regarding the early days of managing the Marley estate, Cedella commented, "The people she trusted were condemning her, so it was a little confusing. She got through that. But it did take a heavy toll on her.”

More recently, Rita has had to deal with physical maladies, such as a number of strokes, leaving here wheelchair bound. She was also shot, as the movie shows, during an assassination attempt on Marley in 1976. Rita, 77, now resides in Florida close to family members.



Meeting Rita

When I was music editor of HIgh Times I became the self-appointed liaison to the Marley family. It started when we put Ziggy Marley on the cover in 1993. I went to Kingston early in 1995 for the 50th anniverary of Bob's birth; a concert was held at the 56 Hope Rd. location where the family once lived and has since housed the Tuff Gong Studio and the Marley Museum.

The day after the concert I had an appointment to meet Ziggy and Stephen at the studio. I went with High Times photog Brian Jahn. As we walked in, there was Rita holding a large ganja cola, which she folded in half and placed under her arm. We had a quick hello and then went into the studio. I was recruiting Ziggy & the Melody Makers to contribute a song to the benefit album, Hempilation: Freedom Is NORML, which was comng out later that year. Ziggy played us "In the Flow," a track from their upcoming album. He said he'd like it to appear on Hempilation as well. We had a deal. 

In 1997, we invited Rita to join us at the 10th Annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam in 1997. She agreed to come and accept an award on Bob's behalf (see clip above). On the day Rita was supposed to arrive, I was escorted to Schiphol Airport by Arjan Roskam from the Green House coffeeshops. We waited and waited. No Rita. We returned to the city with long faces.

The next morning the phone rang in my hotel room. "It's Rita," the Marley matriarch said cheerfully. "I'm at the airport." I made arrangements to meet her at her hotel at 5 pm. The plan was to take Rita to the Melkweg venue where the Cannabis Cup Band was rehearsing a set of Marley tunes to be played that night. We were all hoping Rita would agree to join them on stage. After a quick stop at the hotel, I brought her and a friend to the Melkweg where Rita listened for a few minutes, shook her head affirmatively and promptly walked up and started singing with the band.

Later that night, we presented the award and had a Marley tribute concert during which Rita performed "One Draw" (listen to the studio recording below), declaring it the official Cannabis Cup song. Before she returned to Jamaica, we heard Rita had a little mishap in her room when a fire broke out. But fortunately there was no major damage and no one was hurt. Bob would've been proud.



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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.