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Ky-Mani Marley says book distorts his story as Bob Marley's illegitimate son
Among the sordid claims detailed in the book: Rita Marley disdained Ky-Mani, one of several children her husband fathered outside their marriage. And she refused to help support Ky-Mani financially after Marley's death when Ky-Mani was 5.
The backdrop to this dispute is Bob Marley's iconic brand, built upon the Rastafarian's enduring legacy of socially conscious songs and manifestos against war and poverty.
Marley's popularity has grown generationally and globally since the singer died of cancer in 1981 in Miami without a will. He was 36. Since then, Marley has ranked on Forbes's annual Top 13 Dead Celebrities list several times, most recently in 2007, with sales of $4 million.
Now, the estate has brought in a private equity firm to expand brand merchandising and protect the trademark, which might generate as much as $600 million a year in sales of unlicensed goods, according to a Fortune article. The firm, Toronto-based Hilco Consumer Capital, estimates the estate is poised to earn up to $1 billion by 2012 through licensing deals that could place Marley's image on products including beverages, video games and a restaurant chain.
Last year, the Las Vegas-based Gray and Ky-Mani Marley met through a mutual friend.
"You hear the last name and look at his father's iconic status throughout the world," Gray recalled. "You just don't expect to hear the things that happened to him and how he pulled himself up by his bootstraps. I told him, 'You have a book in you.' "
"Dear Dad" was released to coincide with what would have been Marley's 65th birthday Feb. 6. It chronicles Ky-Mani Marley's journey from Falmouth, a port town on Jamaica's north coast, to the struggling Miami neighborhood of Liberty City. He went on to a successful career as an entertainer and philanthropist.
The book focuses on Marley's close relationship with his mother, Anita Belnavis, a Jamaican table-tennis champion; his impoverished childhood; his time as a small-time crack dealer; and the mother and son's eventual move to Kendall, Fla., to escape the ugliness of the inner city.
"I woke up during my teenage years and discovered myself floundering, hustling, and selling weed and crack to survive -- or maybe just to rebel. By that time, it was all the same to me," the prologue reads.
The book details Marley's complicated relationship with his half-brothers and -sisters, some of whom enjoyed lavish lifestyles. It recounts the grandness of the hilltop Marley home in Falmouth, with three stories, a pool, a gym and a rehearsal room.
"My eyes were opening, and I was watching my family, lookin' at my brothers Ziggy and Stevie, my sister Cedella, and everybody else," Chapter 7 reads. "Honestly, I'm watching them and they're living like kings and queens. Like royalty. And they should have been. Their father had been crowned a king. But I was also the seed of this man, and I'm in a situation that's not so pretty. . . . 'If my father is this person who made so many millions, why am I living like this?' "
When he turned 18, Marley accepted a settlement from the family estate, according to the book, and later embarked on his own musical career. Now 34, he has released four albums and starred in several films.