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 I Three comprising (from left) Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley, and Judy Mowatt.—


The year 1974 was a memorable year for Jamaica — three-time American boxing champ Mohammed Ali visited the island; the National Stadium hosted the third CARIFTA Games; and Bob Marley introduced three backup singers to reggae music’s consciousness, on his Natty Dread album, called the I Three.

A year before, The Wailers, comprising Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, had dissolved due to differences. Marley then recruited the services of a trio comprising his wife Rita, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt, who all gave up promising careers to work with the reggae superstar. The new outfit was now Bob Marley and The Wailers.

Artiste Manager Bridgett Anderson saw Marley’s inclusion of women in his harmony section as instructive.

“It was a way of uplifting up the fairer sex… Predominantly, the harmonies were males. Bob Marley could have gone that route again, but he didn’t. It was a way of elevating women,” Anderson told the Jamaica Observer.

Anderson was part of the neo-roots movement which emerged in dancehall music during the 1990s. She has worked with Mowatt and Griffiths and handled the career of Garnet Silk.

Bob Marley (far left) & The I Threes

Bob Marley (far left) & The I Three

Natty Dread peaked at 44 on Billboard’s (North America) Black Albums chart, and 92 on the Pop Albums chart. In 2003, the album was ranked 181 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In addition to its title track, the set boasts songs including No Woman, No Cry; Lively Up Yourself; T alking Blues; and So Jah Seh.

Griffiths, who hailed from Upper Oxford Street in Hannah Town, was a rising star. She had partnered with Bob Andy on the remake of Young Gifted and Black in 1971, which climbed the British charts. Andy, a formidable songwriter, had also penned her hit Feel Like Jumping.


Rita Marley (nee Anderson) was part of the group Soulettes, which had several recordings including Time for Everything, Turn Turn Turn, and A Deh Pon Dem.Mowatt, a dancer, was credited on The Wailers album Burnin’ (1973), under the pseudonym Jean Watt: Hallelujah Time and Pass It On.

Marley, however, merged their voices to provide the harmonies for his timeless classics.




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