Q&A with ‘One Love’ author Cedella Marley

Cedella Marley (Peter Dean Rickards)

Cedella Marley is is daughter of reggae artist Bob Marley and Rita Marley. She played in her brothers’ group Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers. As the oldest daughter of Bob Marley, she’s worked to keep her father’s memory alive. One way of doing that was writing “One Love,” a picture book adaptation of her father’s song with the same title. Below is a complete transcript of her interview with Cracking the Cover.

What made you want to adapt your father’s song “One Love” into a book?

One Love is not only one of my favorite of my father’s songs, but it’s one that children love to sing as well and I loved the idea of giving them a new way to experience the song, and also spread the message of One Love to a new generation

How long did you work on it?

Once I sat down to work on adapting the lyrics it happened pretty quickly, over the course of several days – though I had been thinking about the idea and playing with the lyrics in my mind for a long time. I collaborated with the illustrator Vanessa for several months.

How did you decide what lines to use/not use?

I wanted to keep the spirit of the song alive, but make it more accessible to very young readers. I reviewed the lyrics line by line and made changes I thought would be fun to read and sing, but still be recognizable and respectful of the original.

“One Love” captures the essence of your father’s words. How did you accomplish that?

The message of one love guided my writing. I knew as long as I was true to my father’s vision of love and community and working together to create a better world, that the new lyrics would capture the essence of the original song.

What were the challenges working on “One Love”? The highlights?

The biggest challenge was letting the lyrics go and give them over to the vision of the illustrator. Would she understand what I was trying to convey? Would the book look like I had envisioned it? Luckily that was also the highlight! I could not be more thrilled with the beautiful illustrations. Vanessa is an amazing artist and truly brought the words to life.

Do you have any say in the illustrations?

I worked with Vanessa very closely, but she brought so many wonderful things to the project that I didn’t expect. Like several appearances of my father, the words woven into the bedspread, and the house number “56” on the townhouse, which was the number of our childhood home.

Did the final product turn out the way you imagined it would?

Even better than I thought it would! I love the joy in the characters faces and the story of the multi-cultural neighborhood coming together to restore their local park.

Why do you think your book appeal to children?

I think every adult who reads One Love with a child will inevitably start singing and children will love singing along. Also, because of the diversity, I think every child will see themselves or someone they know in the pages.

What do you think your father would say about your book?

He’d be so proud! In fact, when my mother first saw a finished copy of the book that’s the first thing she said. Reaching children through a combination of reading and music would have pleased him very much.

Do you have a book that resonated with you as a child?

The Bible. It was a constant source of comfort and wonder for me, and still is. The lessons and stories helped guide me to live a life I’m proud of.

Are there any more books in the works for you?

Yes! Chronicle and I are working on a version of Three Little Birds, another one of the favorite songs of my father’s. I’m really looking forward to seeing children reading and singing the line, “Every little thing’s gonna be alright”