Ziggy Marley (real name: David) is the eldest son of reggae legend Bob Marley, who died in 1981, seven years before "Tomorrow People" was released. In the song, Ziggy takes the torch from his famous father, reminding us that we must know our past in order to progress forward. The "tomorrow people" are his generation - the ones who will carry on in Bob's spirit.
"Tomorrow People" was the first Top 40 US hit by a Marley. Eric Clapton had a #1 hit with a cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff
," but the highest he charted as an artist was #51 with "Roots, Rock, Reggae" in 1976. Bob's music found its biggest audience in America after his death when the Legend
compilation was released in 1984. It went to #1 and sold over 15 million copies.
The next Marley to crack the Top 40 was Skip, whose Katy Perry collaboration "Chained to the Rhythm
" went to #4 in 2017.
Ziggy was just 19 years old when this was released. He looks and sounds a lot like his father, leading to comparisons and unrealistic expectations, something Julian Lennon
could relate to. Bob Marley was also one of the most charismatic performers to ever take the stage, which was an impossible act for Ziggy and his band to follow.
Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers is a group made up of Bob Marley's children with his wife Rita: Ziggy, Cedella, Stephen and Sharon. Bob first recorded them in 1979 as the Melody Makers. After their father's death in 1981, the group continued with Ziggy, who is younger than Sharon but the oldest male Marley offspring, emerging as their leader and primary songwriter. They signed an American record deal with EMI and released two albums on the label: Play The Game Right in 1985 and Hey World! in 1986, both recorded in Jamaica. The group's third album, Conscious Party, was recorded in New York and released on the newly formed Virgin America label in 1988. By this time, Ziggy was 19 and had seasoned as a songwriter and performer. "Tomorrow People," released as the first single, found a following and set the stage for the next generation of musical Marleys.
Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads produced the Conscious Party album and had their bandmate, Jerry Harrison, play Hammond B-3 organ on this track. It was the first time Weymouth and Frantz produced another artist, but they got some experience in the studio when Lee "Scratch" Perry bailed on producing the first album for their side project Tom Tom Club, and they had to do it themselves.
Backing musicians were members of an Ethiopian band called Dallol.
This helped the Conscious Party album win the Grammy award for Best Reggae Album, an award that was established in 1985. The group won the award the following year with their album One Bright Day, and again in 1999 for Fallen Is Babylon. Ziggy won it four more times; Stephen and Damian Marley have each won it multiple times.
Directed by Paula Greif, the colorful music video was the first by a Marley to get significant airplay on MTV. Bob Marley made some videos but died shortly before the network went on the air, and they rarely played them.
Alex Sadkin, who produced the 1979 Bob Marley & The Wailers album Survival and had worked on albums for Robert Palmer and Grace Jones at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, was slated to produce the Conscious Party album, but was killed when he was thrown from his jeep while driving in Nassau in July 1987.
In a Songfacts interview with Chris Frantz
, he talked about producing the Conscious Party album. "Ziggy was really good," said Frantz. "His band was Ethiopian guys who lived in Chicago. They were really great players and they were open to the idea of new production techniques and new sounds that maybe hadn't been on a Bob Marley record or a Toots And The Maytals record. Tina and I could sit and listen to them perform, and they were so tight and such accomplished players that many times all we had to do was say, 'Oh, that's great. What's next?'
With that first album we were walking a tightrope because we had one foot in traditional reggae and another foot in what the young kids, the new kids of reggae, were into. Virgin America was very concerned that the production values be up to international standards and didn't sound like it was recorded in one afternoon, pressed that evening and on the DJ's turntable that same night."