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Cedella Booker Obituary

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) - Cedella Booker, the mother of Jamaican music legend Bob Marley, has died, a family spokesman said Wednesday. She was 81.

Booker died in her sleep Tuesday night at her home in Miami, apparently from natural causes, spokesman Jerome Hamilton said.

Booker, a Jamaica native, was 18 when she married Norval Marley, a British man 32 years her senior. Their son brought Jamaican reggae music to international prominence, becoming its international image. Bob Marley died in Miami of a brain tumor in 1981 at age 36.

"Mrs. Booker was the matriarch of a movement so powerful that the mystical qualities of the Marley musical legacy remain strong and potent," Jamaica Information Minister Olivia Grange said.

After Norval Marley died in 1955, Booker married an American man and settled in Delaware. She wrote two biographies of her famous son and recorded two albums, "Awake Zion!" and "Smilin' Island of Song."

"She was a star in her own right," Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding said in a statement. "Her life was one of hardship, struggle and eventual fulfillment, and through it all, she exuded hope, strength and confidence."

Everyone in St. Ann's parish knew Booker as "Mama B," said Harry Shivnani, a family friend and general manager of Bob Marley's mausoleum.

"She loved cooking," Shivnani said. "Mama would make you the best pudding ever."

Robert Lalah, a columnist for the Jamaica Gleaner, interviewed Booker in February while she celebrated her son's birthday.

"She was a typical Jamaican grandmother," he said. "She was very warm, very friendly."

Her admiration for her son was evident, Lalah said.

"She was always quoting him, quoting words from his songs," he said.

Booker is survived by two children and several grandchildren, including Ziggy Marley, who won four Grammys with the Melody Makers, a band that included brother Stephen and sisters Sharon and Cedella.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press

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