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Grammy 2013 Bob Marley tribute: A mission to (Bruno) Mars

Grammys
2013

February 11, 2013|By Randy Lewis

This post has been corrected. See note below for details.

Assessments of the Bob Marley tribute number at the 55th Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday at Staples Center were largely complimentary about the medley delivered by Bruno Mars, Sting, Rihanna and Ziggy and Damian Marley that concluded with Marley’s “Could You Be Loved,” but many fans were wondering why it was served up this year.

It came not on a significant birthday (he would have turned 68 earlier in the week), nor was it a round-number anniversary of his death (on May 11, 1981), the original release date or first charting of any of his cornerstone albums or singles.

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Recording Academy officials note that the soundtrack album for the recent "Marley" documentary about the reggae star had been nominated in the compilation soundtrack for visual media.

But the back story I got from longtime Grammy show executive producer Ken Ehrlich is that it grew out of his wish to lure Bruno Mars back to perform this year.

Mars had originally communicated his intention to sit out this year’s Grammy show, Ehrlich said at a rehearsal last week, with the aim of “owning” next year’s show. “I said, ‘If I came up with a concept he liked, would he consider it?’” Ehrlich said. “He said he would.”

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Ehrlich contacted representatives for Sting and Rihanna about having them be part of a Marley tribute on the show, knowing each artist held a fondness for reggae in general and Marley’s music in particular. That led to invitations to Marley scions Ziggy and Damian, and a blessing Marley’s wife, Rita.

“At that point I went back to Bruno and said, ‘Here’s what I’ve got — are you interested?’” Thus Sunday’s mash-up of Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” Sting’s Police-era number “Walking on the Moon” and Marley’s “Could You Be Loved,” a track from the final album released before Marley died, “Uprising.”

[For the record, Feb. 12 at 2:38 p.m.: An earlier version of this post identified Rita Marley as Damian Marley's mother. He is the only child of Bob Marley's relationship with Cindy Breakspeare.]

[For the record, March 5 at 6:12 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled Damian Marley's first name as Damien.]

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Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2 

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