Joseph “Jo Mersa” Marley, son of musician Stephen Marley and grandson of reggae icon Bob Marley, has died at age 31, his representative confirmed to Rolling Stone.
A cause of death was not disclosed by the representative. However, South Florida Caribbean radio station WZPP reported that Marley suffered an asthma attack and was found in a vehicle Tuesday morning.
Jo was born in Jamaica and moved to Miami when he was 11 years old. Following his father and grandfather’s footsteps, he began writing music in middle school and released his first song, My Girl, as a teen. He was known for songs such as Burn it Down, Made It, and No Way Out.
He released two EPs, Comfortable (2014) and Eternal (2021). In addition, he joined family members on several projects, including his father on Revelation Party, a track from Stephen Marley’s 2016 album Revelation Part 2: The Fruit of Life.
Music was in his blood. In a 2014 interview with the Jamaica Observer, Jo Mersa Marley said he decided to pursue a career in music at age 11 when he and his cousin Daniel Bambaata Marley started making beats together.
He would go on to collaborate with the Melody Makers, the band made up of Ziggy Marley ― Daniel Marley’s father ― and his siblings Stephen, Cedella and Sharon.
“Then, when I was around 12, my cousins and I went on the Melody Makers’ Roots Rock tour. Uncle Ziggy bought my cousins an Apple laptop, and we used the Garage Band software and made our beats on it,” Jo Mersa said in the interview. “We recorded from the microphone, put on our headphones and that became our studio for a good three years. That is when my songwriting started to get more focused.”
He also spoke about the musical influences he took from his father, an eight-time Grammy Award winner.
“My father has created a legacy by putting out songs with meaning. It’s something I have to live up to,” he said.
He is survived by his wife and daughter. Tributes flowed on social media Tuesday.
Jamaican opposition leader Mark J. Golding, the president of the People’s National Party, said it was a “tragic loss.”
He wrote: “A talented young reggae artiste, son of Stephen Marley and grandson of Bob Marley at only 31 yrs old. The loss of a child is a devastating blow no parent should face, my condolences to Stephen and the entire family.”