Judy Mowatt: From Rasta to disciple

Sunday 16th October 2005

Reggae gospel singer JUDY MOWATT talked to Mike Rimmer about her years with Bob Marley and the reggae superstar's deathbed conversion to Christianity.

Judy Mowatt: From Rasta to disciple

I am sitting in the Hard Rock Café in Birmingham watching the big screen which is showing a classic Bob Marley clip of "Jammin'" and watching the distinctive figures of three magnificently dressed ladies Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley swaying gently to the music as they sing backing vocals. I am transfixed because only days earlier I had interviewed Judy Mowatt and she was remembering this period of her life.

The trio had met working in the studio and their voices had immediately blended into something special. Marley himself had recruited them to be part of his backing band, The Wailers. Judy remembered, "The first song we did was 'Jah Live' and Bob wanted us to work with him on his 'Natty Dread' album. The I-Threes continued to work with Marley until his death."

As you'd expect, Judy was totally engrossed in Rastafarianism, as she explained, "I was a Rasta for 22 years and I was genuine. I embraced the objectives of Rastafari, knowing that one of the aims and objectives were to repatriate to the land of our ancestors. And also to make music to let people be aware of who they are as a people and knowing that the western hemisphere is only a place for them to pass through, but we should return to our father's land. That was my plan, but God had a different plan! After 22 years I became very unfulfilled, dissatisfied; not by any one thing or by any one person but I started to search inside because I realised that there was something else that I needed that I could not put my hand on. I knew that God was calling me into deeper waters. I was a little bit fearful because I was wondering what my brothers and sisters would say and what would be their reaction. So I was a bit fearful."

At the same time as her search, the singer's personal life was filled with difficulty too where two family members were in serious situations. She didn't go into detail but confessed, "I was at a place where I thought I wanted to die but I never had the strength to take my own life. I started praying and I said, 'God, I really don't know you because if I knew you, then all of this would not have been happening to me.' Not knowing that God had used that situation to draw me to him. I started reading my Bible. I had read my Bible three times from cover to cover and I started reading, but the things I was seeing this fourth time were what I never saw in the three times I read my Bible."

She continued, "I was seeing it through another pair of lenses. I read, 'Wherein, there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved, but by the name of Jesus Christ.' That flew out of the Bible and into my spirit and that really turned the key. Whenever you have a mindset and you seriously believe something, you're not going to open to anything else, and I wasn't open to anything else. But God opened me to start seeking and searching."

It was listening to an interview with Haile Selassie which really challenged Judy's thinking. She remembered, "The interviewer asked him, 'Why is it that people say you are the returned Messiah?' and he answered through an interpreter - 'I'm a mere man. I will be replaced by the oncoming generation and a human being should not be emulated for a deity.' Somebody gave me a book, an autobiography and selected speeches of 'His Majesty' and I see where 'His Majesty' is a Christian king! I recognise now that instead of worshipping him, I should be worshipping who he is worshipping! So I see 'His Imperial Majesty' as my teacher."

On stage at last year's Birmingham Gospel Festival, Mowatt was dressed splendidly in white looking younger than her 52 years. She shared some of her experiences, testified to the truth she's discovered and sang songs from her excellent album 'Something Old, Something New'. The crowd clearly loved it.

When she became a Christian in the mid-'90s amidst a wave of other successful reggae artists finding Christian faith like Papa San, Stitchie, Chevelle Franklin and Carlene Davis. After her performance, I ask her what she thinks Marley would have made of her conversion. It was here that she made my jaw drop!

She shared, "When Bob was on his dying bed, his wife Rita called me on the phone and said to me that Bob was in such excruciating pain and he stretched out his hand and said, 'Jesus take me.' I was wondering to myself, 'Why is it that Bob said "Jesus" and not "Selassie"?' But I never said it to anyone. Then I met a friend of mine and he said his sister, who is a Christian, was a nurse at the hospital where Bob was before he passed on, and she led him to the Lord Jesus Christ. So when Rita saw him saying 'Jesus take me', he had already received the Lord Jesus Christ in his life."

Judy said that sharing that, telling the truth about Marley's conversion isn't popular in Jamaica. "People need to know, because they would be drawn also to Jesus Christ. But nobody wants to promote that and in Jamaica, I said it on a popular television programme and a Rasta man met me and asked me why did I have to say that? I said, 'Because it's the truth!' But he never wanted me to reveal that and I think that anybody doesn't want that to be revealed, because so many people would be drawn to the Gospel."

Thinking back to the '70s explosion of reggae and its association with Rastafarianism, is it possible that this latest wave of gospel reggae artists might be part of another movement? Could the power of the Spirit see another grassroots movement born and the music be part of leading many to the real truth of Jesus? Judy shared her thoughts, "I see another grassroots movement being born inside of the people of God. Because I think what God did inside the birth of reggae message was to uplift the people that were in degradation, the people who suffered. I mean, the music was birthed out of suffering! Out of Trench Town. It was inside of the pain and the agony that people started singing about it. It is inside of the pain that people are experiencing, where God has given us songs and he's using the Gospel as a vehicle to go inside places where we probably would not be able to go. But I see this as a continuation of what took place in the '70s in Jamaica." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

Reader Comments

Posted by José in Mexicali, Baja California; Mex @ 16:52 on Apr 10 2018

All right, but ... what day and month is your birth? they only mention the year.

Posted by Migdalia in El Paso @ 10:58 on Nov 6 2017

I have been a Rastafarian for 46 years I accepted our Lord Jesus Christ a w long before I took on the Rastafarian way of life and I just want to say that there is no conflict with the two Haile Selassie was from the Solomonic dynasty and fullfilled the covenant that God made with David he was a truly spiritual King after Gods own heart in everything he would refer to God and the Bible. Therefore the spirit of Christ abide in him as does he in all believers but he was not Jesus the Christ some will ovrstand for this is a mystical revelation

Posted by Mark Winzenried in Madison Wisconsin @ 22:49 on Sep 23 2017

Would someone ... who knows the answer ... please explain to me the meaning of I & I

Posted by Nl in Mz @ 16:39 on Jul 28 2016

Jesus Christ is the Lord and God and there is none other than Him. May this truth be spread to all and my us all who believe in Christ Jesus be the ones to stand up and tell the world about this Good God. Sister Judy Mowatt your testimony is so inspiring. Im happy that the Great Robert Marley died a Christian Glory to Jesus

Posted by Ryan in Sacramento, CA @ 19:14 on Jan 18 2016

Quick Facts:
His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I was a devout disciple, worshipper and follower of Jesus Christ. He encouraged all who listen to him to do the same. In fact, while he was alive, he even sent Bishops from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to minister to and speak the Truth of Jesus to Rastas in Jamaica. A ministry was established by Haile Selassie in Jamaica specifically to reach Rastas and turn them from worshipping himself to worship of the One True God, Jesus Christ.
There is extensive evidence to show this via audio interviews with the late Ethiopian King Himself, which can be found all over the internet.

Video and audio interviews of Bishop Abuna Yesehaq can be found online containing his testimony of Bob Marley's baptism into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Bobs immediate family was baptised as well. This was in 1980, shortly before Bobs death.

On a personal note, just read the Bible yourself and Jah will show you Himself. Rastafari is Christianity. The separation comes from the belief that Jesus Christ has indeed returned in the flesh of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. This is up for the spiritual seeker to decide. God has given us enough evidence to make an informed opinion about where the truth lies. I also think it is extremely important to remember that God IS love. Rasta and Christian (and many other God-worshippers) I'm sure can agree on this, especially seeing that the Bible speaks very directly on this matter. Remember that Jesus himself, before he was killed, prayed to Our Father that we would all be ONE. That we would be one with him as He is one with Our Father. That we would all be one together. Paul also reminds us of this and encourages us that we would be one with eath other as we are all members one of another. We are ONE body with many parts.
So don't be so quick to separate and divide for, if we were all a hand, where would our sense of smell be? Or if we were all a foot, where would our sense of hearing be?

Reply by Ryan in Sacramento, CA @ 03:50 on Jan 20 2016

This is from the Bible found in 1 John ch. 4: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."

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Posted by andrew sengati in Dodoma, Tanzania @ 07:32 on Dec 14 2015

sisi sote ni watoto wa baba mmoja.... God Bless Us!!!! ONE LOVE.

Posted by elvis zion child in kenya @ 21:30 on Jul 6 2015

i knew Bob was singing about lord Jesus from his inspiring songs and Judy mowatt your story is inspiring from the song fly African eagle its a nice tune spread the Gospel further

Posted by Rasken in NV @ 04:19 on Apr 18 2015

When you see HIM You see truth and rights. Whem you see a rastaman you see the godhead. When u see JC you see white supremacy and distortion. I choose the real GOD Jah Rastafari. May God judge me ! King james wrote demon cult books as well as th Bible. That old saying "The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppresor is the mind of the oppresed" ! And remember X-mas+easter=vantity Fell free to worship who or what you want. And support the church and accept GLT rights

Reply by mwau in kekkenya @ 05:16 on Dec 15 2018

i trully agree wth you.its npt thst i dont beleive in christ bt i am afraid of the vatican mixxup

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Posted by Penny in USA @ 07:11 on Jun 15 2014

I was happy, years ago, to discover this little-known fact of Bob Marley's acceptance of Jesus. I have always loved his uplifting music and the wisdom of his lyrics (with perhaps the exception of some lines in 'Get Up, Stand Up). I saw Judy at two performances in the 90's, and am very happy she is a Christian artist now. Nobody sings the Gospel like Judy! Such a beautiful, powerful voice the Lord gave her to glorify Him...

Posted by pam campbell in New Zealand @ 19:40 on Feb 22 2014

I am from Nz I am 43 years old and from the time i met my husband and had children, we immersed ourselves in all things that were good, We took out the Good and loving things from Rasta and also our Maori Culture. We both believe in the Bible and Reggae has been our life, singing and playing in reggae bands all throughout nz and still are today, singing roots music. Because we are free to choose we do not to smoke Marijuana. Our children sing and play all instruments and they also believe in jah God and jesus. I am a fan of Judy's music i even watched her at a concert in Gisborne Nz - a very special lady ...........

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