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Jacob Miller remembered - "Somebody told me he was gonna die young", says mother

Published:Thursday | March 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
Jacob Miller
Jacob Miller
Jacob Miller (left) and Bob Marley

In the 1970's, Jacob Miller's career was comparable to Bob Marley's. With his life cut short by a tragic motorcycle accident, therein lies the fantasy that Jamaica would have launched two universally acknowledged reggae music icons. His sudden death on March 23, 1980, rocked the reggae music world. However, the past reggae star's mother was long wary that her only son would see an early end.

Jacob Miller's mother, Joan Ashman, learned of her son's death while living in the United States.

"I just came from church and the telephone rang. 'Miss Joan Miss Joan, Jacob dead.' I didn't get myself upstarted. I was expecting it. He went to buy some sugar cane or something of the sort - he was going by Bob Marley. I went to work the following day and told them (that he died), then I went home. There was no crying (from me). Even when we went to the grave - it was just that."

"Somebody told me he was gonna die young, my grandmother," Joan told The Gleaner. She, too, worried that he would die young, after noting some adverse effects of his success.

"There were too many women calling him. Mad women, and their mothers, too. I would say, 'that child is gonna get shot! Is somebody gonna kill my child?' He would just come in and laugh," she said.


Jacob's birth


Joan describes the circumstances surrounding the birth of her only son as unpleasant, as she was still a young student.

"I grew up with my grandmother. She was a very strict person. It wasn't a friendly situation or boyfriend situation. That just happened. I just let it rest." As a result, Joan's aunt took over primary care of Jacob.

"My father's wife's sister - she was 'the mother.' He didn't know his father."


Early musical signs


But before migrating to the US, Joan was present in young Jacob's life.

"I knew there was something with that child. You know those sticks you beat on drums; he was always beating something. Beating his hands together, knocking around the place. I remember once we were in Half-Way-Tree, and Jacob took out his money and threw it up for anyone to catch it. There was something about him," she said.

As the old adage goes, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Joan is also a musician in her own right.

"I sing in four choirs. I sing at church and play the piano. I have a piano with me right now," she chuckled.

Now 80 years old, Joan resides in Camden, New Jersey, where she maintains a full-time job at a day-care centre for the past 10 years.