Ziggy Marley tunes in to kids' music

Jamie  Lee Curtis, Paul Simon guest on 'Family Time'

DETROIT -- Children's music is dominating Ziggy Marley's melody making these days -- both for himself and on behalf of his father, Bob Marley.

Marley is prepping for the May 5 release of "Family Time," an album of what he refers to as "family music" that includes originals as well as covers of Woody Guthrie's "This Train" and the Jamaican children's standard "Hold Em Joe," along with two spoken-word pieces by actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Other guests include Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Jack Johnson and Toots Hibbert along with his mother Rita Marley and sister Cedella Marley. His three-year-old daughter Judah, who Marley calls his "muse" on the album, appears on the title track.

He'll follow that with the June release of a set of Bob Marley song's, revised and remastered with a children's audience in mind.

"I never really thought about doing music for children before," Marley, who's donating proceeds from "Family Time" to the Chepstowe Basic School in Port Antonio, Jamaica, told Billboard.com. "I kind of realized why I'm being led into this world of family/children's music is because we have to speak to the children now. The children have the open-mindedness. They're going to grow up and make the world a better place, so it's them we have to have some kind of discussion with.

"So this is what this record is about, really, is the beginning of a discussion with children and families to make the future a better place for...the 'world' family. But it starts with our own families."

Marley hopes to continue that dialogue with the Bob Marley album, for which he took the original masters of eight classic songs and revised the instrumentation and arrangements, even using some of his father's alternate vocal tracks.

"It's a very different vibe," said Ziggy, "but still real Bob. It's not like fake Bob. It's still the real Bob...It's Bob singing and I'm playing, like an acoustic session almost. Anything I did on this record is soulful and musical. There's no gimmicks. I'm keeping true to the spirit of my father, to the spirit of his music."

Marley, who left the sibling group the Melody makers to go solo in 2002, will be on the road this spring and summer with 311 but hopes to "double up" and play special children's and family shows during the course of the tour. He also predicts a reunion of the Melody makers in the near future, though he adds that "I'm not sure when or what yet."