The Merry Rockers are a group of friends who met while studying at Berklee College Of Music in Boston MA. The group was formed by singer/songwriter Marissa Lelogeais (Mar) in 2011. One year later, they self-released their debut album “The Fruit Of Life,” recorded at 9B Studios in Millford, MA, and produced by Toft Willingham of rock reggae group Spiritual Rez. While taking a class on the music and life of Bob Marley at Berklee, Mar found that she identified with not only the pounding drums, the rhythmic guitar, the thumping bass but also the message of reggae music. She knew what Bob Marley meant when he said “Get Up, Stand Up, Don’t Give Up The Fight.” Mar has had to fight all her life because she was born three months premature which resulted in her having to cope with significant learning disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, and low vision. This only fueled her love and passion for life and reggae music. So moved was she by the story of the people of Jamaica and the messages of hope and love in the songs of bands such as Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, John Brown’s Body and Spiritual Rez, that she began writing reggae songs in earnest. This provided her the opportunity to share the stage with many of her favorite bands and artists such as Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Tubby Love, Mike Love and Cas Haley, to name a few!
2013 was a very significant time in the group’s development. Mar began to see that reggae music could not only help herself, but others who might be struggling with tough times in their lives. So she began to consider reaching out to a broader audience. The group began this endeavor by playing the 2013 “Vista And Visions” benefit to raise money for CPIRF (Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation). Mar also played the same benefit in 2014, this time sharing the stage with one of her greatest mentors at Berklee, Livingston Taylor. The group has played many venues in New York City (where they all live currently) and Boston. They’ve also begun to develop a strong fanbase in Minnesota by doing a two-week tour there culminating in a set at Project Earth 2014. The Merry Rockers have recently released their sophomore album “Embrace It.” “This album is the most honest writing I’ve ever done. It has some fantastic players on it and we had a blast recording it” Mar says.
Marissa Lelogeais is not a person defined by cerebral palsy. If you ask her she will say her life is music, and music is her life. Her band The Merry Rockers all met while studying music together at Berklee College of Music in Boston, but for Marissa it goes much further back.
“Well, I was like 4 or 5 and I went to see Peter Pan on Broadway. I saw how much fun the actors looked like they were having onstage.” She says as she remembers her first musical inspiration.
Now 30, going on 31, Marissa (who prefers Mar) is the lead vocalist in The Merry Rockers: a fun, upbeat reggae band that regularly gig around Manhattan. Her favorite music? “Reggae would most definitely be number one. However I also LOVE Broadway shows, so musical theater as well.”
This summer in between gigs Mar is looking forward to Broadway in Bryant Park, “I'm so excited to be back in the city for it. And my dad is taking me to see Coldplay so I am excited for that too!” Mar also takes part in an annual African Dance show in Minnesota, although it is a little difficult because of her cerebral palsy. While it doesn’t define her, she does notice her differences. “For sure for sure. I'll be walking down the street and someone will look at me weirdly or someone will think I have a leg injury. I also walk with a red and white tipped cane due to my low vision. It frustrates me when I am trying to do something and my brain doesn't catch up to my body quickly enough.”
None of this seems to sap her spirit however. “Singing onstage and playing music with my friends gives me so much joy that I feel like I could burst. When I'm onstage, I feel empowered. While I may have CP, I can still play music and sing songs I wrote which I hope will make the people at the show smile...and dance!!”
For anyone with cerebral palsy she has the following advice - “To never give up on their dreams. You may think that your dream is unattainable. Believe me, I did. But when you're determined enough and have people that support you, anything is possible. You might not be able to do it to the same extent as someone who doesn't have any disabilities at all, but you can still do it.” Mar also believes in the importance of cerebral palsy research, such as that being undertaken with help from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation, “because it can help shape the lives of the people who are here and the people who will come after us.”