Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Roadshow Films
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Sometimes you don't know what you don't know until you do. Case in point: Bob Marley. Of course I had heard of the musician and pride of Jamaica who, in the late 1960s through to the early '80s, brought reggae music to the world. But I didn't know all that much about him; the man beneath the dreadlocks, as it were.

It shames me to say that I only recognised a handful of Bob Marley songs -- Get Up, Stand Up, I Shot The Sheriff, No Woman, No Cry, and Is This Love? -- featured in the comprehensive and extensive (145 minutes!) documentary, Marley. Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, 2006), the film covers the life of the musician from his poor, mixed-race beginnings (born in 1945) in a Jamaican village through to his international success on the world music stage, and his untimely death in 1981.

So much so was my ignorance of this man's life, I had assumed that Bob Marley, like so many musicians, actors, and artists who die young, did so tragically as a result of either drugs or a mad man's bullet (Marley was indeed shot in 1976 but that didn't kill him).

Bob Marley actually died of cancer, which is no less tragic (and least of all for befalling a 36-year-old) but for me, it was a revelation, as is most information in the doco divulged through interviews with Marley's family (wife, partners, children), former members of his band, The Wailers, and music industry types; all interspersed with interviews with the man himself, home movie footage, and his live performances.

A pot smoker (der!), a Rastafarian, politically neutral in Jamaica's heated political scene (though that didn't prevent him being shot in 1976, ironically just days before a concert for peace) and, despite being relatively shy, a womaniser who ultimately fathered 11 children, Marley lead a colourful though, by rock and roll standards, a rather controversy-free life.

That may leave Macdonald's doco open to accusations of hagiography, and admittedly Marley is an unabashed love letter to the man and musician. But what little grey there was in the man's life -- his infidelities, his almost competitive nature with his children -- is covered (though perhaps not salaciously enough for some tastes).

As both an introduction to, and celebration of the artist and the man, Marley is informative and engaging, and at the very least could introduce a new generation (young and old) to the music of Bob Marley.

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