I wouldn’t call myself a true fan of Bob Marley, yet I can always appreciate music that comes from the heart. Kevin McDonald’s two-and-a-half-hour documentary “Marley” covers pretty much all of Bob Marley’s way, right from the beginning in Jamaica, and up until the end.
While watching the documentary, I caught myself thinking that this was the first time I heard Bob Marley talking, and not just singing. Add the accent, and you can thank the makers of the film for adding subtitles, since its sometimes really hard to understand what Jamaicans are talking.
“Marley” did reveal a lot of things about the legendary musician that I did not know. One of such things was that Marley’s father was…white! Yes, supposedly Norval Marley was a Brit, and he served in the army, during that time he met Bob’s mother, and and so on. Marley, in fact, was constantly teased as a child, for being “a mix”. He never really gotten over it.
After the release of Marley’s first song “Judge Not” in 1962, the producers wanted to name him Adam Marley, instead of Robert. Needless to say, Marley refused such change. In 1963 a band called “Bob Marley and the Wailers” was established.
“Marley” documentary brings up interesting details about how Bob and his newly established band were singing. Interestingly, Marley’s first recordings didn’t sell, so him and his band were at first singing for friends, in bars and cafes, and even at cemetaries!
Yes, someone told them that if “they sing their songs for the dead people, and an evil spirit”, this way, they will lose the fear of the scene, and will perform better. I wonder if any other musician used this technique…
While Marley and his band were getting more and more popular in Jamaica, they were mostly unknown for the rest of the world, and the gained popularity didn’t pay off very well either – most of the money band was earning went to either producers or the studio owners.
An interesting period of Marley’s life, when he decides to leave the group and go to the U.S. to meet his mother (who left him in Jamaica years earlier, and left for the U.S.) is also covered in the documentary, as various people that were around Marley are interviewed (his wife Rita, some of his children, and some of his band members as well).
|Interesting “Marley Facts”
— Bob Marley was a vegetarian (not covered in documentary).
— In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of one of his toes. Contrary to urban legend, this lesion was not primarily caused by an injury during a football match in that year, but was instead a symptom of the already existing cancer (documentary says the opposite).
— Marley was in a relationship with Miss Jamaica 1979! In total, Bob had 11 children from 7 different relationships.
— Bob loved football, and played it on a regular basis.
— Documentary shows some rare photos of Marley with “Jackson Five” and his joint concert with Stevie Wonder in Jamaica in mid 1970s.
— — One of Marley’s most famous songs “Sun is Shining” is not covered at all in the documentary. “Sun is Shining” – a song by Bob Marley & The Wailers first appeared on the Lee Perry-produced album Soul Revolution in 1971, and then on African Herbsman in 1973. Marley later re-recorded the song for his 1978 album Kaya. In 1999 a reggae fusion remix by “Bob Marley vs. Funkstar De Luxe” reached number one on the U.S. dance chart and number three on the UK Singles Chart and has been widely credited as one of the songs which led to the popularity of reggae fusion.
— — The documentary has no narration, everything is told directly through people that knew Marley, or Bob himself.
The film also tells about some very heart-breaking stories about assasination attempt on Marley’s life, how he performed at a concert in Jamaica during the violent unrests and others. Won’t be spoiling it all here.
Despite being a treat for Bob Marley fans, the documentary does have a couple of flaws. One of such, in my personal opinion, is that while showing most of Marley’s songs, nothing is ever said about one of his most popular ones “Sun is Shining”.
Another flaw is that the whole documentary has very little of archive footage of Bob himself doing interviews. There is some footage of Marley at concerts, but very few of him actually speaking about things and not singing. For a nearly 3 hour documentary, this was a letdown.
However, the film itself is a great watch, even if you’re not a Marley or Reggae fan. Keep in mind – Marley used to gather tens of thousands of people at stadius without any of today’s promotional techniques, without any cool special effects and such.
This documentary perfectly illustrates how people can be captivated by raw music that hits you right in the heart and doesn’t let go. Two and a half hours well spent. Recommended.
BZFILM SCALE: 7/10
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