Bob Marley was the first and arguably the only reggae artist to become an international superstar, and the legend and legacy of this extraordinary artist is explored in “Marley,” a documentary by Academy Award winner Kevin McDonald, open in theaters today.
From his birth to mixed race parents on Feb. 6, 1945, at Nine Mile in St. Ann Parrish, Jamaica, to his tragic death at age 36 after battling cancer, “Marley” gives viewers a comprehensive look at Bob Marley, whose “roots” style of reggae and socially conscious lyrics caused him to be viewed as a prophet among his people. He began to find his voice as a founding member of the Wailers, which also featured Neville Livingston (a.k.a Bunny Wailer) and Winston Mackintosh, best known as Peter Tosh.
As his profound insight and exceptional songwriting skills began to emerge, Marley’s creative commentary on the world at large came to include such songs as “Trench Town,” “Concrete Jungle,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Redemption Song,” “Exodus,” “Get Up, Stand Up (with Peter Tosh),” “Survival” and “Zimbabwe,” and “Ambush in the Night,” Marley’s personal reflection on an attempt on his life.
Marley also had a lighter side, composing such love songs as “No Woman No Cry,” “Waiting in Vain,” “Stir It Up” and “Is This Love,” as well as irresistible dance tunes including “Lively Up Yourself,” “Could You Be Loved,” “Satisfy My Soul” and “Jamming,” which broke through on Black radio, much to Marley’s delight. Many of his greatest hits and live performances are included in McDonald’s documentary.
The 45-minute documentary also features interviews with Bunny Wailer (born Neville Livingston), an original member of the Wailers; Bob’s widow, Rita Marley; his son Ziggy, now a star in his own right; Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jimmy Cliff; producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Chris Blackwell, who released the Wailers’ first major album, “Catch a Fire” on his Island Records label.
As I watched the film, I realized that “Marley” is essentially a compilation of video and concert footage that I have seen in the past in previous documentaries. While the movie provides a wealth of information for viewers with only a basic knowledge of the man and his music, for true Marley-ites there is very little, if any new information here. However, it is an entertaining and captivating story nonetheless, and Marley’s musical messages are just as relevant today. (Rated: “R”)