MARLEY directed by Kevin MacDonald (USA/UK, 2012)
This is an exemplary, informative and almost certainly definitive, documentary of the short life of one of popular music’s last truly inspirational global superstars.
The Scottish director wisely chose to confine the interviews to family, friends, musicians and producers who knew Bob Marley personally and/or were instrumental in his rise to stardom.
Without the cloying or pretentious accounts of fans and self-appointed experts, we get a refreshingly warts and all perspective.
The result is that Marley is portrayed neither as a saint nor as a sinner but as an enormously gifted yet flawed human being.
Marley’s ambition and fierce determination made him a hard father, a wayward husband and a demanding musical leader. But through it all he managed to earn an unprecidented level of respect because he was able to maintain his spiritual values and political credibility.
One voice I would have liked to have heard is that of dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, who praised the Wailers’ first album Catch A Fire then thought that Marley had sold out in his quest for fame. Johnson later came to realise that this was a harsh and unfair judgement.
What he , and many others, initially failed to recognise was that, despite his huge commercial success, Marley never stopped thinking as an outsider and staying true to his ghetto roots.
Marley is able to reach people in a unique way. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry says it best in the documentary: ”Because of the story him tell and the way that him tell it. Him tell it so you have to believe it.”.
Yet isn’t necessary to know anything about Marley’s humble background or to share his often eccentric religious beliefs to feel the power in the pumping reggae rhythms – the heartbeat and the pulse that makes all of us human.
As Bob Marley sang in Trenchtown Rock : “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain”.