The term “legendary” is used pretty casually these days. If Kim Kardishian is a “legend” then what does that say about those who truly were legends, not only in retrospect, but in their own time. A legend is a person who not only will have historical staying power, but whose influence, if anything, grows over the years rather than diminishes. Some of the great Hollywood actors have that, and in the musical realm, there is perhaps no one who can quite match reggae legend Bob Marley. Today, over 30 years after his early death from cancer, his influence and what his music represents is as alive and strong as ever.
All the more reason for excitement that a new documentary film on the musical giant has started its theatrical career, after winning awards and applause on the international film festival circuit. MARLEY is the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, from his early days to his rise to international superstardom. Made with the support of the Marley family, the film features rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best. “I think what’s great about the film is though there have been a lot of things done on Bob, I think this one will give people a more emotional connection to Bob’s life as a man”, his son, fellow musician Ziggy Marley commented. “He was not just as a reggae legend or a mythical figure, but a man who stood up for his beliefs and lived the life that he wanted on his own terms.”
Bob Marley was born in the village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica as Nesta Robert Marley. His father, Norval Sinclair Marley, was a white Jamaican of mixed and English descent, who married Celia Booker, an Afro-Jamaican then 18 years old. In 1955, when Bob Marley was 10 years old, his father died of a heart attack at age 70. He continued to face questions about his own racial identity throughout his life. He once reflected (in Jamaican patois): “I don’t have prejudice against meself. My father was a white and my mother was black. Them call me half-caste or whatever. Me don’t deh pon nobody’s side. Me don’t deh pon the black man’s side nor the white man’s side. Me deh pon God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.” Although Marley recognized his mixed ancestry, throughout his life he self-identified as a black African, following the ideas of Pan-African leaders. Marley stated that his two biggest influences were the African-centered Marcus Garvey and Ethiopian leader and Rastafarian Haile Selassie. A central theme in Bob Marley’s message was the repatriation of black people to Zion, which in his view was Ethiopia, or more generally, Africa. Bob Marley’s universal appeal, impact on music history and role as a social and political prophet is both unique and unparalleled.
Marley’s music was heavily influenced by the social issues of his homeland, and he is considered to have given voice to the specific political and cultural nexus of Jamaica. His best-known hits include “I Shot the Sheriff”, “No Woman, No Cry”, “Could You Be Loved”, “Stir It Up”, “Jamming”, “Redemption Song”, and “One Love” were not only radio and album hits of their time, but still stand as some of the most distinctive music ever made. His compilation album Legend (1984), released three years after his death, is reggae’s best-selling album, selling 25 million copies. He toured the world with his band The Wailers and lived a very comfortable life in the United States, Europe and Jamaica, fathering 11 children with 7 different women. While he often clashed with music industry executives, his talent and drawing power were undiminished over the course of his life. In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma. He turned down doctors’ advice to have his toe amputated, citing his religious beliefs, and continued touring and was in the process of scheduling a world tour in 1980 when he died of cancer in New York City. The album Uprising was released in May 1980 (produced by longtime collaborator Island Records founder Chris Blackwell), on which “Redemption Song” is particularly considered to be about Marley coming to terms with his mortality.
Like Che Guevara, his image is still a vital one in university dorms and among radical thinkers and activists. Now, the new film by Academy Award winning director Kevin Macdonald (ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) brings us the full story of a towering figure of musical history, whose music and message has transcended different cultures, languages and creeds to resonate around the world today as powerfully as when he was alive. Following its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and North American premiere at SXSW, the film is in theatrical release and available on VOD via Magnolia Pictures. This film is not only for reggae lovers or Marley maniacs…..it is the story of a man who lived life in a full range and found a purpose for his creative expression in giving voice to social issues and economic disparity. He was one of a kind, a true legend. For more information on the film, visit: http://www.magpictures.com/marley