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Movie Review: ‘Marley’ Docupic About Much More Than The Man

Movie Review: ‘Marley’ Docupic About Much More Than The Man
Bob Marley Dublin Ireland Concert July 6, 1980/Credit: Monosnaps via flickr

Hollywood, all is forgiven.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I lamented the usual Tinseltown drivel while offering a preview of the new Bob Marley documentary (and all the different ways you can watch it). I’ve seen it a couple times since then and can say without reservation that it’s among the finest cinematic works I’ve seen in a long, long time.

I had a sense that Marley would be good, of course, judging from the many positive reviews and the cool trailer, but honestly, I wasn’t prepared for just how much the film would exceed my expectations.

I’ve read numerous books and magazine articles about Bob Marley’s life. I’ve visited 56 Hope Road. My music collection is jammed with much of his music. I always flock to movies and documentaries about him. In short, I’m a big Bob Marley fan and feel that I’ve known a lot about him for quite some time.

This movie showed me that I still had a lot to learn.

I mean, who knew that Marley still had white relatives around? I sure didn’t. Watching them listening to “Corner Stone,” and, for the first time, effectively understanding the power of the lyrics as they directly related to the family’s rejection of Bob back in the day was moving in a way that I totally didn’t expect.

Or how about the subtle jabs at Chris Blackwell from Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer? Blackwell is a producer on the film, yet the old riffs between he and the other two members of the original Wailers trio that eventually led to their break-up and the birth of the Bob Marley and the Wailers group most of us know, are front and center in the pic. The emotions are still raw for Wailer, while the recording of an earlier interview with Tosh, in which he refers to the legendary founder of Island Records as Chris Whitewell, leaves no doubt as to the deep conflict of the time.

Cedella Marley’s pain at never having a close relationship with her father, Marley’s endless womanizing and its effect on his wife, the notable concerts, the assassination attempt, exile in Europe – all the major events in Marley’s life are covered in the film as never before.

What struck me the most, though, is the way Marley traces the history of Jamaican music through Bob’s rise to fame, which corresponded with Jamaica’s unsteady transition to independence. From mento to ska to rock steady and finally reggae, the film paints a vivid picture of the rise of one of the world’s most beloved music genres from Jamaica’s small corner of the Caribbean.

It also shows concretely, for the first time that I’ve ever seen, the actual origin of the signature guitar riff that defines reggae music! To learn how the virtual foundation of all reggae music was actually birthed quite by accident is one of the truly treasured moments of the film for me.

Just writing about it now has me anxious to see Marley again… I hope you feel the same way too.

(See viewing links here.)

By the way, the image above comes to us courtesy of Irish photographer Eddie Mallin (aka: Monosnaps on Flickr). Eddie was lucky enough to catch a Bob Marley concert in Dublin in 1980 on what would turn out to be Bob’s last tour. Like the Marley documentary, Eddie’s fantastic images are definitely worth a look for all Marley fans…

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