Marley: The Man and His Music…A Journey from Nine Mile to Trench Town to the World

A report from the documentary movie, “Marley” | Friday, April 20, 2012

I refuse to give a exhaustive play-by-play of the movie.  If you’d hoped this post would be laden with quotes from the movie from the first second to the last second of the movie, you’ve come to wrong place.  Sorry, I don’t do that.  I’m sure there are other bloggers who will.  The last thing I’d want to do is take anything away from the people, including the Marley family, who toiled for so long to bring this to the big screen.

Run, don’t walk, to see this movie.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m from the “islands”, but that doesn’t mean I’m biased, ready to gush about the movie because of that reason.  I’m gushing because it is well-deserved.

I held a "golden ticket" to the 7 o'clock screening of "Marley"

I made my way to Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street in The Village.  Show time: 7:00 p.m.  I was eager to arrive, so I did — early — 30 minutes early.  My anxiousness didn’t subside.  Frankly, I wanted the movie to start already.

The theatre quickly became packed before the movie began.  I sat comfortably next to an older couple, also from “the islands”, out for “date night”.

We had high hopes, and we were not disappointed.

When the credits began to roll, the audience erupted in a spontaneous roar of applause.

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Poster from "Marley" - April 20, 2012

Highlights of my “loves” for this movie:

  • The “cast of characters” — Interviews with family members — including Rita, his wife, a few of his children, notably, Cedella and Ziggy, his half-sister, Constance, cousin, Peter, and Bob’s women, including Cindy Breakspeare, the 1976 Miss World from Jamaica.  (He had 11 children with 7 women…this is no secret, although there have always been questions about just how many children and women).  There were also comments from The Wailers, including Bunny Livingston, Skill Cole, Lee Jaffe, Donald Kinsey, politicians, musical and business associates, including Island Records co-founder, Chris Blackwell (who Peter Tosh called Chris “Whitewell”), and Jimmy Cliff.  They all help to fill in the blanks about a man who was as talented as he was shy, and was much, much more than some Marley followers foolishly display by their actions, that he was basically a ganja-smoking man with dreadlocks who played music.  So incredibly insulting.
  • Footage of his performances, even early audio recordings, including Marley’s 1962 recording of “Judge Not”.  Listen carefully; it’s mind-blowing.  You will definitely get some “laugh out loud” moments, one in particular of behind-the-scenes film of a recording session.  I won’t say anything more — just watch the producer…*wink*  In addition, the footage of the “One Love Peace Concert” — terrific.  (Political opposition leaders Michael Manley and Edward Seaga couldn’t have looked more uncomfortable on stage.)
  • Views of Jamaica — The street views and the aerial views are a deliberate contrast, I think, that adds to the flavor of the movie.  The hustle and bustle of the city versus the rolling hills and slow pace of the country.  The contrast in the landscape; the contrast in the man.  Bonus footage includes highlights of his transformation to a Rastafarian, the visit to Jamaica of Haile Selassi and Trench Town.  That’s some tough turf, but he knew he had a choice.  He could have been a gangster, but he focused on his music, which would be his way out.
  • The music playing in the background throughout — so good!  Hearing “Redemption Song” (one of my favorite songs of all time), “No Woman No Cry”, “War” and “One Love”, and separately, having an understanding where he was in his life when he and The Wailers created what is “hands down” one of the greatest albums in music history ever made, “Exodus” — props for the album and the song.
  • The story behind the story of Cedella Booker, Marley’s mother, and Norval “Captain” Marley, his horse-riding, absentee father, who proved to be very proficient with the ladies — much like the young Marley himself.  (I’m amazed at how much all the Marleys, including Marley’s most visible children, look alike.)
  • Footage of his travels around the world, including his exile while living in England, and exposing audiences in Zimbabwe and Gabon to reggae.
  • The story behind the story of the day Marley was shot in preparation for the “Smile Jamaica” concert.  One of those “frozen in your seat” moments during the movie.  It is absolutely incredible how lucky he was to survive — actually, they all were to survive, including Rita.  Listen to the story.  Was it a set up?  I guess we will never know.

Unfortunately, his life ended too soon.  It breaks my heart because he neglected to do the simple things (sigh…makes me think of my uncle).  For example, Marley’s lackadaisical attitude and refusal to go to his follow-up doctor’s visits after his first cancer scare, and I will also say it here, some of the people around him.  Don’t worry, you will see for yourself.  What a crying shame.  Users come in all forms.  Not everybody should have been welcomed at Hope Road.

If you’re from Jamaica you should have a sense of pride.  This is one of your own.  A hometown boy from poverty who made it big.  The commentary can be funny at times.  Sometimes you will roll your eyes or raise them.  Some are, simply, just plain ignorant.  And these comments are not from Marley, but from others.  You really have to wonder: Couldn’t he have seen that some of these people didn’t have Marley’s best interest at heart?  How could he have been so blind?  Or was his mind clouded?  In the end, as an individual, you are responsible for your own self, for your own life. 

There is a sadness to know that he suffered so much in the end, and especially as he was trying so desperately to live.  He ran out of time.  He did things too late.  A lesson for us all.

We, as fans, may be left with a hole by having the loss of a brilliant artiste — a talent that put a genre of music on the map synonymous with Jamaica.  And I’ll like to say one thing because it more than “bothers” me.  It infuriates me.  With all this talk of “Reggaeton”, I have never, ever heard — at least, it certainly hasn’t been loud enough — Reggaeton artists giving props to the man.  Without Reggae, there would be no Reggaeton.  Yes, let’s not get it twisted.  You can clearly hear the influence.  I think credit must be given where credit is due.  I see it as a slap in the face to Marley, when decades later those who reap residual benefits show such disrespect.  But getting back to my original thought: More than a loss to fans, what a tremendous loss to his family, especially Rita and his children.  As I watched Cedella during the movie, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy and empathy.  She lost a father.

My Assessment:  A job well done by the documentarians.  A definite “must see” not only for Bob Marley & The Wailers fans, but music fans.  

What a story. It wasn’t just about Marley, but “big ups” should also be given to the Wailers and the I-Threes.  They were as much a part of this as Marley.

From the movie…(perhaps slightly misphrased, but still speaks volumes):

“Me no deh pon di black man side or di white man side. Me deh pon God side — di one who create me.”
– Robert Nesta Marley, O.M.  (Order of Merit)

Marley: The Man and His Music…A Journey from Nine Mile to Trench Town to the World.

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6 thoughts on “Marley: The Man and His Music…A Journey from Nine Mile to Trench Town to the World

    • I’d definitely like to see it again! I’d made up my mind after seeing it that when it comes out on DVD, I’ll add it to my paltry DVD collection. At least adding it would give me some “DVD Cred”! Haha

  1. Very good film. Cedella speaking about the hurt Rita experienced was needed input. Contextualizing how Breakspeare came to be more present than the other mothers (basically came with the house he bought from Blackwell) was good also but I still feel she’s been given a pass for the disrespect shown to Rita. At least Pat Williams said that yes she is one of the mothers but that didn’t make the treatment of Rita right. I would have liked the circumstances around Bunny and Peter (again, Mr. Blackwell) to be exposed more but, overall a very decent film.

    • Yes, I agree. Rita has never (to my knowledge) said anything publicly. Frankly, I agree wholeheartedly that Ms. Breakspeare got a ‘pass’ – and she doesn’t seem one bit ashamed of her behavior, but wasn’t she always like that? I guess the Queen in her? I don’t know. That does not sit well with me. Even if Marley didn’t see a problem or an issue with his behavior, as a woman, I just don’t get it — how could you do that to a mother and her children? And I might add, Ms. Breakspeare has really ridden this ride to the fullest. Incredible disrespect, and I was glad that Cedella addressed it, even if she didn’t call names or go into detail. Saying your mother was hurt and Marley didn’t like the children to know their mother was hurt was the ‘typical’ Rasta man behavior. Am I wrong? I don’t have anything against the Rasta man (have a few as family and friends) so that’s not the issue. There’s just a little piece of my heart that breaks for Rita in the film because she put up with a lot, but as I mentioned in the blog post, as individuals we all need to take responsibility for our own lives. If she had had enough, *shi wud a pack up ar pickney dem and gwan bout ar bisness* (loose translation for non-West Indians: *she would have gathered her children and left*). I was old enough to remember Marley and his reputation — which was noooo secret eventhough I was a child at the time (and I remember his funeral). I guess the reason why they didn’t get into the other stories with bandmates/ex-bandmates and the record label, like Tosh and Blackwell, was it would have turned into sideshows, moving away from the primary focus of the film, which was Marley. Just a very, very sad story all around at the end of a man’s life.

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