Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley was only 36 when he died of cancer in 1981. But around the world, new fans still discover him every day. Now a documentary explores the man and the legacy of his music.
Director Kevin MacDonald starts his film at the source: the ramshackle village house where Bob Marley was born in 1945. With rare glimpses of his formative years and unprecedented interviews with friends, family and fellow performers, he assembles a vivid portrait of the man who would become a legend through his music.
"With Bob, I think people feel like they have more than just a musical connection," notes MacDonald. "It's more than about the fact that he wrote beautiful melodies and had a beautiful voice. It's about the fact that what he is singing about they find relevance in.
"Almost anywhere in the developing world, people adore Bob Marley," the director adds. "You go to India and they isten to Bob Marley [and] there are murals of Bob Marley in Delhi and places like that. He is literally the only icon of world music who comes from the Third World. He is the Third World superstar. But then in the West, I think it's more about the rebelliousness and anti-establishment nature of him."
Even at the height of his fame, Bob Marley only did a handful of filmed interviews, but the documentary had the full support and participation of the Marley family, especially his son Ziggy Marley. He, his sisters and brothers, who also appear on camera, were young children when their father died. And Ziggy says the film taught them all a great deal about the man he was.
"I think I understand my father from the film," Marley says. "We saw him as such a strong man, but there was vulnerability in him and weakness in him too. There was sadness. It wasn't all laughter and joy. There was a lot of sadness there too. It does make me more emotionally connected to him and I hope that people feel the same connection. It is good that people idolize him, but it is even better if you can feel that human connection …and that's what I hope the film does."
Ziggy Marley followed in his father's footsteps to become an international reggae star. Much of the music in Marley will be familiar to Bob Marley fans, but Kevin MacDonald is pleased he could also include previously unheard versions of some songs and a few rare live performances.