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Wick's Review

Created Oct 03, 2012 09:32AM PST • Edited Feb 06, 2024 06:38PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Very Good 3.5

    Bob Marley’s legend emerges enhanced and deepened from this extensive documentary of his life and career. Notwithstanding classic rockstar foibles, he’s revealed to be a figure of complexity, courage and depth. Plus his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame talent shines brightly through. Jamming.

    Marley fans may be disappointed in Marley’s paucity of music. A biography, not a concert, it nonetheless provides a taste of all his great songs, including early ones that are unknown to all but rabid fans. One Love? Yes.

    I found Marley a most enjoyable reunion with Bob, as will other casual Marley fans. Serious fans will no doubt view it like the Rasta Sea Scrolls. Non-fans – who may be forced to watch it – will find the story of a Third World kid who rose to superstardom a fascinating tale of races, classes, groupies and Rastas. Whether they get turned on to the magic of Easy Skanking is another question.

  3. Great 4.0

    Bob Marley is revealed to be a hugely talented yet driven striver, a charismatic chick-magnet, a principled man of strict standards, and a survivor of a tortured childhood. That last includes not just growing up in the poverty of rural Jamaica and then Trenchtown, but also being the half-white son of a single Mother. Her brief fling with a white Royal Marine Captain led to the irony that Bob’s stardom made “Marley” the famous name of a black man, an observation made in the movie by his lovely sister Constance.

    Irony filled his life. For instance, he died of melanoma, a disease of the White man. Black folks don’t get skin cancer, the movie declares. Another is that notwithstanding his rigorous religious standards, he was a garden variety rockstar when it came to his own morality. Thus he sired almost a dozen children from several women, who he then often ignored. Rockstars really are different.

    Most importantly, the movie makes clear that his earthshaking talent was clear from the beginning, including his poetic talents with lyrics.

    Some forty family members and collaborators are featured. A few highlights:

    • Chris Blackwell looks like Michael Caine and has the presence of a movie star. His Island Records had their first gold record with Exodus.
    • Bob’s daughter Cedella sounds American and is deeply angry with her Dad, who wasn’t much of a Father. She’s one girl who doesn’t excuse his indulgences.
    • Cindy Breakspeare was Miss World 1976 and is the mother of Bob’s son Damian. The movie shows a seventies British tabloid blaring the headline “Pot smoking Bob’s my guy Cindy says.” Sex and drugs and rock-n-roll sure makes for great copy.
  4. Male Stars Great 4.0
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Very Good 3.5

    First Martin Scorsese himself was to direct, then the great Jonathan Demme. Kevin Macdonald ultimately did the job, a workmanlike one if not especially inspired.

  9. Direction Very Good 3.5
  10. Play Great 4.0
  11. Music Really Great 4.5

    I’m restricting the Music rating to just shy of Perfection due to the paucity of full songs from Bob’s nonpareil catalog. Speaking of that catalog, no wonder Legend is such an enduringly popular collection.

    1. Is This Love from Kaya is as welcome a song as any ever recorded. Perfectly poetic pop.
    2. No Woman, No Cry – As cool a song as any rockstar ever sang, let alone wrote.
    3. Could You Be Loved from Uprising, a landmark album.
    4. Three Little Birds from Exodus, another landmark album.
    5. Buffalo Soldier – “Dreadlocks Rasta”
    6. Get Up, Stand Up – with Peter Tosh from Burnin’
    7. Stir It Up – The sweetest rocker from Catch a Fire
    8. One Love/People Get Ready – done with soul legend Curtis Mayfield from Exodus
    9. I Shot the Sheriff – Clapton’s cover was a huge AM hit
    10. Waiting in Vain – Tastiness extraordinaire from Exodus
    11. Redemption Song – Meaningful music from Uprising
    12. Satisfy My Soul – More sweetness from Kaya
    13. Exodus – Title cut from his first globally popular album, recorded in London while in self-imposed exile from Jamaica.
    14. JammingPer Wikipedia “It is not certain whether jamming in the song refers to jam sessions, to smoking marijuana or to sex.” It is certain that it’s an all time great song.
  12. Visuals Good 3.0
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.6
  15. Sex Innocent 1.5
  16. Violence Gentle 1.5
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.8
  18. Natural 1.0

    Two profound ironies emerge from Marley, one clearly stated, the other not so much. The first has to do with Marley’s skewed American worshippers and the other with the man he chose to worship.

    American fans appear about an hour into Marley, with the movie not shying from the fact that they are mighty white. Mostly from the middle and upper classes, stateside Marley fans then as now are drawn to his primo music, ganja lifestyle and radical chic trappings. Marley exec producer Steve Bing – a trust fund kid – is quintessential. Thus Kevin Macdonald’s movie deserves credit for highlighting the irony that the superstar of Pan-Africanism is a legend to Caucasian-Americans and an afterthought to African-Americans.

    The movie treads more lightly on Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie – aka Ras Tafari, the Rastafarian messiah. Selassie, a Christian, seemed bemused by his deification in Jamaica. Further, his 50 year rule was a decidedly mixed bag, with many declaring him a despot. Such a single verdict is perhaps unfair, though little of his checkered history emerges from Marley. Answers.com has a balanced bio of Selassie for those interested in learning more.

  19. Circumstantial Natural 1.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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Sep 24, 2012 7:54AM

Regarding BrianSez’s Review
Funny – I suspect our queues look very similar at times

Sep 23, 2012 5:39PM

Regarding BrianSez’s Review
Wow. You beat me to it Bri. I’m working on my Marley review now, but doubt it’ll top yours. Jamming.