Ben Hopkins

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Marley

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From the current issue of Clash.

Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme were previously in the hot seat for this first feature-length documentary to be supported by Bob Marley’s family and by Island Records. Yet Kevin Macdonald has delivered an authoritative, heavyweight portrait of the reggae icon.

Given his later political and philosophical value status to his homeland of Jamaica which Macdonald is eager to emphasise, it’s almost surprising to see the prejudice that arose due to his mixed race (his father was of English descent). Intriguing as this is, Marley’s early years are often riotously amusing: when Lee “Scratch” Perry is only one of the more eccentric characters on show, it’s obvious how much personality shimmers throughout this film.

While rock biopics can fall into a succession of accomplishments and album releases, Macdonald highlights a different approach by addressing the strength and finer details of Marley’s spiritual convictions. This leads him to spread the word of his music to Africa where he’s greeted as a true icon, despite several dubious if largely naïve encounters with national dictators.

Like so many stories of the great figures of music history, Marley’s life ends sadly premature. Macdonald, though, has left a remarkable tribute loaded with information and enduringly entertaining.

Written by Ben Hopkins

April 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

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