Bob Marley is a music legend, but has become a legend for all of the wrong things. Bob Marley is more than the man that prepubescent kids listen to while smoking their first joint, but it seems that this is all people can remember him by. His reputation has been clouded with marijuana dreams, but his story is far deeper than any of these stereotypes. After watching the documentary, “Marley,” Bob’s story becomes a lot more enhanced.
The documentary was created in 2012 and helped us see Bob Marley’s life from the very beginning to the very end. Bob grew up in Nine Mile, Jamaica after being born to his parents, Norval Marley and Cedella Booker. Norval was a white man from England and Cedella was an African-Jamaican woman from Jamaica. Norval was an absent father, but Bob still recognized him as his own father. When asked if he identified with being white or black, Bob responded in the best way possible: “I don’t stand for the black man’s side, I don’t stand for the white man’s side. I stand for God’s side.” During the 1960s and 1970s, this was monumental for the Civil Rights movement. In a time of racial turmoil in the United States, Bob Marley took a stance that race didn’t matter—all that mattered was God.
After growing up in Nine Mile, Bob and his mother picked up and moved to Trench Town. The move to Trench Town sparked Marley’s love for music, since that is where “the real music of Jamaica was made.” Bob joined a musical group, which began his singing career. By 1963, Bob’s group was named The Teenagers. Not even a year later, the group changed their name to The Wailers—and that name seemed to stick. In 1972, Bob Marley signed to Island Records and the album Catch a Fire was made. Only a short time after getting signed, in 1974, Bob Marley & The Wailers broke up in pursuit of individual hopes and dreams.
Bob Marley – “Trench Town Rock”
The era that Bob Marley was most active, during the 1960s and 1970s, were times of serious turmoil in Jamaica. There were government issues, social issues, and political unrest that filled the once peaceful country. Jamaica achieved independence from British Rule in 1962, but soon after, the country went through years of political unrest to get to a stable political environment. There was massive inequality between social groups, and the gap between the rich and the poor only seemed to widen after independence was achieved. There were people flooding the streets, and the people at the bottom of the totem pole (and lived in places like Trench Town) were suffering the worst.
In 1977, Bob Marley & The Wailers came out with Exodus, and more specifically, the song “Punky Reggae Party.” The punky reggae party referred to the blending of reggae music and punk music, which originated from England. Marley identified with the punks of England because of how they were also pushed out by their government; just like the people in Trench Town. Bob Marley always identified with his roots, and always remembered where he came from.
Bob Marley – “Punky Reggae Party”
In class, we discussed rap music and disco music, and more specifically how they created a whole movement and environment. Bob Marley and the Rastafarian movement were no different. Disco music was remembered for all of the negatives that the music brought rather than the positives. Disco was remembered for clubs, sex anywhere and everywhere, and drug abuse. Similar to Disco, the Rastafarian movement that Bob Marley made famous is only remembered for its abuse of marijuana. Marijuana was only a small piece of the Rastafarian movement; the movement was about finding inner peace and motivation within themselves. When movements are created through music, sometimes the negatives are discussed far more than the positives, and that is when messages get misinterpreted.
The documentary “Marley” was a story that catalogued Bob Marley’s life so it was a biased representation of his life. While all of the stories discussed and facts discussed were true, the commentary was given solely by people close to Marley whom were either his family, friends, or had worked with him. There was not much negativity discussed, and the documentary simply highlighted the best and most monumental points of Bob Marley’s life. I chose this topic because I had previously learned about Bob Marley in another course and it truly broadened my eyes to a much deeper way of looking at Bob Marley’s story. I learned that he was more than a ganja idol, and his story was a lot more interesting than people initially knew. I had always liked Bob Marley, but was guilty of only seeing him as a marijuana icon instead of seeing him for what he truly was. My initial learning’s about him inspired me to want to learn more, and that is exactly what I did.
If I were to conduct further research on Bob Marley, I would love to research his political influence deeper. I believe that he had a lot of political influence in a time of political turmoil in his home country; and the film did not discuss it as much as I would’ve liked. Overall, the documentary opened my eyes to a deeper Marley and helped me truly understand why he is a Legend.