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September 2012

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Marley (A Film By Kevin MacDonald)
Magnola Home Entertainment

Marley

It may seem odd that we are reviewing a reggae documentary on blues CD review site.

Not really.

The influence of American music, especially soul, blues and R&B, on reggae music is very obvious. Marley's compositions were about living in poverty, social injustices, heartbreak, etc. .... yeah, just like the blues. Original Wailer Neville Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer) often proclaimed that he was just a blues singer.

Not to mention the fact that Kevin MacDonald's two hour and 25 minute is just so damn good that it should be essential viewing (and listening) for every music fan.

It could be argued that Marley was the most influential musician of any style of popular music .... ever! Yes, I agree, that's a bold statement. A similar case could be made for musical icons like Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Hank Williams, and many others. But I believe that Marley's influence went deeper than that of any other musician.

31 years after his death, Bob Marley still defines reggae music. When one mentions reggae music, most think of Marley. But his influence transcended the music --- do an online search on the Rastafarian religion, and Marley's name is mentioned. Do an online search on the country of Jamaica itself, and Marley's name is mentioned.

I think we've established both Marley's influence on the music as well as the effect of American music on his stylings and compositions. On to a discussion of this wonderful DVD ...

The documentary is extremely thorough, including interviews of many of the people who were a part of his life. The filmmakers even went as far away as Germany to interview the nurse who cared for Marley when he was in his final battle with the cancer that took his life at the age of 36. They went to Gabon to interview the daughter of the dictator of the African republic; a big fan of his music, she brought Marley and band to Gabon for a concert. Just about everyone that had anything to do with reggae music during the 1970s and '80s are included.

The film goes into great detail on one of Marley's most important contributions, one that demonstrated just how important a figure he was in Jamaica. In 1978, the country erupted in political violence during a period when Marley was living in London. Marley was brought back home to perform a unifying concert in order to calm the warring factions --- the film includes concert footage when he brought the two rival political leaders, Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, onstage to shake hands.

So much of Marley's life is documented in this film that I can't begin to do it justice in this short review. It's all here, interspersed with selections from the deep catalog of his music as well as countless minutes of vintage concert footage. I can't recommend this film enough. The two hours and 25 minutes passes quickly, after which you'll be tempted to restart the DVD and watch it all again.

Do yourself a favor and add this important piece of musical history to your collection --- you won't regret it.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

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