“Marley” (2012), directed by Kevin Macdonald is a well-executed, comprehensive documentary that explores the extraordinary life of Bob Marley and his rise to worldwide fame from ska through rocksteady to finally reggae, told by people who personally and intimately knew the man and the artist.
If I had to create a Top-10 list of artists who have since passed that I would have chosen to experience while alive Bob Marley would rank in the top three. As Black History Month opens we celebrate the legacy, and music of Marley whose birthday is February 6. 1945. Over 40 years after his death, Marley’s lyrics continue to reverberate of consciousness.
His philosophy was simple: “I like to see mankind live together, black, white, Chinese, everyone- that’s all.” With lyrics so profound their truths sear like a sword set ablaze, it wasn’t only his songs that moved us, Marley left a litany of life-affirming quotes, meant to awaken the wisdom within.
In true Rastafarian fashion, Bob Marley and the Wailers’ performances were earthy, and raw with its instrumentals having a rough shot quality in earlier years. Simultaneously spiritual, watch Marley’s live performances where, in real-time, Marley with eyes closed, delivers potent lyrics, as he vessels his body.
Marley was a critical instrument of spreading the genre of reggae music worldwide. In countries where the majority of people did not speak or understand the English language, far less his indigenous dialect, Marley’s audience could still resonate with his thought-provoking message, proving once again, that music is a universal translator.
A strong opponent of oppression, Marley rightly considered himself a rebel with empowering songs like “Get Up Stand Up” and “Exodus,” where Marley asks the ultimate question, “Open your eyes and look within, are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” But for all of Marley’s revolutionary music, his softer side shone through with songs like “Waiting In Vain,” “Stir It Up,” and “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” which had a more decidedly R&B groove.
Marley’s countenance and his irie disposition coupled with his lack of pretense created resonance. It didn’t (and still doesn’t) matter that certain audiences could not understand his words, it was his mental and spiritual evolution, his positive Rastaman Vibration, unwavering, and determined in his objective, that magnetized the masses to him. Marley did not sing to the ear, he sang to the soul, and for that he achieved immortality.
A respected icon, Marley remains revered throughout the world. If it’s been some time since you last listened to Marley, come back, stay a while and let your body slip into its natural rhythm. Marley’s lyrics still offer great insight and retain their powerful longevity to move you as if hearing them for the first time.