'Marley' Has Great Music, Remarkable Personal Story

Apr 20, 2012
Originally published on April 20, 2012 3:25 pm



Any documentary about a singer-songwriter can provide great music, but with "Marley" you also get a remarkable personal story. We have a review from our critic Kenneth Turan.


KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Bob Marley, who was only 36 when he died in 1981, could be a dusty musical footnote by now. Instead, the enormous popularity of this transcendent reggae superstar shows no sign of going away, and "Marley," a moving and authoritative new documentary, explains why.

Director Kevin MacDonald had the full cooperation of the extended Marley family, as well as the rights to big chunks of dazzling performance footage.


BOB MARLEY: (Singing) Everything is going to be all right. Everything's going to be all right.

TURAN: Macdonald, who won an Oscar for "One Day in September," also has a strong dramatic sense that showed him where the emotional moments in this story are. Marley's output included exceptional songs like "One Love," "No Woman No Cry," and "Get Up Stand Up." The music flowed from the man's unstoppable charisma and musicianship, combined with his strong belief in the Rastafari movement and its harmonious one love doctrine.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Are you a rich man? Do you have a lot of possessions?

MARLEY: Oh, does that make you rich? I don't have that type of riches. My riches is life.

TURAN: Because he was such a powerful figure in Jamaica, Marley ended up involved against his will in politics. That led to both an assassination attempt and a legendary concert where he called the country's two bitter political rivals onstage and joined their hands in peace.

Bob Marley's life ended much earlier than it should have. The cancer that killed him was found early on, but a combination of bad medical advice and neglect proved fatal. There is an inescapable sadness to that, but what "Marley" and its wonderful performance footage leaves you with most of all is the joy the man took in the music that set him free and enchanted the world.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.