Without question, Bob Marley is the world's most beloved reggae artist. But it isn't because his music was necessarily superior to the multitude of trad, ska, and dub artists that preceded him or the throngs that followed.
Rather, as if by fate, he commanded international attention early in his career and long after his untimely death. And Marley, a new film by Academy Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September, The Last King of Scotland, A Day in the Life), goes right to the heart of worldwide popular culture's obsession with Jamaica's biggest star.
At 14 years old, Robert Nesta Marley began his musical career, leaving school to make music with vocalist Joe Higgs. At twice that age, Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer cut Catch a Fire, the first full-length reggae album to be produced with top-shelf 1970s recording technology. From that point, Marley became a brand-name celebrity on par with Michael Jackson in terms of recognition, mass appeal, and merchandising.
But Macdonald's documentary is concerned with a quiet, personal corner of the Jamaican legend's glorious yet short life, patiently unpacking the myth of Bob Marley by interviewing friends, family, and witnesses who lived with and loved the man himself.