Before opening in select theaters on 4/20, Marley was first unveiled in an intimate screening at SXSW back in March. Now, with unprecedented support from the music icon’s family and close associates, the documentary on reggae singer/songwriter Bob Marley makes its long-awaited on-air debut this Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on VH1. For the first time, Marley’s story —his lifestyle, career, political impact, influences, and tragic battle with cancer— will be televised in rich detail, and for music-lovers and fans of history, this film is an insightful must-see, proving to humanize a man who Rolling Stone places at #11 on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
The most recent addition to the Emmy award-winning VH1 Rock Doc arsenal, Marley opens in St. Ann, Jamaica where Robert “Bob” Nesta Marley was born. Fanatically drawn to music early on, Marley would soon team up with Neville “Bunny Wailer” Livingston and Peter Tosh to form their band, The Wailers, helping to usher-in upbeat-rhythm Reggae music as it evolved from Ska in the Jamaican music hub of Kingston. An array of archival photos help director Kevin Macdonald paint a picture of the legendary hit-maker’s humble youth; capturing the band’s creative process and Marley’s gradual ascent within the music industry, Marley also boasts rare-seen performance footage and insider interviews to shed light on the musician’s career spikes, spiritual vision and untimely death. As record producers, engineers, band-mates, and executives wax nostalgic on the dreadlock-donning international superstar, viewers are slowly immersed into Marley’s world; one where activism, the affections of women, and a competitive attitude all played a major role in the trajectory of his success.
Featuring candid interviews from Marley’s mother, cousins, children Ziggy and Cedella, wife Rita, and girlfriends, the film is not only informative, but also remarkably personal. Before embarking on his musical calling, Marley was consumed with rejection. The product of an inter-racial relationship between his Jamaican mother and barely-present English father, a light-skinned Marley often found himself isolated and outside the norm of Jamaican culture, or as he called it, “half-caste.” A well-behaved kid, Marley grew up shy and poor, often going to bed hungry as he dreamt of a better life — one filled with acceptance and peace instead of pain and an empty belly.
Like many of music’s most captivating characters, ambition became the bi-product of Marley’s anguish as he got older, and pushing those around him to embrace his idiosyncrasies was an organic and forgivable standard. Fathering 11 children from 7 relationships, Marley was dedicated to his craft and often siphoned his inspiration during sleepless nights of songwriting. Beyond music, the film goes in-depth on the musician’s active membership in the Rastafari Movement and wherein he placed his faith: Jah, and Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie I, the man many Rastas believed to be the second coming of Christ. Impacting his exercise-driven lifestyle and increasingly strong activist message, Marley advocated vegetarianism, spiritual use of marijuana, and tried his best to peacefully navigate Jamaican gang violence that festered within the country’s divided political parties – all puzzle pieces that are vividly captured in the Rock Doc.
As the profile of his music and audience-size grew bigger internationally, so did his charity and call for peace. When Zimbabwean freedom fighters first heard Marley’s song “Zimbabwe” after winning their independence, they adapted the anthem as their own and invited him to perform. In the Marley doc, you’ll see footage from the African concert event wherein Marley not only foot the bill that the rebels were unable to pay, but was also exposed to riots and tear gas in the process. Visibly unshaken by the experience, Marley went on to anchor other well-known concerts during his career that are also in the film, including Smile Jamaica with Stevie Wonder, 1975’s Lyceum show in London, and – after an attempt made on his life – peace conference and concert event One Love. A moving documentary that leaves inspiration in your heart and an incredible soundtrack of reggae classics in your head, don’t miss Marley this Saturday, 8/4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, only on VH1.