Marley’s women

To the Ritzy in Brixton during rain-soaked yesterday, to see the Bob Marley documentary. It’s a lovely piece of work, a little long, but soaked in genuine love for its subject. In fact, its adoration is a little heavy at times, but there’s a useful counterpoint to it in the film itself, in the shape of the remarkable women in Marley’s life.

As we know, there were a lot of women in Marley’s life, from the girl down the street in Trench Town to the daughter of the dictator of Gabon (both of them are interviewed). But time and again there are women in the film who either tear up a little at his memory (like the extraordinary German nurse, now in her 80s, who looks like a little girl again when she recalls his time in the clinic in Bavaria) or who look at the adoring filmmakers (most of whom, I’m guessing, were middle-class Brits with an extensive collection of vinyl) with a raised eyebrow and a knowing smile, not saying what they are thinking: “He’s a God to you, but to us he was a man, and like all men he was on occasion a pratt.”

Rita Marley has a half-smile throughout the film, as if in possession of secret knowledge that makes the whole film a huge joke.

Rita Marley

 

Cindy Breakspeare, the former Miss World who became Marley’s girlfriend, described evenings on 1970s English trains frantically scrubbing off make-up in time to meet Marley in the accepted Rasta fashion, hair covered and no make-up.

Diane Jobson, Marley’s lawyer, is the most sardonic of all of them, still with her hair covered and still without make-up, saying of the assassination attempt on Marley and the subsequent concert and adoration: “What more do Jamaicans love than a man who just survived a gunfight?”

And finally, the achingly beautiful daughter, Cedella Marley, who makes a poignant contrast to her brothers Ziggy and Jacob. They tell male stories of Bob the footballer, Bob the runner, Bob the competitor; she aches of abandonment and resentment, unwilling to understand a father who adopted a world but left family after family behind.

The film has some cheesy but still powerful stuff over the closing credits, showing people from dozens of nations singing Marley songs. As we filed out, I took a look at the audience. Black and white, old and young, male and female. Cedella notwithstanding, you can’t say the guy didn’t make a difference.

About Lloyd Shepherd

Lloyd is the author of The English Monster and The Poisoned Island. He lives in London, but dreams of Manchester.

Comments

  1. The only thing that disappointed me about the movie was that almost all the women influenced by Bob have rejected his principle of no make-up. All of them would look better without it. It might seems like a small thing, but it shows that none, except Dianne Jobson, really learned anything from being around Bob, even to be enlightened enough to value their natural beauty. Perhaps Bob never found a true soulmate – maybe that’s why he kept looking.

  2. Johnny McC says:

    If you had actually watched the film Mr Sheppard then maybe you’d have saw it was Cedella telling the story about running around with her father on the beech. And to make presumptions about what your mind assumes people were thinking and use quotation marks to impose your thoughts on an article like it was part of the subject matter is fairly pretentious also.
    Furthermore clearly you had a pre-existing viewpoint/bias going into this film as you, without doing research to back up your claim that all the interviewers & filmmakers were middle class Brits – who cares what your guessing? Why guess? Why not do the research? More importantly what is your point and why are you trying to make it? Ask yourself that.
    Clearly you think the admiration Marley gets is over the top or only by middle class Brits, even if true why either would bother you to the point of making uninformed sweeping statements escapes me.
    So what if people from different classes and different countries enjoy Bob Marley and idolise him? Surely you checked the film credits to see the executive producers were both Jamaican – Chris Blackwell and Ziggy Marley, before you decided to imply the whole show was put together by deluded, hero-worshipping middle class Brit fan boys who look up to Bob but really know nothing because they just middle class white boys who can never understand a black man from Jamaica.
    People idolise Bob because of the message – get over your petty need to try to ridicule and realise that the people love the subject matter because of the music and the message and it don’t matter where your from or who you are.
    Nothing wrong with people having heroes. We all know they are humans with flaws, why you would criticise a Bob Marley documentary for being too endorsing of Bob Marley also escapes me.

  3. Lloyd Shepherd says:

    What on earth has made you so angry? I said it was a “lovely piece of work”. Why do you think I didn’t like it? It wasn’t perfect, but it was very very good. I find your comment very odd indeed.

  4. Johnny McC says:

    Everything you’ve just asked is already answered in the comment. Which you didn’t respond to.

  5. Leanne willars says:

    Great reading your thoughts on this doc, Lloyd. I agree that it’s what the women in his life don’t say. But it’s all in the eyes and it only takes a little intuition to understand the heartache. Not unlike lennon, Guevara and many other heroes who chose the nation over family.