Hitting the Right Rhythm to Tell Marley’s Story

Hitting the Right Rhythm to Tell Marley’s Story

The New York Times

John Anderson

Of all the friends, lovers, relatives and Rastas that the director Kevin Macdonald wrangled into his new documentary, “Marley,” one of his favorite finds was Dudley Sibley, a onetime recording artist and the janitor at the Jamaican recording studio where Bob Marley cut his musical teeth.

“He lived with Bob for 18 months in the back of Studio 1,” Mr. Macdonald said recently over breakfast in Manhattan. “No one ever thought to talk to this guy. My researcher in Jamaica said to me, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s this guy I’ve met who says he lived with Bob.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, I don’t believe that.’ But I met him. And he was for real.”

Making a definitive biographical film about Marley, the reggae superstar, who died of cancer in 1981, has always been problematic, plagued by a shortage of archival footage, disagreements over music publishing, and the fact that Marley had 11 children by seven women and never wrote a will…

…The people Mr. Macdonald set out to interview included “everyone who’s alive and was intimate with Bob,” he said. They included Neville Livingston, a k a Bunny Wailer of the original Wailers (later Bob Marley and the Wailers) and Marley’s relatives, black and white. (His absentee mixed-race father, Norval Marley, who was considered a white Jamaican, is a ghostly presence.) Anyone familiar with Bob Marley would assume that, if anything, the difficulties inherent in getting his inner circle to sign off on the same film would keep the full story from getting on screen for 31 years. But Mr. Macdonald said he got total cooperation. Ziggy Marley, Bob’s eldest son, said the family is happy with the result.

 “This is what we wanted it to be,” Ziggy Marley, a successful pop performer, said by phone. “I’ve never read one book about my father,” he said. “Who are they? They don’t know him.”

Rita Marley, Ziggy’s mother and Bob’s widow, concurred…

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