Monday, February 19, 2024


For distraction, I deliberately went movie-going on Valentine's Day to avoid the reality of the recent loss of my soulmate of fifty years. Happily enough, it was the first day release of biofilm "Bob Marley:One Love." A recommend!!  Bigtime!  Firstly, hearing superb reggae played in a good theatre sound system will lift anyone's spirits, it's built into the very construct of reggae. Like African-American gospel, it lifts you up musically before any singer even opens his or her mouth.

I was a trifle hesitant about the lead Kingsley Ben-Adir beforehand since he has absolutely zero resemblance to Marley, but his natural sense of command, musical performing style and ease in conveying creativity won me over. His acting for the writing of the song "Exodus" is a marvel. It's hard to convey "creativity" in films because the act of thinking usually is not very cinematic. Jeffrey Wright's depiction in "Basquiat" worked, and Bob Dylan in Scorsese's "No Direction Home" doc where he stops in front of some random poster and starts lyrically riffing on its contents is fun insight into how artists create. Few other scenes in all of moviedom come to mind.

More pluses-- "One Love's" Rita Marley actress Lashana Lynch is nothing short of phenomenal, completely inhabiting the character. Without any stylization of same, she is the Greek chorus reminding the protagonist of hidden adversities, as well as his living inspiration in addition to his spiritual ones (or as Harvey quipped, "Keith to his Mick.") Also, the montages of the eventual success of The Wailers has a few LOLs for observant, longtime reggae followers: note a photo op with a Mick Jagger lookalike!

Old home week subjectivity: I recognized a lot of names in the credits of people I worked with in 1976 writing my book "Rastaman Vibration: Bob Marley & The Wailers," like Island's music true believer and promotional whiz Jeff Walker. His wife Kim Gottlieb provided the book's wonderful photos she had taken in Jamaica of Bob, his family and the band. Island admitted they were puzzled about new audiences' initial hesitance for reggae in the U.S.A. African American music fans of the '70s seemed to prefer their music heroes to be glitzily successful like Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, not hardscrabble Trenchtown. So Island suggested to try appealing to college audiences, whose very job it used to be to embrace the new. And I did: I was the first to find and write of the tie in to Rastafarianism in the works of Kurt Vonnegut, who was the national darling of college readers everywhere at that time. Even if it was Vonnegut's signature morbid satire, hey, any bridge in a storm!

I quite like that the film is doing so well in its initial release, particularly for a music biopic. Most reviews have been snobby, such as "People" magazine's accusation that it plays it too safe. "One Love" is important as well as entertaining: it is this current generation's mainstream introduction to the legend behind the cool music they've heard all their lives. As such, it's a very good narrative depiction. Marley really did come from nowhere, really was that prolific (than goodness, given his short life) and really did beat the odds in inventing a sea change in popular music, fashioning a regional variation on Motown R&B into the gold standard of World Music, beloved to everybody all over the globe. Because to hear reggae music for the first time is to love and embrace it. Thank Bob!


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