by Jodee Brown
Marley, the first official documentary on the life and work of Reggae icon, Bob Marley has been lauded with compliments and praise regarding their portrayal of Jamaica’s most prominent musician. However, one of Marley’s closest friends believes the film failed to highlight an important aspect of his career.
Neville ‘Bunny Wailer’ Livingston, the lone surviving member of the legendary Reggae group, The Wailersfeatures prominently in Marley as he intellectually offers vast insights and anecdotes regarding Bob Marley’s personal and professional life. He initially agreed to become a part of this project given that Bob’s eldest son, Ziggy Marley was the executive producer; perhaps painting a more vivid picture of the Reggae icon on and off stage.
However, Wailer insists that when he saw the final cut, there was a major part of Bob Marley’s life that was inadequately portrayed: His Rastafarian beliefs. Inspired by the 1966 visit of Emperor Haile Selassie to Jamaica, Marley used his music to promote the realms of the Rastafari Movement.
According to Wailer, Marley should have used their platform to expand on such works.
“Rastafari was what Robert Marley sang about all his life. Rasta music is the legacy he has left us. When I looked, I did not see an emphasis on Rasta — our faith, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie and the influence these had on the man Robert Marley,”he told the Jamaica Observer.
“I was not pleased with that.”
Despite his grievances, Wailer intended to attend the Emancipation Park premiere of Marley on April 19 in Kingston. However, his tune quickly changed upon hearing before the event that a red, green and gold carpet, using Ethiopian colors that represent Rastafari, was used on Park grounds.
Several Rastafarians were outraged by this decision and Wailer didn’t hold back on his feelings regarding the matter.
“I was not comfortable with the fact that they had Rasta colors on the ground… it turned me off and I decided not to attend the event,” he said.
“It is all very troublesome and upsetting that all of this took place. How are they going to fix this?”
For Wailer, the only people who should be held accountable for this carpet faux pas are the Marley family; particularly Bob Marley’s widow, Rita Marley, eldest daughter, Cedella Marley and Island Records founder, Chris Blackwell whowere all instrumental in the preparations for the premiere.
“This was a total disgrace and I am happy I was not there to witness what Rita, Cedella and Chris Blackwell did to the memory of my brother. It was filthy and dirty and I could never be involved in anything like this. How are we going to heal? I don’t understand Rita,” he said.
Wailer played a key role in the rise of Bob Marley to universal superstardom. He, Marley and late Reggae icon,Peter Tosh proved a strong force as members of The Wailers within the Reggae industry between 1964 and 1973, recording classic singles such as Soul Shakedown, Trenchtown Rock, War and Get Up, Stand Up.