In one of Bob Marley’s many fantastic recordings, Try Me, like he had done in many songs, he called himself not only a Black man, but an African man. But invariably that is what stands in the way of the reach of his music.

And perhaps the problem why the making of this film by a white dominated firm and a white Scottish director spelled some trouble right from start. The dream of Bob Marley’s music has always focused on seeing through a united Africa. A dream that a significant part of the world, i.e. the West, where Kevin McDonald hails from – which also taps to the beautiful tunes of Reggae music  – continues to feel uncomfortable with.

So, right from frame one, director Kevin McDonald rooted Bob Marley safely within the comfortable – Great Britain. This so-called ‘part’ of the man – which no one denies, like no Black person denies slavery and colonialism as part of the recent African experience, or like Europe cannot deny its African origins of civilization – quickly became the more serious part of the film.

Why? Because, director Kevin McDonald is Scottish himself, after all, and he is quite uncomfortable with the ideas expressed in Bob Marley’s songs – of an African Unity.

Within the first few minutes of the film, you are flooded with stories of who Bob Marley’s father could have been, not who became a father to him in Jamaica. We are inundated with the story of a British forest guard who once lived in Jamaica and who might have, in his 60s impressed himself upon Bob’s mom, a black girl,who was at a tender age of only 16.

As if that wasn’t enough, you were peppered with pictures of this British man’s family, calling them out as Bob’s white cousins and siblings, some on horseback, and an excited voice-over brandishing the photos as, “this is Bob’s family.”

At this time, you know all too well what road we are trudging along – a British man’s fetish with a Black icon. But before he can fully enjoy it, we are to believe from the outset that whatever Bob Marley was, his non-relationship with some British man – whom he had never laid eyes on – was nonetheless the pivotal figure of Bob and his music.

We are supposed to accept that Bob was never a Black man. No! That he was not African! Far from it. Neither was his music, and alas, he was never ‘pon the black man’s side!’

If, and only if, for all intents and purposes you thought Reggae was Black music, you would have had to re-think that! This film pulls your ears into submission, with echoes of a Reggae with white roots. Reggae may have just developed, if not out of an independent randomness, then certainly from something more akin to white musical influences.

Reggae is stripped of its African connection so much that it become unrecognizable. Kevin McDonald and his white entourage set out to white-wash Reggae, its roots and all who performed it. That is caricature. That is blasphemy.

So you kept asking yourself at every turn of this documentary the question any sensible person would ask. “Bob was white?” Yes, in Kevin McDonald’s world. It seems that the rules have slightly changed in his post-racial world.

Besides the questions surrounding Bob Marley’s birth in those colonial times, the question of how a white man in his 60s could have raped a 16 year old Black girl – which should sadden anyone in their right mind – never stroked or came up in Kevin McDonald’s consciousness. Rather, his seeming fascination with that atrocity and how he managed to tackle the issue without concern, frightened me most!

Even Bob Marley’s Corner Stone, a song that was clearly a metaphor about Bob’s love life – a builder (a lady) who refused a stone (him) – was turned into something bizarre. According to Mr. McDonald, Bob Marley was merely professing to his ‘never seen‘ dad who ‘rejected‘ him.

A reach that is not only laughable and patronizing, but completely and utterly supercilious.

This film remains the quirkiest attempt to turn a Jamaican into a British man – an African into a white man. But once you can appreciate why Mr. McDonald had to do it the movie is a whole lot easier to swallow like the white Jesus Christianity peddles across the world.

The fundamentals about Mr. McDonald’s arguments, like other white-washed readings into everything that intimidates racists and supremacists, is that they find every reason to appropriate everything Black that that they love as definitely white influenced.

Even the fact that Black people tend to be better at sports is painted with a Slave Breeding theory that is, like eugenics itself, stooped in bigoted rememberings of the KKK.

Further, Kevin McDonald tacitly translates manners supposedly directed at Bob during his childhood because of his lighter-skin, as hatred by black people, calling them reverse-racism while at the same time carefully side-stepping the issue of the racist, and oftentimes slave owning white ‘daddy’ – who would father children and still enslave them.

In any case, I couldn’t be any more certain that this act of accusing Black folk of reverse-racism is not a wider scheme itself. If Kevin McDonald gathered anything at all from his education at that prestigious Boarding School in Scotland, I am sure it certainly was not a thorough understanding of race and race relations in neither Jamaica nor in the rest of the world.

So, with much ignorance, or armed with a conscious effort to distort history and image, this film marched on pointing fingers at Bob’s uncles and family, labeling them racist, lazy(the other pseudo-term for the ‘n-word’) and completely inhumane to Bob Marley – because according to him, Bob earned every living in his own home the hard way because he was perceived as unacceptable in Jamaica!

That was the second lie.

In retrospect however, the moment this roller-coaster took off, you knew Black history was going to be turned upside down, bottoms up and rolled up the same way Jesus Christ and the African origins of the Hebrews has been white-washed throughout time and space in order that Christianity might become acceptable to people who just happen to be incapable of accepting other people and anything African, except for her natural resources.

No one seems to have been able to explain away this deep seated discomfort with ‘Blackness’ yet. Maybe it just beats common sense?

So in the full glare of this discomfort we are fed a sort of European elitism – another concoction/fabrication of history. In white washing everything Bob Marley stood for, presenting him as a man above-race, non-racial, Kevin McDonald sought to demobilize any revolutionary verve Bob Marley may have left behind in support for the socio-economic emancipation of Africans the world over from the ruins of the abominable Trans-Atlantic-Slave Trade and the West’s unending racism and neo-imperialism.

The film successfuly managed to tell the story of the horrific enslavement of Africans from the forts and castles of Ghana’s coasts to the new world in a sheer 15 seconds. Then it managed within the same time frame to extricate the indomitable cultural roots that animated Africans, Bob Marley included, in the new world to create unique musical forms like Reggae.

But why should the significance of the Slave Trade and its effects on the fall of the West African Empires in the 1400s A.D. and the trauma it left on Africans everywhere, matter to a prestigious Scottish Boarding House graduate?

Since the world cannot seem to love Bob Marley the way he was – as Black as Christ – perhaps, the problem of the 21st Century has evolved in ways that Du Bois himself could not have fathomed.

When we cannot love the Rastafarian unless his sense of purpose, his prestige as an African descendant and his roots in an African cultural philosophical thought have been stripped bare to his bones in order to make him more acceptable and non-threatening to his wide white audiences, then I am sorry, we live in a word of intolerant buffoons.

Without stressing Reggae’s roots in Ska – a full-fledged mixture of influences from African “burru” percussion, American jazz and R&B – it was once again inexpedient to lull the secret admirers of Reggae to express their outward love for the genre without incurring the wrath of the rest of the racist world.

You could blame this blunder on ignorance and even probably, a reluctance to do adequate research. However, you can’t possibly excuse the filmmakers for the constant whitewashing of Bob Marley’s blackness and the femininization of his manhood.

And what’s with hitting our heads every time with, ‘what a womanizer he was?’

At this point, you begin searching for Spike Lee! You begin looking for John Singleton. You begin looking for all the black filmmakers who could have and would have made a much better documentary without question.

Because, if at all Bob Marley’s Blackness or masculinity was ever gauged, it was measured only in accordance with his involvement in the Rastafarian Faith. If at all his creativity and genius was ever discussed, it was meshed with a British tint that was completely absent in the man’s life.

In sum, the filmmakers have managed to make mockery of Rastafarianism – they’ve reduced it to some ‘infantile fascination’ with Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. You see?

Even Christianity is not exempt from any such criticism from Kevin, if such excuses could even be made. The Christian Faith is as much a worshiper of an incredible individual who walked the planet in flesh and blood. What is so senseless about Rastafarianism and the way it hails Haile Selassie I?

Furthermore, how do you plant, within the hour, a Bob Marley who supposedly claims he’s not on the Black man’s side but who believed God Himself Black, incarnated in human form and come to save Black people from white oppression?

Not to mention that Stolen from Africa, brought to America… fighting on arrival, fighting for survival, remains a central message of Bob’s doctrine – his belief that besides the Buffalo Soldier’s heroics or gallantry, both of which were ample, the struggle to unite Africa and all peoples of African descent in order to fight white oppression was paramount.

I feel the real point to Bob Marley’s life as it has been narrated by Kevin McDonalds was completely skipped and whitewashed. I am not surprised, since he’s the same man who directed The Last King of Scotland – a particularly parochial representation of Idi Amin Dada of Uganda.

I believe that Bob Marley’s life was more about the struggle for survival, and what choices and compromises people of African descent have had to make especially in the new world.

So, dare I call Kevin McDonald’s rendition of Bob Marley’s life, Marley 2012, Birth Of A Nation Marley. And in every respect I have at least spared him a lesson in how a Black director could have and would have told Bob Marley’s story the truthful way.

Lest he forgets, it would have been thorough, it would have been pointed and above all, it would have been a black man’s story whose mother, and his Jamaican family happened to have been his only parents in life!

Director: Kevin Macdonald
Stars: Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley and Jimmy Cliff


  1. Def. a documentary that white folks will appreciate a whole lot more than black folk… nonetheless this article is quite harsh.

  2. I saw the film as well and enjoyed it greatly. I did not see how Marley was feminized. I also quite enjoyed how it told essentially of how Bob’s White side refused him only for Bob to become the most famous Marley of all. I thought it downplayed his womanizing significantly insisting Bob was shy and it was the women who aggressively pursued him. Also Blacks in Jamaica were often cruel to light or half caste children. They referred to my own father as mango shit because of his light complexion. Is the author of the critique Jamaican? Why settle for Spike or John Singleton? Why not insist a Black Jamaican director would be better suited to tell this story? Bob was both Black and White despite how our ignorant American
    society insists that one drop of black blood makes you black.

    • Reid, sometimes let’s call a spade, a spade. It wasn’t White American society that started the one drop rule. The history from thousands of years before Christ, shows that there was no such race as ‘White!’ The ancients, the Kermites (now refered to as the ancient Egyptians) called themselves Black! And it wasn’t in contrast to to how Europeans looked – for they barely even formed societies. They called themselves black whether you were light skin or dark skin – since the original people who started civilization and all its accouterments, the Nubians, were some of the darkest people in Africa.

      If you read, this book called ‘White’ it throws light on the origins of the idea of whiteness. When Jesus was accepted into Roman society the idea of purity – ‘whiteness’ – started rearing its ugly head in Europe. The vast expanding technological knowledge which had hitherto been restricted to the temples in Nubia and Kermit, became public good in Europe.

      All these combined in the Heaven going European to start developing ‘whiteness’ in contrast to the Africans who taught them civilization. It was in part a claim to ownership of existence, maturity and advancement. This Jesus, this white Jesus (though Jesus was a dark skin woolly haired man) stoked the ambivalence towards Africans and the Kermites (Blacks).

      On one hand these black people taught you civilization – but which made them feel inferior, from which envy and hate ensued. And on the other hand, if Jesus was pure, i.e if Jesus was white, and Europeans can be white, then Blacks are the ‘devils.’ You dig? The slippery slope that led Europeans to commit the most evil racial genocides and slavery the world has ever known.

      It was through this slavery that Bob was born. And for all it was, he was Black!

      Now, after many have died for wrestling freedom from the hands of the racist Western powers, Bob is now both black and white? How convenient? Don’t you see how we continue to perpetrate the idea that nothing good comes out of black? Don’t you see how this director tries to weave Bob’s whiteness into Bob’s genius?

      In this way, when we begin to see Bob as both white and black, then we can reconcile how ans why he could have been the genius he was – that he was part white. This is what this article challenges vehemently and I agree with Daite.

      I agree because I am tired of the nonsense myself. I could go one but I would like to conclude with this: ‘whiteness’ as a concept is a deeply seated racial concept. Blackness was not racial, it was rally just what the original people of mother Earth called themselves, who they knew they were.

      So let’s call a spade a spade. Bob was Black! He’s an offspring of a black mother and a European father. ‘Whiteness’ played no role in his life! So why keep plugging my ear with his ‘white father’ except you want to believe the genius that Bob was, was only because he had some ‘whiteness’ in him – which is the gaddamn racist thing to say, film, and do!

  3. Pie And black people wonder why they are still looked down upon. No color is better thwn another. All people’s, yep even white, have been slaves. But they managed to move on in both life and history. The creator made men in women in all colors and shapes that we may by unique unto ourselves. Being black did not make bob Marley bob Marley. His life and choices did. Black and white didn’t do a rank thing. You want to stop racism? Then stop your own racist thoughts from coming out of your mouth. Or fingertips, as the anonymity of the internet brings. Reparations? No one gets them from no one. We move ever forward. we evolve. I pity every racist. But I can show them no mercy, for racists have no mercy for anyone. Bob said himself he’s not on the black side or white side, but upon God’s side. you racist asshole’s ought to keep that in mind before you try to convince people that bob Marley was one himself. Shame on you all. How long must we suffer this stupid state of mind? When will we finally be able to truly live together as the human race, instead of racist humans? Only love can conquer hate. One love!
    -Cane Loman. White American.

    • Cane! Stopping spreading the nonsense that even white people have been slaves. You seem to lack an obvious understanding of what transpired in The Trans-Atlantic-Slave trade.
      You also need to pick up a book. Learn how to write English. It’s frustrating to read your thoughts sometimes.
      Plus, dude, you can keep preaching to black people that only love conquers hate while you keep raping their women and imprisoning their men. Whoever black or white, believes that nonsense can go to hell.
      The way we see it here in Osaka, whites have undoubtedly become the first people to build a civilization based on mocking and dehumanizing others. I feel only sorry.


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