Think beyond the jams with the films, books, stage shows and exhibitions to help you get closer to reggae royalty
“If you want to get to know me, you will have to play football against me and the Wailers…”
According to Bob Marley, there was only one way to really understand him. A lifelong Santos and Spurs fan, Marley was obsessed with football – juggling his love of the sport with a family of 11, his deeply held Rastafarian religion and his role as a Jamaican cultural icon across two decades spent redefining reggae. If you want to delve deeper into Marley’s story without researching 70s era football clubs, there are plenty of other great ways of getting closer to the man behind the music.
Bob Marley One Love Experience
You might not be able to join Marley on the pitch, but you can see his muddy football boots up close in the new exhibition of his life at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Running for 10 weeks from the start of February 2022, the Bob Marley One Love Experience showcases Marley’s life and legacy through photographs, memorabilia and artwork. As well as seeing Marley’s boots, gold records and backstage shots, you can also swing through Jamaica in the One Love Forest (accompanied by the sounds and smells of the countryside) or dance to a silent disco in the Soul Shakedown Studio.
The exhibition is running until April 18, and tickets are available here.
Get Up Stand Up!
Arinzé Kene takes on the role of Marley in Lee Hall’s (Billy Elliot) impressionistic jukebox musical – a show that turns politics, religion and history into the kind of big night out that has audiences dancing in the aisles. Never shying away from the more complicated sides of Marley’s life (like his several affairs – movingly giving ‘No Woman, No Cry’ to his spurned wife, Rita, played by Gabrielle Brooks), Get Up Stand Up! is more about the power of legacy as it remixes different moments of his life story. If you want to understand Marley’s spirit (as well as hearing Kene’s pitch perfect tribute in full), there’s no better way to experience it live.
Get Up Stand Up! is playing at London’s Lyric Theatre and tickets are available here.
Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme both helped develop this landmark documentary before director Kevin Macdonald (Touching The Void, The Last King Of Scotland) took the reins. Spanning Marley’s whole life, packed with archival footage, and featuring exhaustive interviews with those who knew him (including his wife and children, and the likes of Bunny Wailer, Lee “Scratch”Perry, Aston Barrett and Peter Tosh), it’s still regarded as the definitive route into Marley’s life and legacy. Six years later, Macdonald did the same for Whitney Houston with 2018’s Whitney, picking up a Grammy nomination for Best Music Film.
A Brief History Of Seven Killings
Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize award for his novel built around the assassination attempt made on Marley’s life in 1976. Reading like an Oliver Stone film, the book sprawls across three decades and a landscape of Jamaican gangsters, CIA coverups, crooked journalists and America’s war on drugs. Real-life characters are fictionalised and Marley is sonly referred to as “The singer” throughout, but the book stands as a great way to get into the zeitgeist that Marley helped shape in the mid 70s. An HBO miniseries is already in the works…
Of course, the best way of really getting into Bob Marley is just to dive into his back catalogue. 1983’s posthumous release Confrontation is far too deep a cut to start with (made up entirely of unfinished fragments and leftover recording session tracks), and the early Wailers ska albums feel like they’re still waiting for a new sound to come along, but dip into anything from Soul Revolution Part II (1971) to Uprising (1980) and you’ll find some of the most electric reggae ever recorded. Exodus, Catch A Fire and Natty Dread are arguably the best albums to start and end with, but if you want a taste of Marley’s finest, listen to our essential playlist below.