A scene from the new documentary, “Marley,” shows an all-white crowd gathered to watch Jamaican reggae artist Bob Marley perform in the U.S. in the late 1970s. Even though Marley was influenced by American rhythm and blues artists, his own music was slow to catch on with African-Americans during his lifetime.
“He had issue with it,” Marley’s son Ziggy Marley told “Nightline,” “because he wanted African-Americans to hear his message.”
Bob Marley’s children, band mates, widow and ex-girlfriends help tell his story in the mammoth documentary covering the legendary artist’s humble beginnings in Jamaica and rise to become reggae’s first and biggest international superstar.
“He covers such a wide spectrum of people now, and it keeps growing,” Ziggy Marley said. “He has a message for everybody. He has a message for the fighters. He has a message for the peace guys.”
“Nightline” spent the day with Ziggy Marley and other members of the Marley family on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles, where they celebrated the city’s inaugural “Bob Marley Day” and the online and DVD release of “Marley.”
In the morning, Ziggy and his sister Karen Marley accepted a proclamation from Los Angeles City Councilmen Tom LaBonge and Joe Buscaino.
“I can’t believe Ziggy Marley is in the City Hall right here,” Buscaino said, visibly excited. The councilman broke into a version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” on the floor of City Hall.
“It’s great to have a family vibe on Bob Marley day,” Ziggy Marley said. “It’s official but it’s unofficial, which is Bob.”
Bob Marley died in 1981 at the age 36 from cancer, and his eldest son Ziggy Marley has taken on the mantle, first performing with his brothers and sisters in “The Melody Makers” and then moving onto a solo career as a multi-Grammy winning artist.
From his office on a residential street in West Hollywood, Ziggy Marley performed several Bob Marley songs for “Nightline,” including “War,” “Get Up, Stand Up,” and “Three Little Birds.”
“If I’m doing a concert and I’m having a problem with the audience…I just play a Bob Marley song and I’m good for the rest of the night,” Ziggy Marley said with a laugh. “I come out and just pull like ‘Jammin” or ‘Is This Love’ and I’ve got them now. Let me go back and do some of my own stuff.”
Ziggy said he learned things about his father in the process of working on the documentary, including the fact that his father was discriminated against in Jamaica because his father was white.
“I think probably how he dealt with that was to just be accepted by his peers around him through music, through forming a group, through being able to sing,” Ziggy Marley said.
Ziggy Marley, now 43, seven years older than his father was when he died, said the process of making “Marley” led him to old photographs that revealed how young his father was when he died.
“It never really hit me before how young 36 is, because when I was a child, he was like a big, old man to me,” he said. “I wish he could have experienced more, you know, and lived a little longer.”