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New Marley film sheds new light on singer's inspiration

A new film about the life of Bob Marley uncovers intriguing new details about the formative years of the reggae legend. For Marley, director Kevin Macdonald has compiled in-depth interviews with those closest to Marley, including the singer's wife Rita and Bunny Livingstone, a member of the original Wailers.

A key to understanding Marley’s complex character, Macdonald said in an interview with The Guardian, was knowing that Marley’s absent father was white: "A lot of people assume Bob was black and are surprised to discover he had a white father".

That was a considerable stigma in the small Jamaican village where Marley grew up, and the director believes that was the spur for the singer’s interest in Rastafarianism and black identity.

"I was doing some press with Ziggy Marley the other day," Macdonald said, "and he said of his father, 'I think Bob always regretted that he wasn't black.' I wouldn't put it in those bald terms, but I think that was a key to his psychology and to the music. He was always the outsider, and he found a way in his life and music to redeem that fact."

Macdonald was particularly impressed with the way that Marley’s music and inspiration continue to exert considerable power, particularly in Africa. "In Tunisia at the start of the Arab spring, people are singing Get Up, Stand Up," Macdonald said. "Immediately after the fruit seller set fire to himself to start the revolution, that was the slogan written on the wall near where he died."

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