Interviews
Bob Marley: Making of a Legend

Bob Marley: Making of a Legend

“I will never be a politician nor will I ever think political. Just deal with life and nature.”

Bob Marley

Review & Interview by: Maliika Walker- Island Stage Freelance Writer

I didn’t know what to expect when I attended the Brooklyn screening of the documentary, Bob Marley:Making of a Legend. I began hearing about the film in 2011, about six months before Kevin McDonald’s ‘Marley’ film was released. The film was directed by Esther Anderson and Gian Godoy. Initially I thought this was just another attempt by someone to make money off of Bob Marley’s name and image. As a “Marleyian”, (the nickname I give to diehard Marley fans like myself), I have watched countless Bob Marley documentaries but was always disappointed in the end. Most of the previous documentaries or television specials just repackaged the same information that was already told by another source. What could be the filmmaker’s motive for releasing this footage thirty years after it was filmed? What possible new information can this film provide to fans that we did not already know? I got the answer to these questions and more upon watching the film, Bob Marley: Making of Legend.
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If you are looking for a film that covers Bob Marley’s entire life, you will not find that here. What you will find is a film that captures Bob Marley and Peter Tosh before they became known to the world. This film covers the time period just after ‘Catch a Fire’ was released but before the breakup that would change the course of The Wailers lives forever. I was not even bothered by the poor video quality of the footage because of the significance of what was captured. Bob and Peter are filmed reasoning at 56 Hope Road on topics such as the origination of herb, religion, and Bob’s car problems. A friend of mine who saw the film didn’t understand why the conversation Bob and Peter had about Bob’s car problems was in the film but I saw it from a different perspective. I felt like the entire conversation was a precious moment in time, an intimate moment that only brothers share. While watching Bob and Peter communicate, I couldn’t help but think of how much pain the both of them must have felt when the time came that they no longer shared such closeness.

Some reviewers have stated that this film had no message but I disagree. The message to me is here is a legend on the precipice of spreading his music all over the globe. In this film Bob is just being Bob without all the hoopla that is fame. The Bob Marley presented in this film is not the mystical figure that he has become, but someone who can be anyone one of us.

The most pivotal scene to me is the footage of The Wailers first rehearsal. Watching Bob, Peter, and Bunny Wailer arrive at Hope Road to rehearse then witnessing them work together, with the Barrett brothers, was truly beyond amazing to watch. It would have been wonderful to hear the actual musical performance portion of the rehearsal, but the filmmakers were not allowed to use any recordings of Bob Marley or The Wailers. Instead, the film has a soundtrack of reggae infused tracks by various artists such as Francois Jocky, Akila Barrett, and Chris Anderson.

Esther Anderson also shared an experience she and Bob Marley had in Haiti in 1973. They were traveling with Island Records but put in a hotel separate from the rest of the group. They were kept separated the entire trip and apparently no one noticed they were missing until they got to the plane to depart the island. This incident obviously took place before Bob Marley started making money for Island Records. Ms. Anderson explained how angry she and Bob were due to their treatment by the record label and she felt their actions were prejudiced. The experience from this trip would eventually bring her and Bob closer together as they entered into a relationship, but she explains she did not know he was married. She also shares that this incident inspired the classic Wailers tune, Get Up Stand Up. The Wailer’s classic ‘Rastaman Chant’ was apparently inspired by a song called ‘Fly Away Home’ performed regularly by a Rastaman by the name of Bongo Mackey. Another key revelation that surprised the audience was Ms. Anderson stating that ‘I Shot the Sherriff’ was inspired by Bob Marley’s discovery that she was taking birth control pills.

‘Bob Marley: Making of a Legend’ is not to be missed by fans of The Wailers, Peter Tosh, or Bob Marley. The film shows us some of the magic that was The Wailers. The brotherhood that helped introduce reggae to the world. True giants of Roots Reggae before the fame and heartache that will take root a short time after this documentary was filmed. This is not only a story about Bob Marley but a brief look into the history of The Wailers. You do not see Bunny Wailer a lot but his presence is felt. The footage of Bob and Peter reasoning and making music together alone makes this film a must own.

Island Stage recently got the opportunity to speak with Esther Anderson about her film and projects. Ms. Anderson is a legendary Jamaican filmmaker, actress, and photographer. Her most known film as an actress is ‘A Warm December’ where she acted alongside Academy Award winner Sidney Pointier.

Check out my interview with this trailblazing woman below.

Esther Anderson
Island Stage
Thank you for taking time to speak with me today.
What inspired you to film Bob Marley and The Wailers during that time?

Esther

I was inspired by another documentary filmmaker, Stan Lathan. I wanted him to do it, but Chris Blackwell, head of Island Records at the time refused the offer. Stan told me to use a Sony Camera (one of the first) loaned to me by a friend, and start making the blue print that would help tell the story of where the music came from. I came from the world of cinema as I was an actress and had also just finish making my first 30 minute film as a director/writer. But all this is documented in the film.

Island Stage

I read that the footage for the film was out of your possession for thirty years. What were the circumstances of the film returning to you?

Esther

The footage was left at the office at 56 Hope Rd where I was also staying, while I accompanied The WAILERS on the tour in the UK. The tour was to promote the first album (for Island Records), CATCH A FIRE, which had been released the year before but was not moving off the shelf. In 2001 I believe a BBC CHANNEL 4 documentary filmmaker came to my home in Cheyne Row London, to interview me for the doc he was making on Bob Marley. He told me about the footage and I explained how the footage was taken from my possession to him. He said they were found in a garage in Canada and were completely destroyed. However, they baked them and brought the image back, a resurrection of Bob and the others I call it. He returned my footage to me, at least what he had, because there is lots more missing. I was relieved as I had seen bits of it pirated and didn’t know who had it or was doing it.

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What portion of the film is most impactful for you and why?

Esther

The sequence with Bob and Peter Tosh discovering the camera and reasoning upstairs at 56 Hope Road (now the Bob Marley Museum) about their philosophy and the first rehearsal in the dingy little room with one light bulb, allotted them for rehearsal. Bob and Peter were both young and vulnerable, discovering cords with the other Wailers, a real eye opener.

Island Stage

‘Bob Marley: Making of a Legend’ has received rave reviews from critics and the audience. Please express how this makes you feel.

Esther

I feel overwhelmed by the audience and fans who love Reggae Music, Bob, and Jamaica. It has been an official selection at over 40 International Film Festivals and special screenings. The film won 5 awards including a Unesco Honors Award through the Jamaica Reggae Film Festival.

Island Stage

You were very much involved in The Wailers careers after they signed with Island. What were your observations of them at the time? Did you envision how iconic they would become?

Esther

They were young and impressionable but fired up and ready to go, at least Peter, Bob and the Barrett Brothers who would be the mainstay of the group. The musical group had just been formed, which is different from a harmony trio with backing session musician. The Barrett Brothers (Carly and Family Man) were the original Upsetters with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry so they were heavy duty musicians, and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett would become the arranger of all the albums that would later be created. What I heard on the ‘Catch a Fire’ album won me over completely. I made up my mind to return to Jamaica with Bob and help him make it happen. It was not easy but I knew they could do it. They had been singing for ten years before and couldn’t feed their children because the same person giving them the deal now was the one pirating their music all those years without paying them royalties. From the first tour when I watched the audience in Birmingham, UK and saw the way the audience crowded around Familyman Barrett, wondering how he was playing the bass like that, and the way a handful of people also called out Bob’s name. I knew if they stuck with it, although it seemed dismal at the time, they would be as big as the Beatles or the Stones. I had complete confidence in them and invested my own funds in them to keep them going. No budget came from the Record Company or the head of the Label to help with the tour.

Bob Marley Catch a Fire 1973

Island Stage

You have taken some iconic photos over the years of Bob Marley & The Wailers. A few photos have been used as album covers, including the iconic ‘Burnin’ cover. How does it feel to see your images all over the world today?

Esther

It is very satisfying to see the appreciation fans and others show for my photographic work on The Wailers during those early beginnings but I find it heartbreaking that so many have come after me and got their photo books published, but i could get arrested in any western country that I tried to publish mine. My photographs launched Bob’s career and relaunched the ‘Catch a Fire’ album with the first poster of Bob, yet not one publisher would give me a chance. I understand my ex-partner brought up all of the pictures of me and Bob and shelved them so no records exist with us but they couldn’t do the same with the album covers. I was never paid for any of them in fact I paid from my own pocket to the people on the ‘Burnin’ album cover. That album is now in a capsule in the Metropolitan Museum in New York with other items from this last century, to be opened on the night of 2099 to greet the new century 3000 AD. That’s real history. Our work will live on, this makes me happy.

 

Esther Anderson & Bob Marley

 

 

Island Stage

So many fans all over the world feel connected with Bob Marley’s music. How would you describe Bob Marley to his fans?

Esther

The Bob Marley I knew was 26 years old when we met I was 28. I thought he was a young innocent boy but later he told me he had a son, Robert Nesta Marley, he seemed proud this child was named after him. On our return to Jamaica after a visit to Trinidad Carnival and tour of the Islands with the Record Company head, he took me to Trench Town to introduce the baby and his mother. I watched him as he tenderly fed his young son and it was as if I was watching something from the Bible, “children having children”, a sign of the last days the bible but he really cared for children. As I got to know him more intimately he opened up about his true feelings for the suffering of the poor, the unjust world that the youth who defended Rastafari had to suffer, and the anger he felt towards the pirates who had robbed him and his fellow musicians for over 10 years. He had a soft heart, but had to always show a face that made them call him Tuff Gong. He was passionate about his desire to get the music to its people and not just Jamaicans, but to the universal world that he was convinced would embrace what he had to say.

Island Stage

What message would you like fans to come away with after watching the film?

Esther

That Bob Marley was a down to earth natural youth. That he was not unreachable, not someone you have to praise and think he is a God. So you think “oh well, that is Bob Marley, I could never do what he did.” Not true. Bob had support from a record label that was known as pioneering and he was allowed through the economic door. If the same effort and backing was behind any other with the same talent they could be the equivalent but he was handsome and the camera loved him. He wanted it so badly he cooperated fully with whatever I wanted to do with him. So yes the Bob I knew remains a young man who came up from under the oppressor to give hope to the world.

Island Stage

I have to ask. Do you have a favorite album of The Wailers or Bob Marley & The Wailers? If so, which one and why?

Esther

I can’t say I have a favorite Album, but I must say the first 3 ‘Catch a Fire’, ‘Burnin’, and ‘Natty Dread’. Those albums launched his career and are important works. If you listen to the lyrics in those songs, they all have songs on them that I collaborated on, including I Shot the Sheriff, which made him a millionaire 1 year after knowing me. All these answers I have given you are documented in my film ‘Bob Marley the Making of a Legend.’

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Island Stage

What is next for Esther Anderson?

The last in my trilogy of role models in popular culture, my first documentary dealing with this issue was on the writer Alexander Dumas of the Three Musketeers, will be on the Russian Poet Alexandre Pushkin who is of also of African descent. We are in pre-production with that now, while we continue to tour with this film to countries throughout the world, participating in Q and A’s and to meeting me in person. It’s been a great experience watching people of all these countries embrace Rastafari and Bob Marley as their role model.

Please visit the filmmaker’s website for information on how to rent or purchase the film: The Making of a Legend website It is now available for your viewing pleasure…

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Comments
  1. Gian Godoy

    12 months ago

    Great review. Thank you Maliika

  2. Gian Godoy

    12 months ago

    Great review Maliika

  3. Ras Omeek Williams

    11 months ago

    follow me on twitter @rasomeek I am a rising reggae star so Check me out on
    http://www.reverbnation.com/rasomeek and http://www.soundcloud.com/ras-omeek-d-1
    For free music and free download of my song and others .an like my facebook fan page and you can also

  4. Barbie Kameika

    11 months ago

    Awesome Interview!!! Esther,thank you …