Beloved musician and leader of the reggae and Rastifari movement, Bob Marley remains a legend after dying too soon at the age of 36. His music not only spread Jamaican music to the world, but shed light on the political, social, and race issues of his country. Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland, Life in a Day) directs Marley, a documentary and oral history about the father, son, and man behind the legend of Bob Marley. Two of Marley's sons, Ziggy and Robbie, met with Izumi Hasegawa to talk about the documentary, their memories of their father, his passion, and their deep connection to him even in death.
Izumi Hasegawa: Once this is released, what is it that you want audiences to know about your father if they know nothing else?
Ziggy Marley: If they know nothing else, I want then to know about his life and everything he's been through. His ups and downs, from his race being an issue to his illness to his assassination attempt to all the women he's had and everything. We just want people to be given some perspective on the music and give them some sort of emotional connection to Bob.
IH: What kind of personality did your father have? Was he quiet, patient, strict?
Robbie Marley: Well, all of those things -- quiet, patient, strict.
ZM: That's true.
RM: But a teacher and a father, not just to us but to all.
IH: Did he eventually get all of you children together when you were growing up?
ZM: Oh yeah, he'd do that. That was a big thing for him.
IH: Did you stay close all the years after he died?
IH: Were there any mysteries that were unlocked about your dad during the process of making this movie? Were there things you didn't know about your dad?
ZM: For me, a couple of points – the race issue, the color of his skin being an issue, and the time he spent in Germany. None of us were around at that point in time. I saw him in New York before he went to Germany, but that whole German period, we didn't know what was going on. I definitely learned a lot about that time and what the experience was like in Germany and what they were doing and all of that type of stuff.
IH: Whose decision was it to not let the kids know about his illness? Was it from the family or his decision?
ZM: I don't know whose decision it was but I think... Do you know anything about that, Robbie?
RM: No, I was young.
ZM: We don't know really. We just didn't know. I mean, we knew he was sick, but we didn't know what illness it was or how serious it was. As I said, we saw him in New York. He was very lively, very spirited, making jokes and just very active. Then, he was to Germany and we never knew anything from there until he came to back Miami, which is when we saw him.
IH: Sometimes it can be dangerous or at least a little disillusioning to meet your heroes, and I think for a lot of people who may know the music, the film will be an introduction to the man, not the icon. Are there things that you think they'll come away with that may shed a new light on the music?
ZM: Where the music is coming from, like the precedent is coming from, the source and the inspiration of what he's singing about.
IH: Ziggy, in your music career, how do you deal with or avoid being compared with your father?
ZM: You see, I have a life before music. It's natural for us to be compared to our father. We're his kids, his son. Even if I wasn't in music, even if my father was a carpenter, some guy in Jamaica would go "You're just like Bob. You're just like your father." That happens in Jamaica all the time. "You're just like him." Some guys that know me from when I was a kid say "My son, oh he's just like you." It's just a natural part of our lives. But, within the music industry and within the industry of the critiques of music, where it becomes "Ziggy's music is not as good as Bob's music," I don't understand. But I don't really pay much attention to that because I'm just expressing myself. We're not trying to be better than. We're not trying to be like. We're just trying to be ourselves and express ourselves how we feel.
IH: What are you both most proud of when it comes to your father? Could each of you tell us about an intimate, one on one moment you had with him that is most precious to you?
RM: There was one time when me and Steve were fighting and I got a smacking and then later on he came to me under the table and he was just telling us that brothers shouldn't fight and brothers should love one another. It's been love, not just family, but across the board worldwide for me since.
ZM: What am I most proud of? I think I'm proud of the legacy he left I think is what it is. He has left us so much. People are loving us because they don't even know us. "You're Bob's son. We love you." So I think that's a good thing for a father to leave so much that people are loving their children. I'm proud of that. Intimate experience with Bob? There's a few of them, but personal... Let me think about it. Yeah, I got a spanking, too. I remember. (laughs) You cannot forget the spankings.
IH: Was the spanking a swat or was it a spanking?
ZM: A good spanking. Discipline. Disobey your father, you always get a spanking. But otherwise, going to Zimbabwe with him, being on a plane with him, I was looking out the window and I was looking at the moon. It was the first time I'd been on such a long trip on a plane so I commented on this that this was like a trip to the moon and he just cracked up laughing about that statement that I made. And being over there and playing football, everything is there including the spanking and all that good stuff. Him trying to feed me some of that disgusting juices they used to drink. There's a lot of stuff I didn't like as a child. It was natural juices that I drink now but at that age I didn't. Him writing the songs and calling us to sing. Come sing with him and stuff like that.
IH: In what ways has your father influenced you as an artist?
ZM: As an artist, I feel that his biggest influence is me realizing that music has a purpose and it's not just for business and that music is spiritual. I get that from him that music is a spiritual thing. We believe in the almighty and we believe in God and that music is from God and we're inspired by God to give messages and ideas to people. I think that is it. Yeah. I learned that from him, that music is from God and the message is from God.
IH: I thought it was interesting how each of his children that were featured in the movie called him by different things. Your sister said she always referred to him as Daddy. You refer to him as Bob a lot. Was that something you just had the first name with him when he was there?
ZM: No, it was always Daddy. I refer to him as Bob now because he's Bob now to me. He's my brother now. We still have a relationship with our father spiritually in that invisible world that we have. Our relationship continues still and we reach a point in our relationship where it's cool for me to say Bob.
IH: You were talking before, Ziggy, about not paying attention when people compare you to him, but I think everyone as they become an adult has the experience of opening your mouth and your parents come out, whether you're disciplining your children or in a situation where you recognize "I sound just like dad. I sound just like mom." Is that something that you had to fight when you chose to make music your career? Did you say "I want to carve it out for myself?"
ZM: No, I think when I was younger I just wanted to be like him really. Everything, I just wanted to be like my father. And, as I grew within the music, I kind of became myself which was even more like my father, only without me trying though. And when I was young, I used to try it. But now I don't try it and it's even more like him because I can feel his spirit within me. I can feel similarities within us from the artistic perspective from being a musician. You know what I'm saying? We have a lot of similarities. And there are a lot of things about my father that I think I didn't know until I grew up to be the man I am that "Oh, this is actually like my father." And I didn't realize until I saw the film and Neville (Bunny Wailer) said it that Bob was shy. Robbie is shy, me shy. But I didn't know that my father was shy until one of his friends said, "Yeah, Bob was shy." I said "Oh, okay, I get it now. That's where this shyness [comes from]. I'm shy too." Because I always saw my father as ...I didn't see my father as a shy person, but he was shy, so no wonder we are shy.
IH: From an artistic standpoint, everyone is talking about the Coachella Concert that just happened with Tupac. Would you even consider doing a show like that with a hologram of your dad?
ZM: I don't know. I think ... I saw that, but I don't know. I don't know for what purpose it would be. I would have to think about the reason. Everything has to have a reason and if it's just for show, no. But if I can find some reason, alright this is the reason why I'm going to do it, and it's something that I can agree with, and I know it's for sure, then I'll do it. But otherwise, I won't do it. I've got to figure that out inside of my head first. You know what I'm saying?
IH: Everyone is trying to figure it out because I don't know how I feel about it either. If the fans wanted to, would you do it?
ZM: No, not if the fans did. No, I wouldn't. I would probably do something with Bob on an album. Would I put myself with him, that I'm not sure of.
IH: Was having an iconic father a benefit for you?
ZM: Robbie, you answer that.
RM: It benefits, but at the same time... It benefits. There's no negative in that. It always helps you to become a better person, because if I wasn't the son of [Bob Marley], then I could do bad things.
IH: For both of you, there's so much music to choose from, but is there a song that for you is either hard to listen to? Or is there a song in particular that makes you think, "That's my dad. That song definitely identifies my father."?
ZM: I think when Daddy, I say Daddy now, passed away, I think "Uprising" was out. And I think the song that I heard soon after that was "We'll be forever loving Jah," that song remind me of that time then and what he was singing. It's kind of sad when I listen to it now because it's kind of melancholy. So that song, every time I listen to it, brings me back to that time, that day when I heard that Daddy had passed away. I think that song is pretty emotional to listen to.
IH: What's the name of it?
ZM: "Forever Loving Jah."
IH: And for you, Robbie?
RM: The "Redemption Song."
Magnolia Pictures' 'Marley' comes out, understandably, on April 20th, 2012.