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November 21, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-11-21

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 5A

Bob Marley:
More than a
poster and a spliff

B ob Marley is probably
the most famous black
person in the world.
Why? Because he's dead.
There's obviously more to it
than that, but the fact that his
dreadlocked semblance has
now become a symbol standing
for something much different
him in the league of appropri-
ated heroes, somewhere amid
Che Guevara, Marilyn Monroe
and John Lennon. When once
his music was the rallying cry
of the oppressed Jamaicans
who saw in
him a revo-
who would
bring peace
to a torn
it's now the
to hazy bro- LLOYDIH
downs in CARGO
just about
every insti-
tution of higher learning in the
Because Marley is dead, his
image and, more important,
his art, is contested space,
gaining renewed cultural rel-
evance while new fans are
simultaneously (and in fair-
ness, unwittingly) losing sight
W of the context that made him
such a luminary in the first
place. Sure, it's good for sales
of his 12 million-plus-selling
greatest-hits albumLegend. But
the insistence to transform the
icon from a roots radical rocker
that the C.I.A. allegedly wanted
dead to a nappy-dreaded Dave
Matthews is a downright insult
to the man and all the good he
did for this world, let alone his
remarkable music. And if he
was alive, he certainly wouldn't
stand for it.
So, before I substantiate that
incendiary claim at the top of
this column, let's set the record
straight about where Bob Mar-
ley came from and what his
work meant to the people he
loved most. Robert Nesta Mar-
ley was born in 1945 in the
small Jamaican town of Nine
Mile in Saint Ann's Parish. His
father was English and white.
After he passed away from a
heart attack when Bob was 10,
the remaining family relocated
to Kingston's most notorious
slum, Trenchtown, where he
earned the nickname "Tuff
Gong" defending his mixed
race and diminutive height.
It was there that he met
friends and musicians who
would come to be known as
Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh,
and, collectively, The Wailers.
Success in Jamaica came quick-
ly, but that was nothing com-
pared with what was to come
in 1973.
Catch a Fire was the spark
that ignited reggae's popular-
ity worldwide, piggybacking
on Jimmy Cliff's successful
turn in The Harder They Come
to introduce new, rebellious
music. Those rough and tough
sounds coming out of Kingston
represented a gritty version of
urban black authenticity the
rest of the world was eager to
experience vicariously, but in
typical record-industry fash-
ion, not before being watered

down a bit.
The marriage between third-
world roots and first-world pop
was Island Records executive
Chris Blackwell's mission, and
his plan to cross Marley over to
the masses was ingenious.
As Marley's star rose, first in
England with "No Woman, No
Cry" and then later in America
with album Rastaman Vibra-
tion, he ignored the trappings
of celebrity, instead focusing on
peace in the streets that raised
him. As tensions rose and vio-
lence between rivaling politi-
cal parties increased, Marley
agreed to record a song, "Smile
Jamaica," that would cool down
the ghettoes, then perform a
concert of the same name two
days later. When Prime Minis-
* ter Michael Manley heard, he

moved up the election and sent
armored guards to Marley's
house in a transparent attempt
to appear to be endorsed by the
country's most influential per-
son. Marley was incensed, and
two days later the guards mys-
teriously disappeared, followed
minutes later by the arrival of
six armed gunmen. Marley's
wife Rita was shot in the head,
and his manager Don Taylor
took five bullets aimed at Mar-
ley before the sixth struck the
musician in the arm. Resilient,
Marley performed for a crowd
of 80,000 anyway, before leav-
ing Jamaica in self-imposed
He spent the next few years
as he'd spent much of the last:
touring. It's estimated that Bob
Marleywas directly responsible
for the livelihood of more than
6,000 displaced Jamaicans at
his Hope Road residence, and
the pressure of economically
supporting them kept him on
the road despite his diagnoses
of cancer. Life on the road took
its toll on him, but Marley had
one more triumphant return to
Jamaica left in him.
In 1978 The Wailersareturned
to headline the One Love Peace
Concert, intended to raise
money for the most suffering
performance of "Jamming,"
Marley called the country's two
rival political leaders onstage,
clasped their hands together,
lifted them over his head and
proclaimed "Love, prosperity
be with us all. Jah Rastafari.
Selassie I." With the power
of his music and devotion, he
united a nation.
On May 11, 1981, he died.
Since then his visage has
donned countless tapestries
and hemp necklaces. That
mega-selling compilation, Leg-
end? Released three years after
his death. The worst part is the
hardestto understand: Douche-
bags and Time magazine con-
tinue to herald his worst music,
the former by blasting his later,
more smoothly produced fare
and the latter for naming Exo-
dus the album of the century.
Bizarre doesn't begin to explain
Your bong and
this man are
not a perfect
that decision; at best, Exodus is
Marley's ninth best album.
The result: Some people,
such as hipsters, tend to dis-
miss Marley entirely on the
basis that his fans suck. I'm
partially guilty - it took me an
abnormally long time to come
around. Unfortunately, not
everyone does, and a lot of the
above-mentioned hipsters turn
into tastemakers, and thus false
impressions become real.
Furthermore, a lot of his
ethnicity has been stripped
from him. Reggae is still gen-
erally filed under the vague
"world music" label, a cat-
egory that Marley himself is

largely responsible for creating.
Worse, the urgency has also
been stripped from his music.
The image of Bob Marley in our
world now is one of ganja and
peace, love and acoustic guitar
is the blood and suffering? The
cries for burnin' and lootin' or
revolution for all men?
Because Robert Nesta Marley
is no longer with us, his name
and image are entrusted to us
to protect and his message to
spread. So put down the bong,
put on Catch A Fire and figure
out how you're going to make a
difference in the world.
- Cargo is still wondering
where all the blood and
suffering is. E-mail him with
tips at lhcargo@umich.edu.

Filmmaker Todd Haynes is confident in his choice to have six actors portray Bob Dylan in his biopic "I'm Not There," which opens tonight at The Michigan Theater.

The Dylan of his eye

n 2000, when writer-direc-
tor Todd Haynes ("Far From
Heaven") approached Jeff
Rosen, Bob Dylan's manager,
about the prospect of makinga film
on the unparalleled musician, he
had every reason to believe Dylan
would flat out say no. Dylan had
notoriously shunned filmmakers
from taking on his legacy, and for
Haynes, his subject's approval was
"I wouldn'thave even considered
going forward with the concept if I
wasn't gonna get music rights from
Dylan," Haynes said in a telephone
interview. But much to Haynes's
surprise, Dylan agreed, and eight
years later, the director's vision has
finally come to fruition with "I'm
Not There."
The film, which opens tonight
at The Michigan Theater, is no
ordinary biopic. It tackles Dylan's
different personas through six
separate roles played by a variety
of actors, among them Marcus Carl
Franklin ("Lackawanna Blues"), a
young black boy, and Cate Blanch-
"People can think it's gimmicky,
and then they have to go see the
movie," Haynes said. "From what
I continue to hear from people
who see the film is that that just
disappears and you, and it sud-
denly makes complete sense that a
woman would be playing Dylan in
Still, even after he allowed
Haynes to secure the rights to his

be as "risky" as his subject.
In striving to succeed, he was
forced to recognize the contrasting
cultural states of Dylan's era and
the present day.
"The amazing thing is just that
he had a kind of culture in the
1960s of audiences that kind of
wanted to have their minds blown
all the time," he said. Though that
wouldn't necessarily be the most
apt description of today's viewers,
he said he didn't want to short-
change them of the "unique results
of that time."
Haynes said that every time
someone makes a movie, not to
mention one as complex and high
profile as "I'm Not There," "you
kind of feel you're naked again and
you're kind of figuring it all out
from scratch, as if you never had
done it before." But he refused to
allow that vulnerability to threaten
him on "I'm Not There."
"I made a pact with myself that I
was going to allow it tobe complex
and allow it to be combustive and
exciting," he said. "Like the music
and like the period, I also wanted it
to be fun and full of emotions and
Haynes said he made the movie
he intended to make, but he isn't
sure if it would be a movie that befits
a contemporary audience. "I didn't
really know how today's world
- which is very different from the
'60s - would respond to it."
"So far," he said, "I've been kind
of blown away."

How Todd Haynes made
the first real Dylan biopic
By Noah Dean Stahl Daily Arts Writer

music, Dylan remained at bay from
the production.
"Dylan himself has pretty much
been being Dylan," Haynes said,
"doing his own thing."
Haynes said his goals for "I'm
Not There" were "high and mighty."
"I had this, this, this unbelievabfy
famous, beloved artist, popular
American artist, and his massive,

beguiling, rich and varied body of
work, you know, to put into a movie
for the first time."
Haynes said his concentration
was fueled and inspired by Dylan's
"I really took my cue from the
adventures that Dylan himself, um,
uh, embarked on in popular music,"
Haynes said. He said he wanted to

Second installment
drowned by lyrics

Daily Arts Writer
There are the "Indiana Jones"
and "Star Wars" trilogies - but a
Saves the Day trilogy? With Under
the Boards, Saves the Day releases
the middle piece of its self-described
trilogy that start-
ed with last year's
Sound the Alarm
and will be com- SaVeS the
pleted with next
year's Daybreak. Day
But what makes Underthe
this trilogy espe- Boards
cially remarkable Vagrant
when compared
to the band's other
work is unclear.
The New Jersey quartet keeps its
basic formula: dismal lyrics on top
ofeffervescent pop punk. And Chris
Conley's words are seriously dismal.
Not even 30 seconds into the album,
vocalist Conley sings "Iwanna crawl
under the ground and not come out
/ For 37 years when my life runs out
/ The demon in my mouth that spits
words out / Made everybody hate
me make me kill myself."
It accurately sets the tone for the
rest of the record. With only a few
exceptions, Conley's words shift
between roundabout metaphors for
loneliness and desperate pleas. On
"Getaway," he cries, "I don't wanna

live another day... The pain won't let
me get away." He avoids the graphic
descriptions of destroying his body
that colored most of the songs on
Sound the Alarm, and even tones
down his trademark violent fanta-
sies about dismembering enemies.
The only instance is on "When I'm
Not There": "Cause I loveto wonder
how you'll look without your teeth."
Unfortunately, what Conley also
leaves out is a compelling storyline
and other characters that could
make the trilogy cohesive. Instead
the depression grows until the
finale "Turning Over in My Tomb,"
which features him - you guessed
it - turning over in his tomb and
still reporting on the desperation of
himself and everyone else.
Even Conley's voice has gotten
whinier. Whereas pre-Sound the
Alarm his croon was vulnerable
and clear, the words now are often
spit out through a nasally yelp that
sounds as if he's being punched in
the stomach when he stretches a
The band is also pulled between
the simple pop punk of its past and a
larger, richer sound. This holds true
even on tracks like "When I'm Not
There," which begins with a swell
of airy guitars and noise before
the band dissolves into the surging
drums, jangly bass and palm-muted
guitar. The song alternates between

He might look good on stage, but his lyrics are another story.

of layer
as if the
up and
mer Du

amusement and explosions the changes with the perfect fills.
ed sound. While slower than Sound the Alarm
ughout the album, it sounds overall, Lang keeps the energy up in
members are enamored with two-minute anthems like "Because
You Are No Other" and creates ten-
sion in the poppy piano-lead "Lone-
ly Nights."
paves the Day A bit gloomier and more experi-
mentalthanothers, Under theBoards
power-pop is still undeniably a Saves the Day
record, and as such, it's really not
trilogy? disappointing. Where the lyrics fail
iu l(and they fail hard), the new musi-
Serious y? cal directions pad it, and the mood
varies enough to keep it engaging.
But considered as a chapter of the
greater trilogy, it fails to find a cap-
with their pedal boards. tivatingnarrative. The endingtothe
ately, they change it up by trilogy may rely on Daybreak, but
g them to let loose and pogo it won't be able to undo the dam-
down. Meanwhile, drum- age done on the lyrics of Under the
arijah Lang naturally meets Boards.

E-mail klein@michigandaily.com for an Arts application.

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