Despite all the scholarship that exists about pop history, many mysteries remain: who killed Jam Master Jay; what exactly happened the night Sam Cooke died; and what exactly was the relationship between Johnny Cash and Richard Nixon? The new from Netflix Remastered docuseries looks to investigate these stories and more in the coming months, starting with its first entry, Who shot the sheriff?a look at the events leading up to – and following – the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley. Here, a few things we gleaned from the hour-long documentary, directed by Kief Davidson, who previously directed The ivory gameabout activists trying to stave off the ivory trade in Africa.
Even in the Kanye-Trump days, Marley was a political pawn in a way that most contemporary musicians probably can’t even imagine.
Prior to the attempt on his life, Marley was caught between two rival factions in his homeland: Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley’s progressive-socialist PNP (People’s National Party) and the conservative Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) led by Edward Seaga. . Both wanted to take advantage of Marley’s fame and reputation for helping the poor and disenfranchised. (“Trenchtown Rock” evokes Marley’s struggle to remain neutral in this atmosphere.) After Marley unveiled plans for a December 1976 benefit concert for Jamaica, Manley announced that the government would hold an election shortly after the show, making it seem like Marley was in cahoots with Manley. In the doc, friends recall thugs showing up at Marley’s home trying to convince him to cancel the show, which only added to Marley’s stress and mistrust of politicians.
After more than four decades, we still don’t really know who tried to kill Marley and why.
On the night of December 3, 1976, gunmen broke into Marley’s normally secure home in Kingston, wounding Marley, his wife Rita, his manager Don Taylor and others. The motivation behind the miss – which nearly killed Taylor, who took most of the bullets aimed at Marley – remains a mystery. It could have been linked to Marley’s friend Skill Cole, a Jamaican football player who was linked to disreputable characters; Marley was helping Cole pay off his debt and, according to the doctor, may have missed a payment. The PNP, while openly supporting Marley, were also seen as culprits: PNP security guards protecting Marley at his home mysteriously disappeared that night, and Marley’s associates question whether the motive was to shift blame. on the opposing JLP. Later, Marley spotted a local mobster, Jim Brown, and told a friend that Brown was at his house the night of the shooting. But Marley never reported anyone and called the incident “one of those things.”
The CIA was watching Marley.
The US government hunted down many pop musicians in the ’60s, but their concern for Marley was palpable. Marley had a CIA file (with now redacted documents shown in the film) and was called a “subversive”. The CIA was particularly concerned about the increasingly comfortable relationship between Manley and Fidel Castro and feared that Jamaica was following Cuba into communism. Who shot the sheriff? wonders if killing Marley was an attempt by the CIA – which allegedly supplied weapons to the JLP – to destabilize Jamaica and make Manley look bad. A JLP insider (whose face is obscured and voice distorted) claims that Seaga knew about the plan through intermediaries, but when asked about it in the document, Seaga pauses and replies, “I don’t I’ve never spoken with the CIA, man. I really don’t know. Even more fortuitously: Carl Colby, the filmmaker hired to document the Marley advantage in 1976, was the son of CIA chief William Colby (but has some). spoken to Marley’s gang at the time).
As much as his enduring music, the One Love Peace concert in 1978 demonstrated Marley’s power.
Despite his injuries, which included a bullet to his arm, Marley attended the originally scheduled 1976 benefit concert two days after the attack. But he left Jamaica the next morning for a year and a half of touring and living in London. (“He appreciated that the police didn’t carry guns,” journalist Vivien Goldman, a friend of Marley, says in the doc.) In light of a truce from the warring gangsters, Marley was convinced to go home her for a concert that celebrates the country’s new (if ultimately short-lived) unity.
Held at Kingston’s National Stadium in April 1978, One Peace Love was preceded by newspaper headlines proclaiming Marley’s return. (News of an earthquake that struck the country on the same day was relegated to a much smaller title.) On the show, Marley demonstrated a wilder, more shamanic stage presence, a result of his international tour. , and brought warring gang members to the stage — and even Manley and Seaga, who shook hands and posed with Marley. Security was provided by the locals, but without tragedy à la Altamont.
The peace didn’t last and Seaga was elected Prime Minister two years later, but One Peace Love is almost unparalleled in demonstrating the power of music to heal a country and a society. It’s a shame Marley isn’t here to recreate that show now, in this country.