What caused the failure of Bob Marley’s song, One Love?

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The reggae musician biopic is hindered by a series of unfavorable critiques.
The movie by Iggy Marley is not receiving the amount of appreciation that one would expect based on its title.

Even though Ziggy describes Bob Marley: One Love as a project that was created with great passion, it has received numerous negative reviews and weak initial earnings at the box office.

This biopic narrates the tale of his father, a renowned reggae musician from Jamaica, who played a significant role in popularizing both the music style and the closely tied Rastafari religion among the general public. Even though Bob passed away four decades ago due to melanoma, it wasn’t until 2018 that Ziggy and the Marley family found the right opportunity and script to finally share his story.

In an interview , Ziggy expressed their goal of immersing the audience in Bob’s world. This means that people no longer need to read about it or hear about it in interviews; they are now part of the inner circle.


He proceeded to mention a statement that he had reiterated in numerous interviews – the reason behind creating One Love was to spread his father’s message of togetherness. This message of global solidarity not only had a profound impact on him but also turned his extremely popular music into a lasting symbol of equality and fairness across the globe.
In English language, director Reinaldo Marcus Green expressed, “We were raised on Bob’s music and his message. Ziggy summed it up perfectly by saying that while Bob wasn’t flawless, he had a genuine purpose. I believe that’s the essence of this film.”

They approached the task by carefully examining a particular phase in Bob’s life. The movie primarily highlights a few years towards the end of the artist’s life, during which he departed from his home country that was on the brink of a potential civil conflict. During this period, he created Exodus – a masterpiece claimed by Time magazine in 1999 as the greatest album of the 20th century.

In addition, the Marley family, who have expanded the stories and legacy of Bob Marley into numerous products, documentaries, and podcast appearances, were also involved in the production. They provided guidance and instruction to British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, assisting him with his accent and informing him about Bob’s tendency to skip steps when climbing stairs.

Regrettably, the creators didn’t receive positive reviews due to their excessive focus on accuracy, as most critics criticized the portrayal of the central star as Christ-like.
According to the Guardian review, this film has been created in the style of a respectful Hallmark Channel movie, with the full support and involvement of the family. Almost every family member is credited as an associate producer, and the film includes all the necessary musical rights.

The Washington Post expressed a similar complaint, arguing that One Love tries to portray Marley’s story in a more messianic light. According to them, the film suggests that his music was not merely for recreational purposes, but rather conveyed a gospel-like message of unity, peace, and love.

Variety offers a straightforward evaluation: “the depiction of Marley in the film is almost saint-like… One Love attempts to delve into complexity but ultimately succumbs to the predictable adoration of a hero.”
Heroic strategy

The movie Big George Foreman, Elvis and Maestro utilized a well-known approach. Both films received support from their subjects or their families and were censured for presenting their stars in a too simplistic and positive manner. These films disregarded the intricate and humanizing aspects of their subjects in order to safeguard their reputation.

Foreman’s focus was on the boxer’s newfound faith, with little mention of his own self-loathing following a loss to Muhammad Ali, as well as his time away from the sport selling George Foreman grills. In the case of Elvis, there were deliberate falsehoods that obscured controversial aspects of the singer’s life in order to not upset his fans, as reported by The Seattle Times and described as a “pack of lies” by The Telegraph. This is a common trend in biographical films about musicians, simplifying their stories and portraying them as larger-than-life heroes, as discussed by The New York Times’s Popcast.

In the case of Maestro, the movie did not have the official participation of Leonard Bernstein’s estate. However, a New Yorker article highlighted that despite skipping important parts of the composer’s life, the film acknowledged his estate in the credits and incorporated Bernstein’s music into its soundtrack. It is worth noting that Bernstein’s estate publicly supported Bradley Cooper’s choice to wear a fake nose while portraying Bernstein.
In clear contrast, Priscilla, another film centered around Elvis Presley, openly criticized the icon and was denied permission by his estate to include any of his music. Director Sofia Coppola had to rely on substituting music from other current artists and original songs specifically made for the movie whenever Presley’s performances took place – a challenging endeavor that studios strive to avoid.

Many other media projects about Bob Marley have encountered difficulties, despite there already being a lot of them. In the case of the documentary Marley in 2012, Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme were initially considered as potential directors but eventually stepped away due to significant disagreements in their creative approach. An article from Vulture at the same time speculated that producer Steve Bing and the Marley family must have a very particular vision for the film that they are unwilling to deviate from.

A previous movie about Bob Marley, which had the support of his widow Rita as an executive producer, faced delays because the Marley family would not grant permission to use any of his music in the film. Ziggy Marley, while working on a documentary about his father during that time, indicated that preventing access to his father’s music was necessary to accurately portray his life from their family’s viewpoint.
During the era of movie studios, altering the truth in life stories was mainly done to avoid censorship. In a fortunate coincidence, the New Yorker review states this argument while also opposing the current tendency of unfairly critiquing biopics for their omissions. Nowadays, the fear of facing controversy is the main concern.

More than a musician

Bob Marley:

One Love, a film that showcases the musician’s numerous popular songs, is distinct from Walk the Line in which the actors sang their musicians’ songs. However, Kingsley Ben-Adir chose to mostly refrain from singing in the movie. Instead, Marley’s original voice is used to enhance and prominently feature the film’s main character.

The negative critical reviews of One Love appear to be a result of mistakes made along the way. However, for a lot of people, the reason behind the heroic and unique portrayal in the movie was because Marley was not just a musician.

Donisha Prendergast, who is Marley’s grandchild, stated to CBC News that he was not only a musician but also a revolutionary. She emphasized the importance of continuously striving to create opportunities for such revolutionaries, and she believes this film provides us with a means to accomplish that.

Julian King believed that someone as extraordinary as Marley should receive a higher level of respect. As the creator of Canadian Reggae World and an advocate for reggae music, King saw Marley not just as a musician, but as a significant figure in the fight for Black empowerment, Rastafarianism, and the betterment of all individuals.


However, it may be excessive to portray him as a saint. King, who was raised in Jamaica, had several encounters with Marley. He noted that his uncle served as a guide for a younger Marley, who, despite being famous, humbly interacted with others.

According to King, Bob was an ordinary and modest individual. Despite being globally recognized, he would go unnoticed, often found casually relaxing. He was truly a down-to-earth person.