Never known for a lack of self-regard, Bob Marley was devoted to the idea of himself as a ‘soul rebel’. That the championing of black emancipation in independent Jamaica was a worthwhile cause, and that he had some success in achieving it before his death at the age of thirty-six, cannot be doubted. But the grand irony of his life is that such successes came despite his being the bastard son of a white naval officer with the splendidly Victorian name of Norval Sinclair Marley. ‘Me don’t dip on the black man's side nor the white man's side. Me dip on God's side,’ he once said. Alas, God was less reluctant to dip, because it was melanoma – a skin cancer associated chiefly with white people – that returned him to his maker.
That his hybridity made him an unlikely ambassador for black emancipation, let alone the absurd cult of Rastafarianism, is sensitively conveyed by Colin Grant. The main merit of his perceptive work is that, by not making Marley its focus, it gets closer to the truth about him than