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At number 11 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters is Bob Marley. Although Marley didn’t invent reggae music, he essentially took it from its Jamaican roots to become known worldwide. With songs about redemption, alienation, civil and human rights, as well as love songs, Marley’s work spanned a broad range of topics, and has touched the lives of millions on every continent.

Born Robert Nesta Marley in rural Jamaica to a black mother and a white father, his upbringing was one of poverty. He rarely saw his father, and when he was ten years old his father died. When he was twelve Marley and his mother moved from her parents’ farm to  Trenchtown, a poor suburb of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city. With barely any money to eat, Marley and his mother struggled to survive. As a teenager, Marley become increasingly interested in music and in 1962, when he was only 17, he recorded his first songs. He rose to fame in the early 1970s; but in 1979 he was diagnosed with cancer of his toe. He died in 1981 at the tragically young age of only 36.

At number 11 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Bob Marley.

At number 11 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Bob Marley.

The song which I have decided to share today is ‘Redemption Song’, written by Marley in about 1979 and  on his ninth studio album Uprising. It was also released as a single, and is rated by Rolling Stone Magazine as the 66th greatest song ever. Unlike most of his music, this is just Marley with his acoustic guitar, no band behind him, no reggae.

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our mind.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing,
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had,
Redemption songs.
All I ever had,
Redemption songs
These songs of freedom
Songs of freedom

These are profound lyrics. Sad, plaintive, powerful, empowering – “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery”. Wow! U2’s Bono said of this song

I carried Bob Marley’s Redemption Song to every meeting I had with a politician, prime minister, or president. It was for me a prophetic utterance or as Bob would say ‘the small axe that could fell the big tree.’ The song reminded me that freedom always comes with a cost, but for those who would prepare to pay it, maybe “emancipation from mental slavery” would be our reward.

Here is a video of this amazing song. Enjoy!

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