I Shot the Sheriff

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"I Shot the Sheriff"
Single by The Wailers
from the album Burnin'
Released 1973
Format 12" single
Recorded Harry J. Studios, Kingston, Jamaica, April 1973
Genre Reggae
Length 4:41
Label Tuff Gong, Island
Writer(s) Bob Marley
Producer(s) Chris Blackwell and The Wailers

"I Shot the Sheriff" is a song written by Bob Marley, told from the point of view of a narrator who admits to having killed the local sheriff, and claims to be falsely accused of having killed the deputy sheriff. The narrator also claims to have acted in self-defense when the sheriff tried to shoot him. The song was first released in 1973 on The Wailers' album Burnin'. Marley explained his intention as follows: "I want to say 'I shot the police' but the government would have made a fuss so I said 'I shot the sheriff' instead… but it's the same idea: justice."[1]

In 1992, with the controversy surrounding the Ice-T rap song "Cop Killer", Marley's song was often cited by Ice-T's supporters as evidence of his detractors' hypocrisy considering the older song was never similarly criticized despite having much the same theme.[2]

Eric Clapton version[edit]

"I Shot the Sheriff"
Single by Eric Clapton
from the album 461 Ocean Boulevard
Released July 1974
Format 12" single
Recorded April–May 1974 at Criteria Recording Studios, Miami, Florida
Genre Blues rock, reggae
Length 4:26 (album version)
3:30 (single version)
Label RSO
Writer(s) Bob Marley
Producer(s) Tom Dowd

Eric Clapton recorded a cover version that was included on his 1974 album, 461 Ocean Boulevard. It is the most successful version of the song, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2003, Clapton's version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[3]

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]