I Shot the Sheriff

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"I Shot the Sheriff"
I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley and the Wailers German vinyl.jpg
Artwork of original German vinyl release
Single by The Wailers
from the album Burnin'
Released 1973
Format 12" single
Recorded April 1973, Harry J. Studios, Kingston, Jamaica
Genre Reggae
Length 4:41
Songwriter(s) Bob Marley

"I Shot the Sheriff" is a song written by Bob Marley and released in 1973 by The Wailers.

Bob Marley and the Wailers version[edit]

The story is 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 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]

In 2012, Bob Marley's former girlfriend Esther Anderson claimed that the lyrics, "Sheriff John Brown always hated me, For what, I don't know: Every time I plant a seed, He said kill it before it grow" are actually about Marley being very opposed to her use of birth control pills; Marley supposedly substituted the word "doctor" with sheriff.[3]

Eric Clapton version[edit]

"I Shot the Sheriff"
I Shot the Sheriff by Eric Clapton UK vinyl 1974.jpg
A-side label of the original 1974 UK vinyl release
Single by Eric Clapton
from the album 461 Ocean Boulevard
Released 1974
Format 12" single
  • 4:26 (album version)
  • 3:30 (single version)
Label RSO
Songwriter(s) Bob Marley
Producer(s) Tom Dowd

Eric Clapton recorded a cover version that was included on his 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard. His take on the song belongs to the musical genres of soft rock[4] and reggae.[5] It is the most successful cover 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.[6]

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]