Redemption Song

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"Redemption Song"
Bob Marley and the Wailers - Redemption Song.jpg
Single by Bob Marley and the Wailers
from the album Uprising
ReleasedOctober 1980[1]
LabelIsland/Tuff Gong
Songwriter(s)Bob Marley
Producer(s)Bob Marley, Chris Blackwell

"Redemption Song" is a song by Bob Marley. It is the final track on Bob Marley & the Wailers' ninth album, Uprising, produced by Chris Blackwell and released by Island Records.[2] The song is considered one of Marley's greatest works. Some key lyrics derived from a speech given by the Pan-Africanist orator Marcus Garvey entitled "The Work That Has Been Done".[3]

At the time he wrote the song, circa 1979, Bob Marley had been diagnosed with the cancer in his toe that later took his life. According to Rita Marley, "he was already secretly in a lot of pain and dealt with his own mortality, a feature that is clearly apparent in the album, particularly in this song".

Unlike most of Bob Marley's tracks, it is strictly a solo acoustic recording, consisting of his singing and playing an acoustic guitar, without accompaniment. The song is in the key of G major.

"Redemption Song" was released as a single in the UK and France in October 1980, and included a full band rendering of the song. This version has since been included as a bonus track on the 2001 reissue of Uprising, as well as on the 2001 compilation One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers. Although in live performances the full band was used for the song, the solo recorded performance remains the take most familiar to listeners.[citation needed]

In 2004, Rolling Stone placed the song at #66 among "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2010, the New Statesman listed it as one of the Top 20 Political Songs.[4]


Bob Marley – vocals, acoustic guitar, production

With Bob accompanying himself on Guitar, "Redemption Song" was unlike anything he had ever recorded: an acoustic ballad, without any hint of reggae rhythm. In message and sound it recalled Bob Dylan. Biographer Timothy White called it an 'acoustic spiritual' and another biographer, Stephen Davis, pointed out the song was a 'total departure', a deeply personal verse sung to the bright-sounding acoustic strumming of Bob's Ovation Adamas guitar.

— James Henke, author of Marley Legend[5]

Meaning and influence[edit]

"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 ax 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."

Bono of U2[6]

The song urges listeners to "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery," because "None but ourselves can free our minds." These lines were taken from a speech given by Marcus Garvey in at St. Phillip's African Orthodox Church in Sydney, Nova Scotia, during October 1937 and published in his Black Man magazine:[7][8]

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind ...[9]

In 2009, Jamaican poet and broadcaster Mutabaruka chose "Redemption Song" as the most influential recording in Jamaican music history.[10]

In 2017 "Redemption Song" was featured in series 25 of BBC Radio 4's Soul Music, a documentary series exploring famous pieces of music and their emotional appeal, with contributors including Marley's art director Neville Garrick, Jamaican Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison, Grammy Award-winning artist John Legend, and Wailers guitarist Don Kinsey.[11]



  1. ^ Strong, M. C. (1995). The Great Rock Discography. Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd. p. 518. ISBN 0-86241-385-0.
  2. ^ Hagerman, Brent (February 2005). "Chris Blackwell: Savvy Svengali". Archived from the original on 27 April 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  3. ^ Davis, Henrietta. "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery: The origin and meaning behind Bob Marley's Redemption song". Henrietta Vinton Davis' Weblog. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  4. ^ Smith, Ian K. (25 March 2010). "Top 20 Political Songs: Redemption Song". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  5. ^ James Henke, Marley Legend: An Illustrated Life of Bob Marley, Tuff Gong Books, 2006, ISBN 0-8118-5036-6, p. 54.
  6. ^ Henke, Marley Legend (2006), p. 57.
  7. ^ Black Man, Vol. 3, no. 10 (July 1938), pp. 7–11
  8. ^ "Shunpiking Online Edition Black History Supplement 2005 . Marcus Garvey and Nova Scotia".
  9. ^ The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Vol. VII: November 1927–August 1940; ISBN 978-0-520-07208-4. Marcus Garvey, author; Robert A. Hill and Barbara Bair (eds), p. 791.
  10. ^ Cooke, Mel (6 August 2009). "Mutabaruka's 50 most influential Jamaican recordings - Tosh, Marley dominate top 10". Jamaica Gleaner. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  11. ^ "Redemption Song", Series 25, Soul Music, BBC Radio 4.
  12. ^ "Ian Brown (Stone Roses) Redemption Song". Youtube. 17 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Aquarium Handbook: Redemption Song". Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  14. ^ "Pesma Slobode (Bajaga i Instruktori) Redemption Song". YouTube. 16 August 2005.
  15. ^ "Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for "Day"". Reuters. 27 March 2009.
  16. ^ "Rihanna covers Bob Marley's Redemption song while Simon Cowell gathers Brit singers to raise money for ravaged Haiti". Daily Mail. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  17. ^ "Mitchell Brunings - Redemption Song (The Blind Auditions - The voice of Holland 2013)". Youtube. 11 October 2013.
  18. ^ Tessanne Chin nails Bob Marley's tender classic, "Redemption Song." Archived 2014-01-12 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Tessanne Chin tackles Katy Perry's "Unconditionally." Archived 2014-01-12 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Redemption Song (The Voice Performance) - Single by Anita Antoinette" – via
  21. ^ "Watch Eddie Vedder, Beyonce Duet on Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song'". Rolling Stone. 2010-01-21. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  22. ^ "Madonna performs 'Imagine' at impromptu Paris street gig". Toronto Sun. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Redemption Song - Single de The Lyons" – via
  24. ^ "Redemption Song" – via
  25. ^ "Redemption song covered by Young Mahasi". 30 January 2019.
  26. ^ Nomadic Massive

External links[edit]