Redemption Song

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Redemption Song"
Single by Bob Marley
from the album Uprising
B-side "Redemption Song" (Band version)
"I Shot the Sheriff" (Live)
Released October 1980[1]
Genre Folk
Length 3:49
Label Island/Tuff Gong
Writer(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[who?] one of Marley's greatest works. Some key lyrics derived from a speech given by the Pan-Africanist orator Marcus Garvey.[citation needed]

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 Marley 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.[3]


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[4]

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[5]

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 Nova Scotia during October 1937 and published in his Black Man magazine:[6]

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 ...[7][8]

In 2009, Jamaican poet and broadcaster Mutabaruka chose "Redemption Song" as the most influential recording in Jamaican music history.[9]


Problems playing this file? See media help.


  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". Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  3. ^ Smith, Ian K (25 March 2010). "Top 20 Political Songs: Redemption Song". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  4. ^ Marley Legend: An Illustrated Life of Bob Marley, by James Henke, 2006, Tuff Gong Books, ISBN 0-8118-5036-6, pg. 54
  5. ^ Marley Legend: An Illustrated Life of Bob Marley, by James Henke, 2006, Tuff Gong Books, ISBN 0-8118-5036-6, pg. 57
  6. ^, "Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey"
  7. ^ Davis, Henrietta (24 March 2010). "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery: The origin and meaning behind Bob Marley’s Redemption song.". "The Work That Has Been Done". Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Black Man magazine, Vol. 3, no. 10 (July 1938), pp. 7-11; quoted in 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. Google Books search.
  9. ^ Cooke, Mel (August 6, 2009). "Mutabaruka's 50 most influential Jamaican recordings - Tosh, Marley dominate top 10". Jamaica Gleaner. Retrieved 2011-07-18. 
  10. ^ "Ian Brown (Stone Roses) Redemption Song". Youtube. March 17, 2011. 
  11. ^ Aquarium Handbook: Redemption Song
  12. ^ "Pesma Slobode (Bajaga i Instruktori) Redemption Song". YouTube. August 16, 2005. 
  13. ^ "Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for "Day"". Reuters. March 27, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Rihanna covers Bob Marley's Redemption song while Simon Cowell gathers Brit singers to raise money for ravaged Haiti". Daily Mail. 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  15. ^ "Mitchell Brunings - Redemption Song". Youtube. October 5, 2013. 
  16. ^ Tessanne Chin nails Bob Marley's tender classic, "Redemption Song."
  17. ^ Tessanne Chin tackles Katy Perry's "Unconditionally."
  18. ^ Redemption Song (The Voice Performance) - Single
  19. ^ "Watch Eddie Vedder, Beyonce Duet on Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song'". Rolling Stone. 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2015-09-27. 
  20. ^ "Madonna performs 'Imagine' at impromptu Paris street gig". Toronto Sun. December 10, 2015. Retrieved December 12, 2015. 

External links[edit]