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Bob Marley & the Wailers - Redemption Song (1980)

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  • 80's Score 80's score: 1.14
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“Redemption Song” is a song by Bob Marley. It is the final track on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ twelfth ...

“Redemption Song” is a song by Bob Marley. It is the final track on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ twelfth album, Uprising, produced by Chris Blackwell and released by Island Records. 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”.

At the time he wrote the song, circa 1979, Bob Marley had been diagnosed with the cancer in his toe that took his life a couple years later. 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 other tracks, it is strictly a solo acoustic recording, consisting of his singing and playing an acoustic guitar, without accompaniment.

“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.

Meaning and influence

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 at Menelik Hall in Sydney, Nova Scotia, during October 1937 and published in his Black Man magazine:

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 …

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