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Bob Marley got “Redemption Song” inspiration from Marvin Garvey

Bob Marley Redemption Song

As the frontman of The Wailers, Bob Marley, Jamaica’s most popular musical export became a widely acclaimed phenomenon throughout the 1970s. Acknowledging Britain’s pivotal role in the worldwide music scene, Marley travelled to London in 1972 and made the acquaintance of Chris Blackwell, the creator of Island Records. Blackwell joined The Wailers after being enthralled with their unique and exotic sound.

Up until 1973, when they released their debut record to be released worldwide, Marley and the Wailers lived in the United Kingdom. Marley went back to Jamaica, but after a failed attempt on his life there, he moved back to London in 1976. The Wailers got right to work recording the well-known album Exodus, which was released in 1977 during the height of the punk movement.

The Police, The Clash, and The Beat were among the bands that were heavily influenced by Marley’s music during the punk and post-punk eras. Legendary punk bassist of Public Image Ltd., Jah Wobble, told us in a 2022 interview with Far Out that he first fell in love with music in 1975 when he heard the Wailers’ basslines during Marley’s historic Lyceum show.

“In 1975, I was at the Lyceum watching Aston “Family Man” Barrett and the Wailers,” Wobble said. “Since the punk movement hadn’t really taken off yet, I didn’t leave there thinking I was going to start playing bass; instead, I was just enthralled with the bass players. You know, it was this feeling. It was amazing.

Marley’s politically motivated lyrics had a significant impact on the punk wave, even beyond his instrumental influence. While Marley was undoubtedly less combative than Johny Rotten, he nevertheless motivated a generation to “get up, stand up” and defend their rights.

Regretfully, in 1977, Marley’s malignant melanoma under his right big toe nail led to his cancer diagnosis. When the singer sustained a foot injury during a football game that became increasingly painful, he sensed something wasn’t right.

Even though the cancer was discovered very early, Marley refused the physicians’ recommendation to have his toe amputated. Removing a portion of one’s body from its “temple” is forbidden in the Rastafarian faith. Even though Marley did ultimately decide to have a skin graft, the cancer had already spread throughout his body by 1980, and he was given a diagnosis of a more advanced, deadly disease.

The final Wailers album to be released during Marley’s lifetime, Uprising, was recorded between January and April of 1980. The record is most known for including the hits “Could You Be Loved” and “Redemption Song,” the latter of which served as Marley’s moving farewell and a message of strength and solidarity in the face of adversity. It was released at the very end of the record.

Marley took inspiration for “Redemption Song” from a speech given by renowned civil rights activist Marcus Garvey. “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind,” the inspirational speaker famously declared in 1937.
The line “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds” is echoed by Marley in his song.

The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, published in 1923, is prefaced with the words “Dedicated to the true and loyal members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the cause of African redemption,” suggesting that the singer got the idea for the song’s title from reading Garvey’s book.

In an effort to offer his supporters one last performance, Marley embarked on a farewell global tour in support of Uprising. He fell in Central Park during a run in the summer of 1980, just before his tour came to an end. Marley abandoned the remainder of the tour following one last gig in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in September in lieu of diet-based therapy in Germany.

When things didn’t get better after eight months, Marley took a plane back to Jamaica to spend his last days. Sadly, though, he tragically became very ill during the flight, necessitating an emergency landing in Miami, Florida. After being taken to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, Marley passed away on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36.

Here is a link to Bob Marley’s last single, “Redemption Song.”

FILM: Bob Marley: One Love

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