UPDATED: 2:00 p.m. ET, May 10, 2023
On May 11, 1981, the world lost the legendary Bob Marley. Known for his melodic reggae sound and distinctive voice, Marley was arguably one of the most famous reggae singers of all time.
When you think of Bob Marley, the first thing that comes to mind may not necessarily be politics. But the legendary singer’s genre — roots reggae — is embodied by topics that are intrinsically intertwined with politics, including Black Liberation and revolution.
In other words, political content is inescapable when listening to Marley’s music, even if fans find themselves “Waiting In Vain” to “Turn Your Lights Down Low.”
In 2023, though, 42 years after his death, Marley’s music may be the most relevant its ever been, considering their lingering impact on society spiritually, emotionally and, yes, politically. Marley’s songs not only dealt with the politics of his native Jamaica but also Africa and the whole world.
Here are ten of his most politically significant songs.
Bob Marley took a speech from the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haille Selassie at the United Nations and made it a song that showed how racism was the cause of the many wars in Africa at the time.
9. Concrete Jungle
This song represented the struggle of the urban poor in the third world. Though the song refers to Arnett Gardens, a garrison in Jamaica, it could represent the poverty and tension found in any ghetto.
8. Redemption Song
This epic ballad represents the fight for freedom in the face of great adversity.
7. Africa Unite
During the 70s when Africa was ridding itself from colonialism, Bob Marley made an anthem that would call for its countries to join forces in Pan-Africanism.
Another song that calls for both a mental and physical revolution, wiping out wicked ideas from society.
5. Rat Race
While accusations of the CIA operating in Jamaica were commonplace, Bob Marley addressed the issue in this song, “Rasta now work for no CIA.”
4. Belly Full
Bob Marley goes into the poverty and drastic wealth inequality between the rich and poor in both Jamaica and this world, and the tension that they cause.
3. Get Up Stand Up
Though this song deals with the Rastafarian faith, it has become an anthem for sufferers everywhere.
This song represents the hope and excitement of independent Africa and celebrates the fighters who fought against colonialism.
1. Ambush In The Nigh
Bob was shot in 1976 and he addresses it in this song. He did not blame any political party despite accusations that the U.S.-backed JLP was behind it, Bob did not blame any party but the climate of political nepotism and violence that lead to the attack.
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