Meaning of Redemption Song by Bob Marley & The Story Behind

Many researchers of the work of Bob Marley believe that the composition Redemption Song the musician said goodbye to the world and fans. Perhaps he did not know that the track would be his last recording in his lifetime, but he definitely saw how rapidly his health was deteriorating, and he felt an imminent death.

The words of the work, the unusual manner of performance and the general tone of the work also suggest that the legend of reggae considered it his swan song.

The story behind of Redemption Song

Renowned British photographer Dennis Morris recalled how, in 1980, Marley invited him to his London flat. Usually the musician was surrounded by numerous fans, but then he was alone. They talked for a bit and then Bob picked up the guitar.

Morris says:

I didn’t realize then that he was playing the Redemption Song for me. I must have been one of the first to hear it.

Rolling stone

Rita Marley, Bob’s wife, said that by that time he had already been diagnosed with cancer. According to her:

… he was already secretly suffering from severe pain and thinking about his death. This feature is clearly visible in the album, especially in this song.

Marley was a Rastafarian. This religion does not allow believers to resort to medical care. Bob did not go to the doctors and spent the last months of his life writing and recording music.

Meaning of Redemption Song

The composition is designed in an atypical style for Bob Marley. It’s an acoustic ballad with no reggae in it. Some music critics have said that it suits Bob Dylan more.

The words of Redemption Song are about persecution, oppression, liberation with God’s help and finding inner freedom. One can consider the composition as a chanting of Rastafarianism, which gives redemption to the followers of this religion, but, rather, the author addresses not only Rastafarians.

Perhaps the main phrase of the song is a call to free oneself from mental slavery. Marley borrowed the phrase from a speech by black rights activist Marcus Garvey in 1937 in Nova Scotia.

The main message seems to be this: get rid of the inner shackles, and no one can enslave you.

Release and achievements

Marley first recorded the song with The Wailers. Then producer Chris Blackwell (Chris Blackwell) invited Bob to perform it solo. The musician sang it, playing along on an acoustic guitar.

Both versions of the Redemption Song were included on the October 1980 LP. The song closes the album Uprising, the ninth and final discography of Bob Marley & The Wailers.

Rolling Stone magazine included it in the list of the five hundred greatest songs of all time. The New Statesman named it one of the top twenty political songs.

Cover versions

Many popular musicians played and recorded the song. Let’s take a look at some well-known versions.

Let’s first listen to Redemption Song performed by Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer.

An excellent version of Redemption Song was presented by Stevie Wonder.

Singer Rihanna recorded a cover of Redemption Song for the charity Haiti Relief, which raised money for the victims of the terrible earthquake. Listen to her sing it on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Boris Grebenshchikov and the Aquarium group sometimes perform Redemption Song at concerts.

Redemption Song was also sung by Eddie Vedder and Beyonce.

Madonna performed Redemption Song with her son David at a concert in Paris as part of the Rebel Heart Tour.

Interesting Facts

  • The song was featured on the soundtracks of The Beach and I Am Legend.
  • Renowned poet and musician Mutabaruka called Redemption Song the most influential recording in the history of Jamaican music.

Redemption Song Lyrics by Bob Marley

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit
But my ‘and was made strong
By the ‘and of the Almighty
We forward in this generation

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have
redemption songs
redemption songs

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery
None but our self can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it
We’ve got to fulfill de book


Version 2


Lyrics Redemption Song by Bob Marley Alternate

Old robbers, they rob me
They sold me to merchant ships
A couple of minutes after they took me
From a bottomless pit.
But made my hand strong
Hand of the Almighty.
In this generation we move forward

Won’t you help us sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had
These are the songs of deliverance
These are songs of deliverance.

Break free from mental bondage
Only we ourselves can free our thoughts.
Do not be afraid of the energy of the atom,
After all, none of them can stop time.
How many more will they kill our prophets
While we stand back and watch?
Some say it’s only part of the story.
We must do what is in the book.


Verse 2


Song quote

I brought Bob Marley’s Redemption Song to all my meetings with politicians, prime ministers or presidents. To me, she was a prophecy, or, as Bob used to say, “a little ax that could cut down a big tree.” The song reminded me that freedom always has a price, but for those who are willing to pay it, perhaps our reward will be “liberation from mental slavery.”

Bono, from Marley Legend, James Henke

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