“Don't gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold.”
Jamaica’s favourite son, the spiritual guru of the decades passed and the times to come, Bob Marley was the beacon of peace, hope, and unity in a world divided by strife and conflict. His music, timeless in its melody, has souls of all ages finding a common path to a greater conscience – the kind that his songs propagate.
While almost all of Marley’s eleven children have taken to continuing their father’s lyrical legacy, they all stand strong on one point. Marley always believed that songs should contain strong, symbolic messages to instil unity and passion in the listeners, and embolden them to fight for a cause they believe in.
Marley’s son, Stephen, a talented musician in his own right, agrees with his father’s call for a greater cause through music. “We need more conscious music, our society needs an influx of consciousness, music has such a big influence, it comes with a responsibility. The point of music is it brings people together. Know the responsibility that comes with this talent, the impact you have on the masses,” he told The Telegraph.
For Marley, music was the key instrument to make the masses aware of the injustices of the world. His soulful lyrics were so affective that even today his songs remain a favourite for generations alike. Recently, New Zealand experienced a humorous disposition when Marley fans began to steal the concert billboards, which are advertising a Bob Marley tribute concert performed by some of New Zealand's top musicians at Kainui Rd Vineyard.
A man who battled against the hypocrisies of war, concrete jungles, and later cancer, Marley’s music always called out for a better tomorrow, asking the people to believe that no matter how dark the clouds, the sun would indeed always shine tomorrow and that there was always a chance for redemption.
On his 72nd birthday, we remember the legend by celebrating some of his most powerful songs that carry messages that ring true till this very day.
Get up, stand up
“You can fool some people sometimes
But you couldn't fool all the people all the time
And now we see the light
You stand up for your rights!”
Written by Marley and Peter Tosh in 1973, this is considered one of the world’s greatest protest songs and one of Marley’s finest. Initially pegged to encourage the people of Jamaica to take a stand against racism and fight for their rights, the simple but honest plea imbibed in the lyrics reached out to the rest of the world. Today, it is a slogan of taking a firm stand against the existing evils of racism, sexism, and all kinds of anti-humanitarian practices.
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy'
Cause none of them can stop the time”
Probably the most honest song against war and captivity that was ever made, Marley’s Redemption song calls out against the ills of the collective establishment, those who glorify the practice of ‘control’. His words intend to instil faith in his listeners, that no matter the power of the oppressor, every individual is free in mind, body, and spirit. Some have even deemed it a musical protest against the history of colonisation faced by his people and many more sufferers across the world.
War (No more trouble)
“That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes -
Me say war.”
A clear-cut message against the reality of racism, classism, and poverty, Marley’s War is a plea to strive towards a better world, one with no divisions and barriers. While many of his songs were localised, this famous number was a missive to the whole world for unity and peace. The words were in part taken from a speech that the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, the Rastafarian guru, had made in an address to the United Nations. The words, though altered, ring true for the world, especially in light of the global conflicts petering in the horizon.
Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)
“Them belly full but we hungry
A hungry mob is a angry mob
A rain a-fall but the dirt it tough;
A pot a-cook but the food no 'nough”
Originally released as a part of Natty Dread, this was one of Marley’s top picks to perform in concerts. While the song suggests that further oppression by the moneyed classes could lead to a form of revolution from the masses, it also preaches peace within the latter. The lyrics go on to encourage the masses to seek happiness amidst the suffering – through music, dance, religion, or any other solace to their pain. It speaks about the greater power of the masses, telling them that ‘now the weak must get strong’. With the ongoing conflicts between the authority and the masses across the world, this song rings true even today because, as Marley put it, the power is still in our hands.
There can never be another Bob Marley, a man who viewed music as a gift to be shared and nurtured for a greater cause, a musician who fought for the people, through every song. Happy birthday to the Tuff Gong of the world!