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This song tells the story of a man who shoots a sheriff who is harassing him, but is wrongly accused of killing the deputy. Marley said that some of the song is true, but would not say what parts.
This was the last single Marley released with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, who left to go solo.
Eric Clapton recorded this in 1974. His version was a #1 hit in the US, the only #1 of his career. Clapton's recording gave Marley a big boost, as it exposed him to a Rock audience.
On the 2001 documentary The Life Of Bob Marley, Esther Anderson, who was Marley's girlfriend, claims she helped write this and that it is about birth control.
The sheriff's name in the song is John Brown. In 1963, Bob Dylan wrote a song called "John Brown" about a boy who goes to war and comes back badly wounded.
Bruce Springsteen used the name "John Brown" as the name of a judge in his 1981 song "Johnny 99."
Marley later wrote a song called "Mr. Brown," which was probably about the same character. (thanks, Brad Nash - Rochester Hills, MI)
The "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" singer makes a habit of playing with the best in the business.