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No Woman No Cry

by

Bob Marley & the Wailers



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This became Marley's first hit when it was released as a single from his album, Live!, which was recorded at the Lyceum in London in 1975. It was a hot July night, and they gave a rousing performance. This tour was a breakthrough for Marley and The Wailers. Their previous tour went horribly, as audiences outside of Jamaica did not appreciate his pure Reggae. He polished and tightened his sound for this tour in order to compete with the slick arena acts that were popular at the time, and got a great response. Glowing reviews led to sold out shows in the US, and by the time the tour hit London, they were a huge success.
Marley developed a powerful stage presence on this tour, and added musicians like Family Man Barrett and Al Anderson to sweeten the sound. The audiences on the tour where the live version was recorded were evenly mixed between black and white people. Marley was one of the few artists to have mass appeal that transcended race. The song became a highlight of Marley's concerts as the crowd always joined in. It is very easy to sing along to.
The original line of the song is "No, Woman, Nuh cry." Nuh is Jamacian for "don't," so what is meant by the lyric is No, Woman, Don't cry... He's leaving and reassuring her that the slum they live in won't get her down, that everything will be alright and "don't shed no tear." (thanks, Thom - Plymouth, United Kingdom)
The original version on Natty Dread was nothing like the live performances. It was shorter and sped-up, with little of the energy Marley brought to it in concert.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, the "Government yard in Trench Town" refers to the Jamaican public-housing project where Marley lived in the late '50s. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)
Marley wrote this, but gave a composer credit to Vincent Ford, one of his friends from Jamaica who helped him out when he was very poor. By giving Ford the credit, Marley was helping out an old friend by making sure he got royalty checks. Ford ran a soup kitchen in Kingston.
The female vocals were by backing group the I-Threes, made up of Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Bob's wife, Rita Marley. Griffiths went on to sing "The Electric Slide."
Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the group the year before this was released. They were upset at the way Marley was given top billing.
This was included on Legend, a compilation album released 3 years after Marley's death. It was a #1 album in the UK.
Dakota Moon's lead singer and guitarist, Ty Taylor, appeared on the reality TV series Rockstar INXS and did a cover of this song. (thanks, Annabelle - Eugene, OR)
The Brazilian Tropicalia singer Gilberto Gil recorded this for his 1979 album Realce, putting a Bossa Nova twist on it. Gil later became Brazil's Minister of Culture. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Aston "Family Man" Barrett, bass player of the Wailers, told NME June 30, 2012: "The song is about the strength in the mama of course, strength in the ladies. And we love a woman with a backbone. Something like a wishbone! They have to be like a she lion! Woman strong, you know, not depending on the man. Of course the man is there to help you, then for every successful man, there is a good woman."
Bob Marley & the Wailers
More Bob Marley & the Wailers songs
More songs that were recorded live
More songs about pride in your heritage
More songs about women

Comments (43):

This is one of my favorite songs of all time! I have heard many (rare) recorded versions of this song and I'm sure he says "my FEET is my only carriage" as opposed to "my FEAR is my only carriage." It's a lot more obvious on earlier recordings than on the popular Legend version. Not saying that Bob never played with the lyrics, but on most of the recordings he definitely says FEET. It also makes sense because he is talking about overcoming the poverty of the ghetto...
- Cyrus, San Francisco, CA
Even if "SHE" does not have her eyes on your here and now "the mans" soul still has a place in the sky. Bob is casting the unfavorable emotional body to the faster place; establishing it to "represent" and not to dog the man that Bob is.
- John, Minneapolis, MN
I'm sure the lyrics have more than one meaning since there's more than one kind of female personality. Which that being said, is part of the lyrical genius of the song. He means that to be high on life and not because your are "high" is a direction in life. And, as you know direction in life is what Reggae means as a rule. You live and learn and learn to live, simply that others may simply live. The medium is the message. www.thelifemanagementalliace.com/
- John, Minneapolis, MN
The word 'no' is a pretty powerful word. A lot of you are misinterpreting the song because of it. When I sing the song, I take out the first "no", and just sing .. "women .. no cry" hey .. "woman.. no cry". It makes you connect to the song better. Check it out:

baby don't shed no tear
..women no cry
little darling don't shed no tear
...women no cry

he's saying:
please no no no, baby .. my woman, don't cry.. my fear is my only carriage, we'll push on through
- JohnnyM, toronto, Canada
the meaning is "no woman = no cry" otherwise he would have say "no woman don't cry...
- Stefano, ROME, Italy
josh, Hubba Hubba can mean many things, but what he meant here was hubba-hubba - hurry up quickly and be prompt, google definition: Hubba Hubba,
- Jude , Newark, NJ
im sorry if anyone misinterpreted me. this was supposed to be about what the song meant to me and it was something beautiful, not pain and now years later it is certain that there is a reason for it now.
- Helana, pahokee, FL
Helena, your body is your temple and your church. To destroy that is the gravest of sins. It inflicts the same pain you feel on all who love you. Remember your love. Spread the love, not the pain.
First song my little girl learned to sing was Three Little Birds, cuz I sing it to her every night when I tuck her in. Love is all we have in this life that no one can take away. Tears come and go, but you can hold on to the love forever.
- Sonny, Tampa, FL
To "geanco, kansas city, MO" The reason Marley didnt want to have his toe cut off to treat the cancer was because it went against the rastafarian belief that the body should be left whole and no part removed :)
- Henry, Perth, Australia
ok as seeing all these opinions i would like to add mine too.This song is so powerful and has different meanining to it, as taking it in reality.What i meant to say is that if there are no woman around the world then it is hard for us to find no cries of babies(humanity)......
- komaldeep, siliguri, India
Helena I hope you're doing ok now. I feel your pain because I had a similar experience to yours. A very good friend of mine also loved Bob Marley. Every time we would get together he would sing to me "No woman No cry". He was a very talented artist and we used to paint listening to this song. He said he had a special connection with Bob Marley and Kingston as everything in his life seemed to revolve around these two names. He even studied in Kingston (UK) and his street address I think was Kingston Street. Anyway to the point. Chris became clinically depressed and started taking anti-depressants until he became hooked. Last time I saw him I accidentally bumped into him as he had left his studies and flew back. And I said I'd call him. And I didn't. Until I woke up a couple of days later and reached for my phone to call him when at that moment I got a call saying he killed himself. To this day I feel guilty that maybe I could have done something to stop him. Its been 3 years now and the pain has eased a little bit. I know he is with me though because everytime I pray for help this song comes up either on the radio or on my random playlist. I know he is somewhere above watching over me and I'm sure Ryan is watching over you too.
- Christiana, Nicosia, Cyprus
No woman no cry is a prophetic song about Africa...The woman is the African continent.Bob is asking her not to cry even in the midst of injustices against her.he reminds her of her inhabitants and how they lived and shared food in times past,how they traveled on foot.she is a woman in the sense that she is mature with children all over the world and a darling in sense of being the most wanted and scrambled for by the Babylon system,she is a sister of other continents....he sings hope to her by telling her everything will be alright.the names of towns he mentions are figurative for villages in Africa.
- Frederick, Nairobi, Kenya
Helana, my heart with u

you really made me cry

i hope u could meet him in the other life
- ghadah3, riyadh, Saudi Arabia
OK all, This is the true story behind no woman no cry. One of the musicians of the Wailers was in prison (government yard in trenchtown) for being busted with drugs. There he made friends with some good people. One time when they were gathered together in the yard, they find this young man who was crying. The young man had been recently imprisoned for drug trafficking and been given along sentence (I don't remember how long, but were talking 10 years plus). He cried because he missed his lov, his woman, and he knew that no matter how strong her love, he had lost her. So these "good" people take him in and comfort him, and the tell him in their broken English: "no woman, no cry". I hoped you enjoyed this.
- Mehdi, Berkeley, CA
A few corrections. The "terminal illness" thing with Bobby V Ford's bedside, while compelling, is just not true. Ford also did not have diabetes. He has Gangrene.
- Handel, Brown's Town, St. Ann, Jamaica
does any body now if the lyrics are "in this great future, you can forget your past" or "in this great future you cant forget your past"
- Garrett, rochester, NY
I pay tribute to your caring nature, Edgar from Guatemala. Bless you, and bless Helana.
- Nadia, Glastonbury, England
Help me out here: i once heard that this song was originally titled "No home and no cry", but due to pressure from the record company or some producer, given the controversial subject matter, it was renamed to fit some classic, predictible, guaranteed-to-sell theme. But the lyrics themselves don't make sense until the chorus gets replaced with No Home And No Cry ("[sitting] in the govt yard in Trenchtown", "my feet is my only carriage", forgetting the past to face a different, great future): does anyone know about a period of homelessness that Bob Nesta went through? I'm wondering whether the 'you' in this song is another man, a friend with whom he shared porridge after a nite of burning logfire whilst both being homeless.. or maybe it was addressed to Vincent Ford? I suppose we can only speculate...
Thing is, i can't find any reference to this anywhere, only saw this trivia once and it had a "Eureka!" kind of effect on me!
Bob WAS a prophet and his legacy lives on. ONElove! ;)
- Nadia, Glastonbury, England
Wow the last guy was on the money with it. It was Marley's rastafarian beliefs mainly but his dancing was important too.
- Kris, Wichita, KS
In response to Geanco: Bob Marley did refuse treatment for his cancer, because treatment meant amputation, but he refuse it not because it mean that he wouldn't be able to dance( this was true but not the main reason) it its because rastafari believe that the body must be a whole so they don't believe in amputation. And the song is not for Rita it is about Jamaica and their struggles.
- Jose Arias, Buenos Aires, Argentina
No,no,no. What are you all talking about. Any true Bob Marley fan would know that "No Woman,No Cry" is a reference to Englands prior control of Jamaica. "Woman" is a reference to the Queen of England. They used to protest in Trench Town all night long against England. A purely political song. Peter Tosh was also very influential in this fight.
- Nick, Raleigh, NC
im not be sure what this song means, but to bob marley it meant something special, cos he cried when he played it live. issa beautiful song, and one of my favourite. bob marley really was a prophet, an he helped me wake up, and his tunes help me trod the way.
- NattyDread, Not yet Zion, Australia
In 1969 Bob Marley predicted he would die at the age of 36, on the same night he wrote 'Comma, Comma' for Johhny Nash. He wrote 'No Woman, No Cry' in 1974. The song is about soothing a grieving widow. Remebering old friends and good (as well as bad)times. 'In this bright future you can't forget your past, so dry your tears'--no matter what happens you will never forget me. 'My feet is my only carriage, so I've got to push on through, but while I'm gone everything is going to be alright'. He was diagnosed with melanoma in 1977--it started in his right great toe, refusing treatment until 1981 (he wrote the song in 1974) under Dr. Joseph Issel (former Nazi SS)as a last ditch effort. He refused treatment because it would interfere with his dancing and music--his feet are his 'only carriage' and so I will push on through. However it is too late and Bob Marley dies too young at the age of 36. Did Bob Marley not only predict the age of his death but also the natue of his death (1969 and 1974, respectively)? Incredible song by an admirable man, and one of the greatest songwriters of our time.
- geanco, kansas city, MO
Very touching Helena, I hope you´re doing fine.
- Edgar, Guatemala
My favorite song of all-time.
- Nik, Palmdale, CA
When Marley sings "No woman no cry" He don´t mean to say if there´s no women there´s no one who will cry.
- Asef, Silkeborg, Denmark
This song everything to me. Sorry this is long but i dont want to leave anything important out. 3 years ago i met the love of my life Ryan Luke Kidd and he LOVED Bob Marley. In the beginning our relationship was phenomenal and beautiful. We would toke together but nothing serious. Then Ryan started to use heroin. It killed me to see him slipping away. I loved him so much I just had to stand by him he was worth so much more. At times i would cry in front of him because i wanted him to be happy so badly that i would have died for it. And he would simply lay there nodding out singing to me no woman no cry. We broke up a couple times. (If anyone knows a heroin addict they no they are anything but predictable and sometimes hed send me away so i didnt have to see the ugliness) one time when we broke up he had been clean for 7 months and relapsed and overdosed. He then called me and said baby i need you come home. By this time it had gotten real bad and he would play this song over and over. we broke up again and ive been waiting for him to ask me to come back home. His mother called me last night and said ryan overdosed and he died. when i play this song i get chills. its like he wanted me to have this song engrained in me so when the time came i would have some comfort. I know he is here with me and without this song i may have killed myself last night. sorry to be so depressing i had to get it off my chest. In memory of my dear pookiebear forever and always one love
- Helana, pahokee, FL
with ref' to the 'white rasta' (from WILKES-BARRE, PA.) the lyrics should read "ever living ever FAITHFUL". onelove
- saxa, london, United States
I think Bob Marley made this song for his wife Rita.I think this song put Jamaica on the map.Made Bob World Famous and made Rastafari what it is today.
- Daniel, Honolulu, HI
I looooooove Ty Taylor's Version of this song! When he performs this, he turns it into a soulful ballad! Way to go Ty Taylor!
- Annabelle, Eugene, OR
Jonathan Butler does a great version of this song too.
- angel, singapore, Singapore
...and no, Troy, Vincent "tata" Ford is not (by 2005) dead. He's on a wheelchair (2 legs amp because of diabetis, if I'm right) but still alive.
- Flo, Toulouse, France
Familyman was not "added" to help make a mainstream sound : he was working with Bob since '69 and, as a bassist, plyed on almost every song since then (on a handful he was replaced by Robbie or Left Toe), till 1980.
But Al Anderson was indeed, along with Junior Marvin, hired to give a blues/rock feel to Bob's music.
- Flo, Toulouse, France
Dustin -- you're a litte off on the song Kaya ~ Kaya is not a reference to Rita, or at least not directly. Kaya is a type of herb. That entire Album is a homage to herb and love ... and Jude, nicely done.
- p-Dub, Grand Junction, CO
This song is VERY special to me as I just lost my soulmate (everyone says that but it is true) and wife on Nov. 2, 2005. We had just taken a second honeymoon to Jamaica in late August. She had some illnesses that eventually took her life although it was unexpected. She was only 43 and if you like you may read her obit in The Atlanta Journal on Nov. 4th and 5th. She was borderline genius and ironically was a reason that she was not going to get better. Heck, she was smarter than the doctors and just wanted to get away from her pain and suffering.
Anyway, our relationship had not exactly been going "swimmingly" lately so I was really worried about the trip.
Best vacation ever. God gave me one last great week with her and this song will always be in my heart. I cannot listen to it just yet but I can now read the lyrics and I am sure I read too much into some of them but does that really matter at this point?
A client asked me if I spent more time with the local Jamaicans that worked on our resort or the tourists. I was shocked to realize this but my wife and I NEVER spent a minute with other tourists there but ENTIRELY with Jamaicans. Looking back I realize what is the point to go to Jamaica and spend time with someone from the U.S.?
Thank you so much to everyone in Jamaica that was so gracious and nice. Thanks for opening up your lives and thoughts.
thx
JH
Atlanta, GA
P.S. I want to reinterate that I had nothing to do with the slave thing!!! (inside joke with some of my Jamaican friends)
- John, Atlanta, GA
i LOVE this song, its my favorite bob song. its awesome. but have you heard sublime's version of this song?? its SOOOOO GOOD. such a good cover. i love it. you definately should listen. i LOVE it.
- Izzie, lala, HI
The story I heard was that V Ford was a good friend of Bob's who died of a teminal illness and while he lay on his soon to be death bed with his wife weeping over him he said to her 'no woman, no cry'. Because he was going to a better place and she should be happy for him. Bob was touched by this sentiment and wrote the song as a positive message to all who fight the struggle. He credited the song to V Ford to help his familiy financially.
- Troy, London, England
this song is also performed by Sublime
- evileye_8@msn.com, Perth, Australia
Sorry, this was NOT Bob Marley's first hit. They already had huge hits before they went to London.

This was the first time white people in Europe "discovered" Bob, the same way Columbus "discovered" America.
- blackchick, Kingston, Other
It appears as though some people have reworked the meaning and truth of Bob Marley's message to fit their own opinions. Perhaps one should question the idea they have formulated before they refer to it as the truth. Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" is a deep and loving song that speaks to all people who know struggle. It is not a direct message to his wife, nor hidden messaged propoganda. It is a song to Jamaica, true. But a couple of the lines posted were inaccurate. The correct lines are; "My feet is my only carraige" not "My fear is my only carraige", "Observing the hypocrites" not "Hubba Hubba Hurry the hypocrites"
- josh, pittsburgh, PA
The song is not about Rita, the song is about a Country, (Jamaica) a Culture, Comraderie, Encourage ment and a belief (Rastafarian)

"I remember when we use to sing in the government yard in trench town" growing up poor in Trenchtown, with its delapidated buildings and shantytowns, unsanitary sewage systems, and sub moral living conditions.

"hubba hubba hurry the hypocrites, as they would mingle with the people we meet" these lyrics translated mean, attention, attention, there are informants and spys among the good people, serving the oppressor for there own gain.

"good friends we've had oh good friends we lost along the way"
interpeted people were killed and tortured as in most oppressed country's.

"in this great future, you cant forget your past"

interpeted means, the revolutions has started we will overcome, not forgeting where one came from.

"and then Georgie, would make the fire light" log would burn on through the night
"then we would cook corn meal porage, of which I'd share with you"

at night they would set a fire for (1.Heat and 2. cooking) with a tree log in the middle of the community of metal one room, make shift shacks and it is there that they would cook cornmeal porage (couldn'tafford any meat or other food we take for granted) and eat together, share stories sing spitiual songs, with make shift instuments.

"my fear is my only carraige, so I got to to push on through.

the fear of fighting for freedom, or the fear of living in sub standard conditions in an oppressed country, either way " I (will)got to push on through, but while I'm gone my baby, No Jamaica No Cry" .

I first heard this song while and inmate at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey USA, and heard this song in the yard, I met a gentleman who was once part of Marley's entourage, verified through pictures and letters, and he broke down the song for me in this fashion, He lived it!

Rasta forever!

Jude W. Lennon
lennonjw9@yahoo.com
- jude, newark, NJ
ever livin ever fearful ever sure....rastafari!
- white rasta, WILKES-BARRE, PA
I don't know if he wrote it or not, but this song, along with stir it up and kaya, was written when Marley was in England. The songs were to his wife Rita. At the time Marley was having an afffair, and Rita knew. Bob wrote the songs to reassure Rita that she still got top-billing in his life.
- Dustin, Tampa, FL
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