Could You Be Loved

Album: Uprising (1980)
Charted: 5
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  • Lyrics
  • Written by Marley in 1979, "Could You Be Loved" starts with a spare yet distinctive guitar riff that repeats under the track's relentless beat and one of the best known opening lines in history: "Don't let them fool ya! Or even try to school ya!"

    The interpretation of this opener and the other lyrics depends on what you think the song's about. Some think it's a love song. Others say Marley wrote it as a ballad to the poverty and struggle he witnessed, while still others claim he wrote it on a plane from Brazil in response to how much love he received when he performed there. Some even see it as being about a man reaffirming his faith in the face of personal struggle. Those familiar with Rastafarianism and Marley's lyrical style (in which he often referred to himself as "you" while simultaneously referring to everyone else, a concept that comes from the Rasta belief that all are one) believe Marley uses the song to convey an urgent message to himself and others: at all cost, stay mentally and spirituality fit inside Babylon's system.

    The true meaning probably lies somewhere in a melange of all these theories.

    Followers of Rastafarianism see capitalism, government corruption, and even the gold-backed monetary system as part of "Babylon" and live lives as divorced from it as possible.
  • By the time Uprising was released, Marley and the Wailers had come full circle. Originally a group of shanty dwellers from Jamaica's slums in 1963, the late '70s saw a different Wailers story - and tax bracket. The group was successful, with the trappings that come with it: money, fame, women. This, according to many, caused Marley to have a growing sense of conflict about success in the very system lambasted in his lyrics. As the Wailers began work on what would be their last album, he was also frequently ill as he had lived with the 1977 diagnosis of the cancer that would kill him a year after Uprising's release.
  • Lyrics to this song read like a disjointed sermon/prayer, where psalms and Bible verses encapsulated into one liners marry preeminent Rastafarian themes like righteousness and revolution. Some examples:

    "Love would never leave us alone" could be a reference to Jah, or God, as "love." When combined with the next line, "darkness that must come out the light" - a reference to the Bible verse, "For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad." (Luke 8.17), the lyrics might mean, "Jah will never leave you, so don't worry about anything oppressing you because Jah will reveal and destroy it." All things done in darkness coming to light is an oft-used allegory in Rasta teachings for good overcoming evil.

    "Don't let them change ya! Or even re-arrange ya!" reinforce the opening lines. Both lines could be warnings against allowing agents of Babylon to tamper with the righteousness of Jah's children. Marley's exclamations, "Only the fittest of the fittest shall survive! Stay alive! Yeah!", in light of the lyrics prior to it could certainly be another reminder that spiritual fitness is needed to survive in Babylon's system.
  • Toward the end of the song, the backup singers the I-Threes sing lines from Marley's first single, "Judge Not," a Ska tune about morality released in 1962: "The road of life is rocky, and you may stumble too. So while you point a finger, someone else is judging you."

    These lines are likely based on the Biblical admonishment, "Judge not lest ye be judged." Marley's repetition of this lyric from a previous song may have been done to drive home his point about the importance of morality.
  • This was the first reggae song to get prominent airplay on major American radio stations. It was first played by Frankie Crocker at the New York radio station WBLS. Thanks to this airplay, the song became one of the Wailers' most successful hits and was later used in several films, including I Love You to Death, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Blue Crush, 50 First Dates and Fool's Gold.
  • While it's hard to be sure exactly what this song is about, use of the cuica in the beginning of the song - the other instrument in the intro that's not the guitar - lends credibility to the theory that the song has something to do with Brazil. The cuica, or "friction drum" is a Brazilian instrument.
  • Marley wrote this song with hit potential in mind. He wanted to break into the American market ahead of a big tour that took him into the States (this Uprising tour was his last). He figured that his reggae music would not be easily accepted among mainstream black audiences, so he wrote this song with a faster, almost disco beat.
  • Wailers guitarist Junior Marvin originated the song in London. He was fooling around on his guitar and came up with the opening guitar riff. Marvin recalled to Uncut magazine:

    "Bob said, 'What's that?' I said it was just something I was messing around with, and he said, 'Can I use it?' Then we went to Brazil together with Jacob Miller from Inner Circle, and we completed the song together. We never got any official credit or compensation, but from time to time Bob would quietly give me some money to keep me sweet!"
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Comments: 11

  • Luke from Uk"could you be loved" to me means, are you lovable? take me for example, I go through life (30yrs+) and without a girlfriend the whole time, and Im always thinking I am super and I should be loved, right who doesn't? lol
    but those lyrics make me think "Come on,are you really lovable? you often don't dress well, you don't use deoderants, you don't have any money, you don't have your own place, you have a negative somewhat weird or strange personality" etc, so could I be loved? apparently not, Im just not lovable, i cant be loved. my soul at least appears ugly and not worth love. lol. could I be loved? nope. mgtow baby.
  • Kevin from Mobile, AlI love this song. I could easily see this song being played in country music bars as well as a discoteque.
  • Demetrius from Exeter, CaThe Song is sayin...Can you be in love with someone and yet be loved by Everyone else...Cuz in most cases when we find the love of are life there's always someone who is Envying you and tryin to Bring you down cuz they want what you got...
  • Clubber Lange from Ocean Gate, NjEddie Murphy made me search this song out as a young boy after seeing him sing part of it on one of his stand up specials ("Raw or 'Delerious" i cant remember)
  • Terry from London, EnglandCould you be loved literaly means could you be loved by the people and by Jah simultaniously.Its a song of encouragement warning those dedicated to rastafari not to be put off or influenced by anything other than Rasta.
  • Joe from Dublintony, pon dis earth, United States - interesting take you have on it there. one thing though, and i could be wrong about this, but, i think the end of the lyric is "...and be loved" rather than "...and be love". to me, that says 'once you are loved, could you continue deserving to be loved?'
  • Marc from London, EnglandThe way I hear it, bob is preaching to us, trying to make people understand the true nature of their being. Dont let them fool ya, or even try an school ya is in reference to the powers that be that cloud our minds from a very early age.
  • Tony from Pon Dis Earth, United States"Could you be loved, and be love?" sang Bob Marley in one of his most astonishing philosophical songs. The question is almost a seven-word summation of the whole Coptic spiritual tradition, beginning with the fact that it is a question. Most of us in Babylonia think that God, if He existed, would be the answer to our questions; the Elders teach that it is rather JAH who asks, and we who will have to answer.

    "Could you be loved?" The question can be taken in various ways. "Are you beautiful and wise, worthy of inspiring My love?" Who would dare to answer Yes to such a question from the Only Perfect One? Unbelievably, as Marley points out, it seems we all do -- nearly everyone accepts without astonishment the rather amazing (when you think about it) claim that "God loves you". In fact, in our smug self-confidence and arrogance, what we are inclined to doubt is that God loves others! But "the road of life is rocky, and you may stumble too; so while you point your fingers, someone else is judging you: could you be loved?"

    But there is another sense in which the question can be taken. "Could you be loved -- if I love you, will you love Me back?" This is the tragedy of Hell: "Love would never leave us alone", but we are more than happy to leave Love alone. "Out of the darkness there must come out the light", but we all flee from the light into the darkness of our self- imprisoning thoughts. "So go to Hell if what you're thinking is not right."

    By rejecting JAH we create our own Hell. We fear love and we hate love; we hate those who embody love, and seek to "fool", "school", "change", or "re-arrange" them until they are as dead as we are. This is the spiritual Babylon where we dwell in exile, estranged from our true selves by our estrangement from Love. But even here "Love would never leave us alone, out of the darkness there must come out the light." The Elders teach that the fire of Hell is nothing other than the eternal glory of JAH, the brightness and joy of the saints, clearly perceived... but rejected.

    "Could you be loved, and be love?" We are always free to accept JAH and become one with his love, to say "HAILE SELASSIE I", "Power of the Trinity, I". The person who does this, who becomes Love, is like the bush of Moses which burned but was not consumed. There is a story about two Coptic elders: "Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him: I fast, I pray, I meditate, I live in peace, and as far as I can I purify my thoughts. What else can I do? Abba Joseph lifted up his hands to the heavens and his fingers became ten lamps of fire and he said: If you wish, you can become all flame."

    To become "all flame" is to conquer death, to escape from slavery, to depart from Hell. It is to win the victory, but not always a victory that can be seen in this world. At Mt. Sinai, the guardians of the site of the Burning Bush also preserve the memory of one of the greatest of all African saints, the Egyptian philosopher-princess Katherine of Alexandria. One night Eiasus Kristos, Jesus Christ, appeared to her in a dream and offered her a ring. If she turned it down, she would remain who she was -- a wealthy and beautiful ruling-class intellectual. If she accepted it, she would encounter only defeat in this world, dying a martyr at the age of 18 -- but she would be love. The choice was hers. "Could you be loved, and be love? Say something. Say something
  • Brittany from Calgary, CanadaIt was written in 1979 on an airplane in which The Wailers were experimenting on guitar and eventually came up with "Could You Be Loved".

    Also In the middle of the song background singers quote a verse from Bob Marley's first single Judge: "The road of life is rocky And you may stumble too. So while you point a finger, someone else is judging you"
  • Flo from Toulouse, FranceThis is the only Bob Marley's US hit. It has West African highlife guitar in it. The song uses verses from the very first Bob's song, Judge Not (1962).
  • Daniel from Perth, Australiawheres the love man...marley forever
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