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.
Brad Nash - Rochester Hills, MI
The Wailers bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett nearly ruined the recording of "I Shot The Sheriff" because of one of his spliffs. Engineer Phil Brown recalled to Uncut magazine.
"They were heavy guys but it was lots of fun. While we were mixing they were in the control room, smoking and dancing. I physically melted the 'I Shot The Sheriff' tape with the glowing debris from a joint while trying to do an edit. The spliff fell apart, and reached the tape before my hand! We called them 'baseball bats,' it was neat grass. Thankfully, there were three masters of that track, so I was able to steal the drum fill from the third take and splice it together. It saved my bacon. That was all down to Family Man. I blame him."