Redemption Song

Album: Uprising (1980)
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  • This was Marley's last single before his death on May 11, 1981. It sums up his life and what he stood for in his songs: freedom and redemption. Marley was a very spiritual singer who gave hope to the downtrodden in his native Jamaica, and whose message spread to the United States and around the world when he became a star.
  • Marley completed the Uprising album (his last) in the summer of 1980. He was suffering from the cancer that would eventually kill him at age 36, but was very productive in his later years. He refused traditional medicine because of his Rastafarian beliefs and chose to make music and perform as long as he could.
  • This song drew from the works of the civil-rights campaigner Marcus Garvey, who in a 1937 speech said:

    "We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind."

    This can be heard in Marley's lyric:

    Emancipate yourself from mental slavery
    None but ourselves can free our minds

    Garvey's 1923 book The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey contains this preface, which is likely where Marley got the idea for "Redemption," which he used in the title:

    "Dedicated to the true and loyal members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the cause of African redemption."
  • This is much more of a folk song than a reggae number. Very unusual for Marley, it is just his voice accompanied by his acoustic guitar. Marley first recorded it with his group The Wailers, but his producer Chris Blackwell suggested he try a solo acoustic version, and that's what stuck.
  • Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer both covered this song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • This plays over the credits for the 2007 movie I Am Legend starring Will Smith. It was also sung by the character Sawyer in the season finale of the first season of the show Lost on ABC.
  • Barbadian singer Rihanna covered this for the Haiti Relief Fund after the earthquake that devastated the country. Urging fans to download the track she said: "This song for me, growing up, anytime there was a difficult situation, I always listened to this song because it was so liberating. Even now I listen to it when my back is up against the wall. I feel like the people of Haiti need to hear something inspiring."
    Rihanna performed an acoustic version live on the Oprah Winfrey Show on January 20, 2010.
  • French artists Octave Marsal and Theo De Gueltzl created an animated video for the song using 2,747 original drawings. Their black-and-white clip was released on February 6, 2020, on what would have been Bob Marley's 75th birthday.

    "From the history of Slavery and Jamaica, Rastafarian culture, legacy of prophets (Haile Selassie the 1st, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X), as well as Bob's personal life, we take the audience on a journey through allegories and representations," Marsal and De Gueltzl explained of the visual.

Comments: 44

  • Joann Marie from TexasI believe Bob Marley knew a code in the Bible and understood the importance of tracing back the word etymology. The word forward and pirate, I believe, are etymologically related. Also in the first verse I believe there is a double meaning, depending upon whether you are seeing it as a lyric written or whether you are hearing it pronounced. I believe Yeshua meant something very specific when He said those with eyes to see and ears to hear (or something similar to that as I do not want to misquote). This is all my opinion but I believe this song demonstrates Bob Marley knew what some people are doing. I believe there is a code in the Bible through symbolism of the stories and the words and numbers that are being used in the open but that people do not understand it so it is being done in plain sight like in newspaper online articles and such. Next time you look at the news online notice all the 4's and 12's and 7's that are being casually mentioned in the articles, lately especially the 4's and 70 and seven, and threes. I could be confused about all of this but I don't think so...
  • Les from UkStevie Wonder has also covered this song
  • Torsten from HereWhere it was recorded? When? What was a date of release? What was the recording company? I think these facts should be first details in every song. Also original key, bpm and time signature would be kinda basic facts that should be automatically there. [Thanks for the feedback. We focus more on the stories and meaning behind the songs, but understand why you would want that data. - editor]
  • Gary from Cardiff, United KingdomJohn Lennon and Bob Marley dead within 6 months of each other - Coincidence? Two inspirational human beings - two too many - for those with other objectives. Both inspired and were loved by millions/billions. Dark forces? Who knows? Imagine and One Love- joined at the hip. Men like those do not come around too often. Lives half lived but they live on through the people. Praise to two prophets of their time and space.
  • John from Detroit, MiHe wants something other than redemption songs.
    Nobody needs to be redeemed.
    He is saying everyone is human and no religion can offer what is already there.
    A human heart,a human soul.
  • Rico from Indianpaolis, InI think this version of Redemption Song is the best all though they are all great. His music will live on for ever, just last night I had a dream of Bob Marley singing. A song that he never wrote but it was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes after the song everyone cheered. Not really sure what the dream means but I could't believe that I had dreamed this wonderful song that I had never heard before, it was so cool!!
  • Gerardo from Rosario, ArgentinaI didn't know much about this song. I must say a found here many facts but they did not surprise me at all. Since the first time I heard redemption song I felt its spirituality. I agree it's a piece of art and I'm pleased to know it was bob's last song. This fact assures to my that he was a complete artist and not just one else. Through his lyrics and accords his talent will remain touching our souls, for us and next generations. His existence is endless. Thanks for so much you are giving us.
  • Jack from Nashville, TnMy first kid's middle name will be Nesta, I owe so much to Bob, he's gotten me through so much
  • Felipe from Santiago, ChileThe song is also featured as a funerary hymn in the movie The Beach:
  • Pedro from Miami, FlApart from all the other meanings... I also think there's a personal touch to it...
    He's asking the Almighty for redemeption because he in a way gave in to materialism... like for example buying a BMW and stuff... so by this time he had the revelation that "Money is NOT life" ----> as those were his last words to Ziggy...
  • Gus from Fort Smith, ArHistory lesson and life lesson. Don't live in the hurt and transgressions of the past, but don't ever forget them either.
  • Chad from Salt Lake City, UtLike many people, I also believe this song to be the best in history because of the meaning and emotion put into it by Bob Marley. The first time I heard it was in middle school and heard the No Use For A Name version. I liked it at the time. I don't know why. They totally butchered the song. It's truly inspirational that so many bands want to cover this song, but pop punk bands need to learn when to stop.
  • Cooper from Fort Mill, Sci love this bc anytime that people can post comments on the internet many people are always negative but not this time and i think that speaks so much on the legend and type of man bob marley was rip man one love
  • Michael from Wuhan, ChinaJust gotta agree with APB and Jeff on this one. I feel so privileged to have seen Bob Marley perform live at Deeside Leisure Centre in North Wales. It was a weird, spiritual experience I will never forget. I didn't know about the gig, but heard mention of it on Liverpool's Radio City. Starting in 25 minutes. Bob Marley was my hero and I was gobsmacked. Had no ticket but hot footed over there. A sell out. Only minutes to the start. I rushed over to an open trailer nearby and asked the people in there where could I get a ticket. A grand Rasta woman looked and me, smiled and said, Here you go, man. The music, the atmosphere, the performance was totally awe-inspiring. I think maybe the women in the trailer were the I Threes. This music will live forever!
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdWyclef Jean recorded this on a 9/11 tribute and Michael McDonald recently sang it on his "Soul Speak" album.
  • Bonnie from Hamilton, Njalthough i have purchased bobs cds in the past i wouldnt consider myself a major bob marley fan, however, i am here to say that i had a dream 2 nights ago of bob marley singing redemption song - not sure what it means but just wanted to share my thoughts and dreams - i watched the video and wow it sure does strike a chord in me - thanks bob!!!!
  • Rhett from Charlotte, Ncbob marley is the man...

    one love
  • Tony from Pon Dis Earth, United StatesOld pirates yes they rob I

    -- And who are these pirates? In history, they were of course the European slavers, in collusion with certain traitor-princes of West Africa. In the spiritual sense, the slavers are the Spirits of the Air, the fallen watchers mentioned in the Book of Enoch; the corrupt chieftains are we ourselves, we who...

    Sold I to the merchant ships

    that is, to bondage to materialism and the god and goods of this world. Bound in the hulls and hells of the slave-ships of our own bodies, we are carried away from our spiritual homeland, the true Ethiopia which means "union with God", into slavery to self-centeredness. From the Unfathomable Abyss of Love, as God is called by the Elders, we are cast into the Abyss of the devil and his angels, just as (according to the Jamaican elders asked why JAH permitted slavery), the Africans who had abandoned the true faith for obeah were punished with exile from the Black Man's home, and just as the people of Jerusalem were carried off to the Babylonian captivity for their idolatry.

    But, as with the exile of the Israelites to Babylon, this exile is also in a way a necessary thing, a desperate last-resort call: Awaken! Once one recognizes that one is a slave and an exile, one has started to return, and the very power of Babylon is, as in the Hebrew days, the arm of the Lord carrying His People home:

    Minutes after they took I from the bottomless pit.

    Hudade begins with the call to repent, to return from exile, to return to our roots which are in JAH's own love. We can not do this alone: human strength cannot bridge the gap from Adam to God. But God himself will give us strength for the effort:

    My hand it was made strong by the hand of the Almighty
    Forward in this generation triumphantly

    What then is the effort for which we are strengthened, the struggle to which we are called? It is the Ascetic struggle:

    Emancipate your selves from mental slavery
    None but our selves can free our mind

    --our "selves" being our true selves, the Image and Likeness of the King.

    Wa - have no fear for atomic energy
    Cause none of them can change the time

    However strong the "powers and principalities" of this world, the rulers of the elements (as they think themselves) may seem, they are powerless. The true King of the Elements is JAH Adonai Egziabher, and it is He who has set the times and seasons...including, as an icon, the sacred time of Hudade.

    How long will they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?

    Here the perspective tilts forward to the last and most difficult week of the season, the Great Week before Fasika. As they killed the prophets, they will kill the Son also-- and "they" are "we", for the very Apostles "stood aside and looked" (if indeed they were even brave enough to do that!) But that despairing hour, when the struggle seems to have been in vain, is not the end:

    Some say it's just a part of it, we got to fulfil the book.
    Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom?
    All I ever had-- redemption songs, these songs of freedom.

    May the compassionate Saviour of the World, through the intercessions of His All-Pure Mother Maryam, of the Ascetic Fathers Takla Haymanot the Ethiopian and Gabra Manfas Qeddus, and of all the saints, guide us through the Ocean of the Fast that we may be found worthI to behold His Third-Day Resurrection!

  • Mike from West Bend, WiI agree with Sammy in NY - Bob deserves more recognition than he gets. This song in particular is an awesome work of art. I am now finding a love for reggae, I never used to like it (I am a 27 year old white male from Wisconsin, what'd you expect). I have always liked Bob though, and now find myself loving Damian and other current artists. Long live reggae, long live Bob, and long live Jamaica!
  • Jandira from Brockton, MaThe redemption song is powerful and yet very sensitive and gentle. This song is what i listen to find my spiritual piece andconnection with myself...
  • Musicmama from New York, NyThis is one of my two favorite songs, ever. The other is Bob Marley's "Coming In From The Cold," which opened the album that ended with "Redemption Song." Both of these songs had me in tears for days after I first heard them: They are both so powerful, yet so gentle. Bob was one of the few visionaries the world--let alone music--has ever had. I like to think that he was a reincarnation of the poet William Blake. (If you don't already know them, look up Blake's "Little Lamb," "The Tyger," "London" or just about anything else in "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience." You'll find a very similar sort of spirit and sensibility in Bob Marley's work, especially in this song, "Coming In From The Cold" and "War." P.S. I'm about as white a woman as you'll ever find, with fine reddish-blonde hair. But when I first heard Bob Marley, when I was about 20, I tried to dreadlock my hair! Thought you might get a laugh out of that. I've been told that I looked better in them than in the "punk" haircut I later got.
  • Gary from Cleveland, OhI heard Nesta was not buried, rather his casket is 6' above the earth?
    We miss ya Bob, let's hope the whole world one day sees life the way you did.
  • Sarah from Bethesda, MdIn sixth grade, my daughter Claire had an assignment to write an essay about someone who changed the world- and she picked Bob. Of course, I had to argue with the teacher- and inform her that Bob Marley had been awarded the UN Peace Award among others. Claire began her paper with the lyrics to redemption song- proved her point, and got an A. 6 years later as she enters her senior year, she wears her " I love Bob" hoodie everywhere and when I hear her break out into song, it is usually this one. His influence will never die.
  • Simon from Stavern, NorwayRobert Nesta Marley lives on in our hearts!
  • Jeff from Bossier City, LaBob marley in my mind is the greatest musician, and this song just caps a wonderfull and amazing life he had. more ppl shud be like he was. i wish i had the chance to see him live.

    RIP- 2/6/45 - 5/11/81
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaWow. I didn't know all that. RIP bob
  • Ruda from Lugoj, Romaniathis is my favorite first i didn't know that it was bob's last song...don't know what to say except that i love this song & bob marley!RIP BOB M.!!!!!!!!!!
  • Bill from Erie, PaThis song has been covered by Stevie Wonder and Johnny Cash.
  • Bill from Erie, PaSmall correction to Daniel's comment- Bob Marley was baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which had then just formally separated from the Egyptian Coptic Church after the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria approved them having another patriarch in Addis Ababa.
  • Ralph from Batangas City Philippines, Otherwhen i was a kid,i use to hear all bob marley's song.....then suddenly i found my self that im a revulotionary..BOB MARLEY, he open my mind..i love my self and all the people who kill me.. thanks bob..
  • Araya from Boca Raton, Flthis song always makes me want to cry.
  • Apb from Farmington, CtThe greatest song of all time. Period.
  • Andrew from Rochester, NyThis actually was not the last song Bob performed. At that final Pittsburgh show in 1980, the second encore consisted of "Is This Love" and "Work".
  • Terry from Connersville, InTime will tell wat will happen good or bad
  • Petter from Ã?ngelholm, SwedenJohnny Cash did a cover on this with Joe Strummer on Cash's Unearthed III: Redemption Songs.
  • Bill from Erie, PaPlayed on the show "LOST" several times... fits really well, since all the charachters seem to be using their acts on the Island as a way to redeem themselves.
  • Dane from Honolulu, HiThis song seems seems like Marley is just telling everyone what he stands for and how his vision can come to light before he dies.
  • Ashley from Moncton, CanadaI love this song so much
  • Jordan from Highlands Ranch, CoNo Use For A Name covered this song.
  • Daniel Roberto DÃ?az from Panama City, OtherA month before his death, he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit. He wanted to spend his final days in Jamaica but he became too ill on the flight home from Germany and had to land in Miami. He passed away at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami, Florida on May 11, 1981. Before his death he was baptised into the Coptic Orthodox Church. and took the name Berhane Selassie (meaning the Light of the Holy Trinity in Coptic). His funeral in Jamaica was a dignified affair with combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafarianism. He is buried in a crypt at Nine Miles, near his birthplace, with his Gibson guitar, a bud of marijuana and a Bible.
  • Brian from Meriden, CtRedemption Song is everything most songs are really about. Cries for redemption. Songs of freedom. All they ever have. And Bob Marley's simple yet grand vision herein is everything therein. And nothing more.
  • Rob from Castaic, CaThis is quite possibly the greatest song ever written.
  • Chad from Fsj, CanadaJoe Strummer (RIP) and the Mescalaros also did a version of Bob Marley's Redemption Song released on their album Streetcore in 2003, after his death in 2002. Both songs are equally great, and the lyrics in this song really makes you think.
  • Sammy from New York, NyWhere is the Marley love? I feel as though he should be given more attention. I mean, this guy brought wonderful reggae jams and made his influence felt all around the world. This song, in particular, showed his tremendous growth as a musician. It's a shame his life was cut short. The whole world misses you, Bob!
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