I Shot The Sheriff

Album: 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974)
Charted: 9 1
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  • This was written and originally recorded by Bob Marley in 1973. Clapton heard it when a member of his band played the Bob Marley album for him and convinced him to record it.
  • Eric Clapton was part of the seminal bands Cream, Blind Faith, The Yardbirds and Derek & The Dominos. He also had a very successful solo career, but his only #1 on the Hot 100, either with a band or solo, was his cover of "I Shot The Sheriff." He came close in 1992 with "Tears In Heaven," which reached #2.
  • Clapton didn't want to use this on the album because he thought it might seem disrespectful to Marley. Members of his band and management convinced him that it should not only go on the album, but also be released as a single.
  • Eric spoke with Bob Marley about the song, he said "I tried to ask him what the song was all about, but couldn't understand much of his reply. I was just relieved that he liked what we had done." (from Clapton: The Autobiography)
  • Clapton kept the underlying reggae beat from Marley's original, but made it more of a rock song, with prominent organ and guitar. In America, reggae was big around this time - in 1972, "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash became the first song of that genre to hit #1 in the States. For listeners craving just a touch of reggae with their rock, Clapton's "I Shot The Sheriff" hit the sweet spot.

    Clapton was not the last white artist to top the chart with a reggae song: Blondie did it in 1981 with "The Tide Is High," originally recorded by the Jamaican group The Paragons.
  • The female backing singer on this track is Yvonne Elliman, who three years later had a #1 hit with the disco song "If I Can't Have You." Other musicians on "I Shot The Sheriff" are:

    Carl Radle - bass
    Jamie Oldaker - drums
    Dick Sims - organ
    Albhy Galuten - piano
    George Terry - guitar, backing vocals
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Comments: 27

  • Kawa from Tokyo, JapanHi Music lovers,

    I was wondering that Why Eric was picking the reggae music like this and made an album,'461 Ocean Boulevard' in 1974 While he must have been in hospital or someplace to get out of a bad habit as a drug and alcohol addiction.
    I think he must have found something interesting for him While he had been under medical treatment during 1971?????? If so, What was that ? What did he find ? I think what he found or notice something made him produced '461' and covered 'I Shot The Sheriff', a reggae song !

    To be continued,
  • Dynama from Ohio, UsaThis song introduced me to reggae. I joke that this song contains one of the biggest mysteries in rock/pop music: Who shot the deputy? ("I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy.")

    "Every time I plant a seed, he says 'kill it before it grows,'" I've always taken that as very violent and hateful.
  • Stevie from Weehawken, NjThere's a great video on youtube of an 11 minute version of I shot the sheriff. More reggae sounding and incredible guitar work. I think Clapton's been great since Mayall's Blues Breakers to today!
  • Camille from Toronto, OhI liked the song in its heyday, but I would pass on it these days. Sung too slow and of course the lyrics are plain strange. Learning that it was written by Bob Marley does shed some light on the concept of the song. Lay Down Sally is okay since it has a faster beat, but Tears In Heaven....it's not a song I ever listened to all the way through. Too depressing. The slowed up version of Layla should NEVER have been recorded as the original is one of the most rockin-est, epic songs ever.
  • Bob from York, MtI think the song is about a inncoent man who shot a sherrif in self deffense because if he had purpossfully killed the sherrif he would of shot the deputy to
  • David from Woburn, Ma@Steve from Arlington Heights, HOW CAN YOU NOT RESPECT CLAPTON???? Sure, I'll agree that his solo career wasn't terribly spectacular since it was marred with alcoholism and other rampant drug use, but his work with Cream and Derrick & the Dominoes is more than enough to earn the praise he's received. Even more recently (now that's he's clean) his work is once again blues-based steller work.
  • Paul from Detroit, MiLoved this song. FWIW: I detested Lay Down Sally. The most annoying song ever recorded.
  • Adam from Oxford, AlAnyone who can no trespect both of these artist for the respective contributions to music,regardless of like or dislike for there music,needs a check up on there history! Both were influential to whole generations of people. Marley was influential to a whole religion and Eric was worshiped as if he were a god! So i would say that neither were inferior to the other, but both were equally popular in there respective genres as well as throughout world!!
  • Bubba from Reno, NvTo girl, anywhere, MI: yes its clapton's voice. Personally i think it sounds nothing like Bob Marley's voice in this version.
  • Nady from Adelaide, Australiahmmm....nah coud never really get into this song..it's too ???? I dunno I just think he was better with Cream. Though I do absolutley adore Clapton, worthy of worship CLAPTON IS GOD!!!mwahhahahahaha
  • Maxine from Kingston, OtherMisinformation in another comment: I'm Jamaican, living in Jamaica, and no, we do not get Bob Marley's Birthday off as a national holiday. I wish.
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesThis sounds like a really slowed disco. Didn't Eric Clapton make "New Sheriff in Town" as a sequel to "I Shot the Sheriff"? I haven't heard "New Sheriff in Town" in like, forever.
  • Len from Raleigh, NcI think Clapton was at his best with Cream,Crossroads guitar solo was the best he ever wrote.
  • Linda from Poplar Bluff, MoWe had so many famous people thru our town in the 60s Eric was one of them, he had two girlfriends here and one of them was Santana girlfriend to. when the sheriffs daughter had a baby we sung it like this "I didn't shoot the sheriff but I got his daughter pregnant anyway" The pregnant girl told the other girlfriend she wish Eric wrote Layla for her; and Debby said he didn't write it for ME, I wrote it for HIM!
  • Brandon from Peoria, IlJohn from MD...i don't understand how you can say that Bob Marley was an inferior artist. Noone else in the world has moved an entire nation to the point of revolution because of their music...noone but Bob Marley that is. He was way more than a musician, he was a politician. During a Jamaican presidential election (I think) Marley offered to play during a convention for one of the canidates, and that canidate ended up winning. Marley is VERY influential. Jamaicans get his BIRTHDAY off work. Do WE get Eric Clapton's Birthday off work? Do the Brits? NOPE! Inferior says you? Genius says I.
  • Girl from Anywhere, MiDoes Clapton sing on this or does he just use Bob's vocals? Because the singing doesn't sound like Clapton.
  • Spencer from Los Angeles, CaHey, Eric Clapton did a version of All Along the Watchtower, too. What a coincidence.

    Oh, and that wasn't Hendrix's only hit, just his only US top-40 charter. He did much better in the UK.
  • Joshua from Chico, CaA song is as good as you want it to be. If you like the song, its a good song. If you dislike it then it's a bad song. I think both Clapton and Marley are very talented. It's as simple as that.
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaI can understand you not personally liking Marley, but you clearly have no understanding of his genious and impact on the music world. He was at least as influential as Clapton.
  • Xander from Tampa, FlJimi Hendrix only had one hit... which was written by Bob Dylan, all along the watch tower... Are you gonna say he's a hack, too, steven?
  • James from Toronto, Canadaactually you know, im just kidding, i think this song is actually quite good, and hey whatever, its your opinion
  • James from Toronto, CanadaHey john from MD...U have absolutely no sense when it comes to music. This is eric claptons second least good song.
  • John from Millersville, MdOne of my least favorite Clapton songs. Eric is a self-confessed poor writer, and he believes his strengths lie elsewhere. He does do a lot of covers, but let's think for a moment of a few songs which he DID write. Layla, Wonderful Tonight, Tears In Heaven...most of his later stuff. I mean, it sounds to me like he really knows how to write. Not ot mention he's a brillian musician. He put Marley on the map with this...Marley is an inferior artist who owes Clapton his career because Clapton condescended to cover this mediocre song, and made it a good one. People don't respect Clapton as much as they should.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaI can't believe there are so few comments here! Really, there better be more on Marley's version. I'd thought I'd find millions of Claptin finatics here, and in the words of Slim Pickens in Blazing Saddles- I am depressed-. Maybe more on Layla. His only number one hit...JEEZ. Clapton respects Marley, but no one respects him. Including you, Steven.
  • Steven from Arlington Heights, IlI can't respect Clapton, his only worthy single is a cover of someone who meant more than just pop songs.
  • Sean from Private Info :), NeAwsome song. Personaly I like Marley's version better. But Eric Clapton's does own :).
  • Kevin from Honolulu, HiYvonne Elliman sang the opening backup vocal line.
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