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10 Strongly Political Messages in The Music of Bob Marley

Bob Marley is the world’s most well-known reggae artist of all-time. Despite the deeply political, radical, and pro-Black roots of reggae music, general negative stereotypes about Rastafari and reggae have reduced Marley’s, and many other artists’, legacy to little more than being a mascot for hippies and weed-smoking culture – many readers will no doubt remember the proliferation of Snapchat’s insensitive “420 filter” of Bob Marley (a lot of which was, surprisingly enough, to do with whomever was in charge of the Marley Estate).

This post brings just 10 (there are many more!) of his particularly powerful lyrics to the table in order to remind people of the real message in Bob Marley’s music.

1. Rat Race (Album: Rastaman Vibration, 1976)

“Political voilence fill ya city, ye-ah!

Don’t involve Rasta in your say say

Rasta don’t work for no C.I.A.”

Recorded in the year of the failed attempt on his life in December, the “voilence” of which Marley speaks was prevalent and rose scarily during the late 1970s in Jamaica. The CIA saw the People’s National Party (PNP) of Jamaica, headed by Michael Manley, as a potential threat to the United States and American business ventures, as Manley embodied socialist values, and had also built strong ties with Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Via Edward Seaga of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), the Leader of the Opposition, the CIA systematically destabilised the country, through the supply of money, drugs, and military grade weaponry, the negative effects of which still plague Jamaica today. Throughout this saga near the elections, both political parties aimed to gain a public endorsement from Bob Marley, both of which he declined. Instead, he brought them both on stage at the One Love Peace Concert in 1978 and got them all to hold hands as a call for unity. As a believer of Rastafari ideology, Marley assured people in Rat Race that he would not have his morals corrupted, or his voice co-opted, by dishonest politicians and government officials.

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Bob Marley joins hands of Michael Manley of the PNP (left) and Edward Seaga of the JLP (right) at the One Love Peace Concert held on 22nd April 1978 in Kingston, Jamaica

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