An Analysis of Bob Marley's Music

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"Redemption Song"

Old pirates yes they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I from the
Bottom less pit
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty
We forward in this generation triumphantly
All I ever had is songs of freedom
Won't you help me sing these songs of freedom
Cause all I ever had redemption songs, redemption songs.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear of atomic energy
Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look
Some say it's just a part of
We've got to fulfill the book

Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom
Cause all I ever had, redemption songs, redemption songs,…

Bob Marley

Legendary musician Bob Marley diverged from his characteristic reggae style music in the above song to record this mournful spiritual, "Redemption Song." Recorded in 1980, this reflective piece was on the last album recorded by Marley before his death in 1981. In this song, Marley sings in the first person, taking on the role of a slave, "singing the songs of freedom" (Papa, Gerber and Mohamed: Fall 1998). Marley was known for creatively blending the sounds and thoughts from religious slave spirituals with his own native Jamaican music to give rise to a new and celebrated musical style. Marley also recorded many other songs with elements of original African American slave folksongs such as "Go Down Moses", "Buffalo Soldier" and "Amazing Grace" to name just a few. It is possible that my fondness of his music is what led me to choose the topic of my research, "Slavery and Religion". I have always wondered how the enslaved Africans were able to endure the ugliness of the institution of slavery. How did they maintain any hope? How did they cope with being separated from their families? How did they survive the physical and emotional cruelty cast upon them? What kept them sane? What kept them going day to day? The only answer that I can fathom is, they acquired an inner strength obtained by an immeasurable faith in a power greater than that which walks this earth; a power greater than that which inflicts the pain on the down trodden. I believe that through their deep spirituality, the enslaved African Americans not only survived, but also used their religion, their spirituality, as a form of resistance against the institution. For most Europeans, whom brought the Africans to America, religion was neatly placed in a particular category in society. For the African people, religion, God in particular, was at the center of life. Through this centralizing of religion, the peoples of Africa fused their concepts of God and religion into their daily lives and routines, thus giving rise to an incredibly spiritual people. Their spirituality was visible in their music, dance, and story telling. Unfortunately, like everything else in their lives, once the Africans became the "property" of the white man, they were stripped of the freedom to practice their religions. The slave owners knew that by stripping them of their African names, their African traditions, their religion, their music, their heritage, their entire identity, was a resolute way to master over the slaves. So that is exactly what they did. The African slaves were not permitted to retain anything that would be reminiscent of who they were or where they came from. The spiritual practices of the enslaved Africans have ancestral origins from various parts of Africa, Dahomey, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, the Congo, and other West African nations. These different regions practiced a range of religions, from Voodoo (Vodoun), Akan, Ifa, Orisha, LaReglas de Congo, and Mami Wata. Small percentages were even African Muslims, incorporating ancestral veneration and family deities into their ritual practice (Mamissii "Zogbe`" Vivian Hunter-Hindrew, Hounon Amengansie: 2002). There were...
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