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Redemption Song
Song

Redemption Song

Bob Marley
Album:
Uprising

Song meaning & background to Redemption Song by Bob Marley


Chris Blackwell, the head of Island Records, proposed that Bob Marley attempt recording this freedom anthem as an acoustic-style folk song after he had already recorded a version of it with his band.


Marley's lyrics, which drew inspiration from Marcus Garvey's writings, present music as a remedy for both mental and physical servitude.


Marley stated, "I would love to do more like that," a few months prior to his death from cancer in 1981 at the age of 36. "Redemption Song" serves as his eulogy as the last song on his final album.


Some key lyrics derived from a speech given by the Pan-Africanist orator Marcus Garvey titled "The Work That Has Been Done."


At the time he wrote the song, circa 1979, Bob Marley had been diagnosed with the cancer in his toe that took his life a couple of years later. According to Rita Marley, "...he was already secretly in a lot of pain and dealt with his own mortality, a feature that is clearly apparent in the album, particularly in this song."


The song urges listeners to "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery," because "None but ourselves can free our minds." These lines were taken from a speech given by Marcus Garvey at Menelik Hall in Sydney, Nova Scotia, during October 1937 and published in his Black Man magazine:


‘We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind ...’


Guitar Chrods and Lyrics for Redemption Song by Bob Marley


[Verse 1]

    G                      Em

Old pirates, yes, they rob I.

    C         C/B      Am

Sold I to the merchant ships

G                        Em  C         C/B        Am

 Minutes after they took I    from the bottomless pit.

       G             Em

But my hand was made strong

C         C/B         Am

 By the hand of the Almighty.

     G                 Em     C         D

We forward in this generation   triumphantly.

 

[Chorus]

                     G    C       D        G

Won't you help to sing      these songs of freedom?

       C     D         Em   C   D       G

'Cause all I ever had,        redemption songs,

C   D       G       C  D

  redemption songs.

 

[Verse 2]

    G                         Em

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery,

           C           C/B         Am

None but ourselves can free our minds.

        G                 Em

Have no fear for atomic energy,

               C        C/B       D

'Cause none of them can stop the time.

      G                        Em

How long shall they kill our prophets

         C       C/B     Am

While we stand aside and look?

     G                Em

Some say it's just a part of it.

      C         C/B       D

We've got to fulfill the book.

 

[Chorus]

                     G    C       D        G

Won't you help to sing      these songs of freedom?

       C     D         Em   C   D       G

'Cause all I ever had,        redemption songs,

C   D       G       C   D       G       C  D

  redemption songs,   redemption songs.

 

[Instrumental]

| Em    | C  D  | x4

 

[Verse 3]

    G                         Em

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery,

           C           C/B         Am

None but ourselves can free our minds, whoa!

        G                 Em

Have no fear for atomic energy,

               C        C/B       D

'Cause none of them can stop the time.

      G                        Em

How long shall they kill our prophets

         C       C/B       Am

While we stand aside and look?

     G                Em

Some say it's just a part of it.

      C         C/B       D

We've got to fulfill the book.

 

[Chorus]

                     G    C       D        G

Won't you help to sing      these songs of freedom?

       C     D         Em   C   D       G

'Cause all I ever had,        redemption songs.

C     D         Em   C   D       Em

All I ever had,        redemption songs.

C  D          G      C  D          G

   Songs of freedom,    songs of freedom.

 

C  C/B  Am    Am    Am6    Am6

Release Date

1980

Songwriter/s

Bob Marley

Producer/s

Bob Marley, Chris Blackwell

Label/s

Island, Tuff Gong

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