The Wisdom of Bob Marley

ROBERT NESTA MARLEY (2/6/45 – 5/11/81)


The teacher, she say, “Who can talk, talk; who can make anything, make; who can sing, sing!” And me sing. There are those who play music for kicks. I am not the kind of artist who plays for kicks. I do not go out of my way to do another’s song. You see, me don’t believe in trend or fashion. What people call soul music. To me, soul music is music that talk about truth. It must have a human story to the song relating a real-life situation.”


After a while I start to think, well, there’s work to be done. I must deal with this music God has given me and so this music can carry me. So me say, okay, earthquake can come. But if God send me out, Him never shake no earthquake upon me. So it’s not that fate that me a trouble with.


When I feel that the job has been done that I and I have been sent to do, I and I pack it up. When I feel satisfied and when Jah tells me that I am finished with this work … I will know that. When as many people as possible have heard what we have to say.


Music can carry you anywhere. So it may as well carry you to heaven — to Zion. Instead of carrying you all about or to some places you don’t know. We need positive vibrations. You cannot be ignorant. Can’t have prejudice, because we leave our judgment unto Jah. Want to cut the negative thing out entirely. It’s what your mouth say keep you alive. It’s what your mouth say kill you. And the greatest thing is life. It’s a thing where Jah put you through now. Weed out most of the devils. Overcome the devils with a thing called love.


That message — “I Shot the Sheriff” — a kind of diplomatic statement. You have to kind of suss things out. “I Shot the Sheriff” is like: I shot wickedness. That’s not really a sheriff; it’s just the elements of wickedness, you know. How wickedness can happen … People have been judging you, and you can’t stand it no more, and you explode. You just explode. So it really carry a message, you know. Clapton asked me about the song because when Clapton finish the song, they didn’t know the meaning … Him like the kind of music and him like the melody and then him make “I Shot the Sheriff.” I don’t know if it’s because Elton John say, “Don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player,” Bob Dylan say, “Take the badge off me, Ma, I don’t want to shoot them anymore,” and this one man say, “I shot the sheriff.” That song never fit no one else but Eric Clapton.


Every song we sing come true, you know. It all happen in real life. Some songs are too early. Some happen immediately. But all of them happen. “Burning and Looting” happen. So much time, it’s a shame. The curfew, yes mon, everything happen. Same thing with “Guiltiness.” These are the big fish that always try to eat up the small fish; they would do anything to materialize their every wish. You always have big fish because they manufacture them. That’s all. I don’t have to sing no more song. Just that one line — “Guiltiness rest on their conscience.”


My songs have a message of righteousness whether you are black or white. Listen, mon, you know I am no prejudice about myself. Well, me no dip on nobody’s side. Me no dip on the black man’s side. Nor the white man’s side. Me dip ‘pon God’s side, the man who create me, who cause me to come from black and white, who give me this talent. Prejudice is a chain. it can hold you. If you prejudice you can’t move. Never get nowhere with that. I wish things would change without hurt. I wish righteousness would reign forever. Let righteousness cover the earth like the water cover the sea.





Quotes by Bob Marley collected from The Future Is the Beginning, edited by Gerald Hausman

Photo By Ueli Frey ( [GFDL (