Behind The Song: Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

This article appears in our January/February Legends Issue. What if you had the chance to leave a final message before dying? What would you say? It would have to be something that summed up everything that you stood for in life. You’d also like to inspire those you left behind. Bob Marley essentially had that opportunity with “Redemption Song,” the last song on his final album with The Wailers, Uprising, in 1980. He died on May 11, 1981 at age 36 from complications from cancer. While there’s no indication that Marley knew for sure that the song would be his last recorded document, the contemplative mood of Uprising and the fact that he had been battling the cancer for years seems to suggest that he knew the end was near. The fact that “Redemption Song” was such a drastic departure from his other recordings is also evidence that Marley had a fond farewell in mind. Instead of the reggae beats for which he was known, the song presents Marley alone with an acoustic guitar playing a song that would have been a good fit on Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ album. Marley was too much a force of…

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