Behind the Song Lyrics: “One Love/People Get Ready” by Bob Marley

Still captivated by the message behind John Lennon’s 1971 opus “Imagine,” Bob Marley wrote his universal anthem, a call for unity, understanding, hope, and “One Love.”

First recorded by Bob Marley and The Wailers’ earliest formation, The Wailing Wailers, as more of a ska track in 1965, then later re-recorded under the title “All In One,” by 1976, “One Love” evolved and was rewritten by Marley, incorporating pieces of the 1965 song “People Get Ready” by The Impressions. The 1977 version, which appears on Bob Marley and The Wailers’ 1977 Exodus, was credited to Marley and The Impressions’ Curtis Mayfield.

“One Love/People Get Ready” became a rallying cry to unite but also address the oppression and violence in Jamaica around the elections of December 1976 and the divisiveness between Michael Manley’s People’s National Party and the Jamaican Labour Party within the country.

Throughout the years, “One Love” has filtered across film and television, even re-entering the charts in 2010 after a feature on the TV musical Glee. The song has been used in the film Chain Reaction in 1996, Marley & Me in 2008, and Shrek Forever After (2010).

For nearly 45 years, the “One Love/People Get Ready” lyrics retain their message of hope and struggle, strength, and healing in times of continued social and political upheaval.

In 2020, which also marked what would have been the reggae icon’s 75th birthday, his children Stephen and Cedella, along with her son Skip, recorded and released a reimagined version of “One Love” to support the UNICEF effort to help children around the world impacted by COVID-19.

“It’s a song of unity, it’s a song that unites everyone,” said Cedella Marley in a 2020 interview. ”When Daddy was writing this song, I don’t think color, creed, or social status mattered. It’s really a song of just appreciating the human family, which is all of us.”

Skip added, “It’s very beautiful to see, you know, how the messages just grow and grow.”

One love, one heart  / Let’s get together and, feel all right / Hear the children crying (one love) / Hear the children crying (one heart)  / Sayin’, give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right  / Sayin’, let’s get together and feel all right / Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” Marley sings kicking off the song.

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (one love) / There is one question, I’d really love to ask (one heart) / Is there a place for the hopeless sinner / Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own? / Believe me.”

Photo: The Marley Family/Island Records/UMe

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