While my mother was pregnant with me she took me to Bob Marley concert at Madison Square Garden. She told me that I stood up in her stomach throughout the whole performance and when Bob said, “GET UP, GET UP, GET UP, GET UP, GET UP…” during the song “Could You Be Loved,” I was moving uncontrollably. That was September 20th, 1980. He was the opening act the for the Commodores at the Garden and I was on my way to making my grand entrance in a few months. I’ve always had this amazing connection with Bob Marley. His life, his legacy, and his music have been key components of my being from before I can even remember. In fact, I would argue that he is the most influential artist of our time. At least for me ANYWAY. His messages are timeless and his delivery profoundly beautiful. Today we celebrate the life and legacy of the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley.
Bob Marley is what I call a “Spectrum Artist.” He represents the epitome of spectrum artistry because he is the kind of artist that creates art that can be received intergenerationally, on every level of understanding from simple to complex, from philosophical to comedic, and from enlightened to reflective. This kind of artistry creates multiple access points for people to draw meaning and “ovastanding” from the art. His music and “livity” were/are rooted in a strong belief in Rastafari and are enriched by his experiences as a man. Bob’s lyrical contributions are embedded with perspectives of spirituality, socio-economic conditions, political climates and their impact on the people, social issues, global awareness, accountability for humanity, and equal rights.
The following is an excerpt from the song “We and Dem”
We And Dem Lyrics
We no know how we and dem a-go work it out.
But someone will ‘ave to pay
For the innocent blood
That they shed every day,
Oh, children, mark my word;
It’s what the Bible say, yeah! yeah!
Oh, we no know how we and dem a-go work this out;
We no know how we and dem a-go work it out.
But in the beginning, Jah created everythin’ (oo-oo-oo-
he gave man dominion over all things.
But now it’s too late,
You see, men has lost their faith (oo-oo-oo-oo-ooh),
Eating up all the flesh from off the earth, eh!
This is one of my absolute favorite songs from Bob Marley. As a matter of fact, I use to play this song every morning during one of the most adverse periods of my life. This song was one of the last recordings of Mr. Marley before his passing on May 11th, 1981. If you really listen to the lyrics, you can clearly see that although fear and hardship are present there is triumph and victory on the horizon. The tone of his voice and even his cadence at times throughout the song are haunting. He asserts like a conquering lion, ” Ain’t it good to know (I KNOW), Jah will be waiting there.”
Implications for the Classroom
Bob Marley’s work can easily be used as reference point in your Social Studies or ELA classrooms. Songs like “War” and “Zimbabwe,” exhibited his global connections powerfully. “War” quotes His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie addressing the United Nations in 1963 and “Zimbabwe” is an anthem celebrating the victory and emergence into independence for the African nation. Also, Mr. Marley’s use of metaphors, morals, similes, tone, mood, and numerous other literary devices make his music fertile ground for an ELA deep dive into the elements.
Until the philosophy which hold one race
Superior and another inferior
Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war, me say war
That until there are no longer first class
And second class citizens of any nation
Until the color of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes
Me say war
That until the basic human rights are equally
Guaranteed to all, without regard to race
Dis a war
That until that day
The dream of lasting peace, world citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion
To be pursued, but never attained
Now everywhere is war, war
And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique,
South Africa sub-human bondage
Have been toppled, utterly destroyed
Well, everywhere is war, me say war
War in the east, war in the west
War up north, war down south
War, war, rumors of war
And until that day, the African continent
Will not know peace, we Africans will fight
We find it necessary and we know we shall win
As we are confident in the victory
Of good over evil, good over evil, good over evil
Good over evil, good over evil, good over evil
In life, in death, and Redemption, we honor YOU – Mr. Marley
Walk Good, job well done.