Redemption Song

Redemption Song

"Redemption Song" is the last track on Bob Marley's ninth Island music album, "Uprising". At the time he wrote the song, circa 1979, Marley already had been diagnosed with the cancer that later was to take his life. 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

Marley was a pioneer in spreading the reggae music of Jamaica throughout the world. "Redemption Song", however, is a folk song. Unlike most of Bob Marley's tracks, it is strictly a solo acoustic recording, consisting of Marley's singing and playing an acoustic guitar, without accompaniment.

The song also urges listeners to "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery," because "None but ourselves can free our minds". These memorable lines appear to have been taken from a speech given by Marcus Garvey in Nova Scotia during October 1937 and published in his "Black Man" magazine:

A full band rendition of "Redemption Song" was made available as a bonus track on the 2001 reissue of "Uprising", as well as being featured on the 2001 compilation "One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley & the Wailers". However, the solo performance remains the take most familiar to listeners.

In 2004, "Rolling Stone" placed the song at #66 among The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Cover versions

The song has been covered by a wide and varied group of artists, including most notably Katchafire, Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill, Elisa, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Arrested Development, U2, Cast, Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash (both as a duet and each as a solo), Sinéad O'Connor, Attaque 77 in Spanish, Life of Agony, Dave Matthews Band, Majek Fashek, Christy Moore, Ian Brown, Bob Geldof, Outlandish, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Ben Harper, Keller Williams, Sweet Honey in the Rock, No Use for a Name, Chris Cornell, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Amparanoia, Barry Brown, Marley's son Ziggy (which features Irish Folk band The Chieftains), Moodswings with Tanita Tikaram (a blend of the Marley Song and the spiritual "Oh Happy Day"), Ms. Dynamite, Jackson Browne, Eternal and Annie Lennox, who performed it in Edinburgh for Live 8, which in itself bears testament to the huge fan base Marley had, and also the power of the song itself.

*At the "" concert, the concert held after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Wyclef Jean sang the song while draped in an American flag. AWOL Magazine severely criticized this performance.
*Perhaps one of the most interesting variations, done by various Jewish youth groups, is coupling of the prayer "Mi Chamocha", which speaks of the exodus from Egypt, with the tune and chorus of "Redemption Song".
*In 2003, at the 46664 Concert in Cape Town, South Africa, performed by Bob Geldof.
*In the first season of "Lost", James "Sawyer" Ford sang the song.
*The song was featured in the film "The Beach", and is sung by one of the community as a tribute at the Swede's funeral.
*In 2005 Serbian rock band Bajaga & Instruktori recorded a version of the song in Serbian on the album "Šou počinje u ponoć" ("The Show Begins at Midnight").
*In late 2006, Pink performed the song live during the European leg of her I'm Not Dead Tour.
*In 2007, Glen Of Guinness, a folk band from Switzerland recorded a folk version for their N°7 CD;
*At some of his 2007 shows, Jimmy Buffett has played "Redemption Song" as part of a medley with his song, "A Pirate Looks at Forty". A live version of this rendition is included on his 2007 album "Live in Anguilla."
* Spanish singer Enrique Bunbury recorded a version of the song in Spanish called 'Redención', as a part of the songs released in 2007 on his official web site recorded by his band 'Los Chulis'.
*Speech covered this song for the IMAX movie "Michael Jordan to the Max".
*This song is played over the closing credits in the 2007 movie " I Am Legend".
*Jefferson Starship covers the song in their 2008 release Jefferson's Tree of Liberty . [ [ Jefferson's Tree of Liberty on] ,] with vocals by Paul Kantner, David Freiberg and Cathy Richardson. The song is part of a mash-up with "Imagine" (song) by John Lennon.


The title "Redemption Song" has been widely used also, mainly in a black, or African American context. For example, Mike Marqusee's book on Muhammad Ali was called "Redemption Song", as was Bertice Berry's book about a book dealer who specialises in African American literature. A biography of Joe Strummer is also called "Redemption Song".

Reggae artists Toots & the Maytals recorded a gospel track entitled "Redemption Song" years before Marley wrote his tune.


The Canadian teen drama "", which is known for naming each episode after an 80s hit song, named an episode after this song. The episode was about Spinner's having to choose between Jay and Darcy.



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