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Bob Marley, originally from Nine Miles, Jamaica moved to Trenchtown where the he stated, in the 1980 Bob Marley ‘Like it is’ Interview, significant development in his life started taking place. At Trenchtown he was poor and lived a childhood of violence, however, music was his comforter and he continued to get encouragement from his friends and family. Through the music Bob Marley writes informing people of the horrendous living situations in the places like Trenchtown and shows what is taking place in his nation. It is here his advocacy and work on human rights can be seen. Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are considered entitled allowing them to live with dignity, freedom, equality, justice, and peace. The doctrine was created to protect everyone no matter persons nationality, gender, ethnicity, religion or language and looks to the fact that no one has the right to take away the rights allotted to you. By guaranteeing life, liberty, equality, and security, human rights are used to protect the average person from those who are in a position to take advantage of them. This is what Bob Marley fought for, and he achieved this through “a common standard of achievement of all people and all nations…to promote respect for those rights and freedoms” as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights lays down.
Bob Marley, a Rastafari, uses messages from the bible as well as Jamaican folk proverbs and sayings in order to establish a connection between his music and the listeners. This research paper not only looks to the role Bob Marley played in making a better life for himself, but it looks to the role he played in the lives of many. An online questionnaire was generated and the responses of 50 individuals were recorded and used to complete the questionnaire titled The Effect Bob Marley Has on Us Today. Music and lyrics of well known songs such as Exodus, One Love, Buffalo Soldier, Get Up, Stand Up and Redemption Song will be looked at along with feedback on them to show the influence on listeners. His songs contain themes drawn from the Bible, Jamaican folk-lore, African Diaspora and from the streets of Kingston at that time showing African unity and promoting a One Love and One World vision. Today, Bob Marley is not only seen as a musician but as a pioneer for change, instilling in others the message of peace, love, unity, justice and freedom.
The questionnaire consisted of multiple choice and open-ended questions, asking participants of their background, what they know of Bob Marley, what they believe his message was and what he is most known for. The research was geared towards both Jamaicans and non -Jamaicans and targeting the Jamaicans was done to get from them what they have learned or seen of Bob Marley while living in Jamaica, how they have witnessed Marley influence their culture, as well as how they view his legacy from the way he is remembered in Jamaica. Not being born in Jamaica allowed for the reaching out to other non-Jamaicans. Therefore, along with this, another aim was to gain an understanding of how both Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans believe Marley is viewed in Jamaica and internationally and how well they recognize his message and if it reached them in the way he intended. It also allowed for learning of Bob Marley’s influence on others and the different perspectives of his legacy and how far his legacy has gone on to having an influence on cultures internationally and whether the influence can be seen today. Looking at the findings of the questionnaire, overall, 23 persons were Jamaican while 27 were from other countries both regionally and internationally. A general consensus of the age of persons was done to ensure they were all present-day youths and gender to see how much males and females took part. Coming out of this, 32 were female and 18 were male, and the question on age, 38 were 18-24, 9 were 25-29, 2 were 30-35 and 35 and over 0.
During the 60s and 70s, how Jamaica and Jamaicans were viewed were based on Bob Marley’s popularity in the spread of reggae and Rastafari. Everyone knew Bob Marley and the results showed that 47 of the participants answered Yes to listening to his music with 23 saying they don’t listen to his music often, 16 said often and very often was answered by 7. 3 of the participants answered No they don’t listen to his music. Not Often was answered by 23 of the participants, while Often was answered by 16 of the participants, and Very Often was answered by 7. In addition, 1 person said no they do not listen to his music making 49 persons who listen. Marley’s name is easily attributed to many different things depending on the person and how they interpret Marley’s image.17 people said Rastafarianism, while 4 said Marijuana. 12 persons viewed him as the person who started Reggae music, 15 viewed him as a symbol of peace and an advocate for change and 2 people said other adding a good father and role model and great teacher. All the respondents selected Bob Marley’s music has reached persons locally and internationally. The main reason was because reggae music has been spread far and wide and because the messages of his songs such as justice and freedom and peace, love and unity are embraced and practiced by many starting at home and continued through educational institutions and even in the workplace.
Like Martin Luther King, Bob Marley fought against social injustice using a non-violent method. In the 1979 Bob Marley ‘Anti Establishment’ Interview, Bob Marley stated that we should all live how God wants us to live. Hanner quoted Marley as he said, he had a duty to tell the truth and will keep doing it until he is satisfied that people know of the message of Rastafari and all black people have freedom like anyone else. Marley’s music and lyrics were his ways of doing what was required of him which he called “me Faddah’s business.” He was of the belief that he was placed on the Earth and given songs by God to encourage his people to strive towards justice and freedom. This is what many remember Bob Marley for. Music such as Buffalo Soldier, Babylon System, Get Up, Stand Up and Redemption Song are popular when showing the themes of Justice and Freedom. The theme of justice and freedom refers to Marley the prophet, the militant political activist, and the spokesperson for societal transformation in a deeply contentious nation.
One of Marley’s most well-known songs coming out of the Confrontation album is, “Buffalo Soldier”. Just looking at the name we can see that the story behind it may possibly include one of soldiers with the look and strength of a buffalo, and this is true. According to Dawes, the story behind the song has to do with former slaves who were used in the United Stated Army to fight against the Native Americans. The title Buffalo Soldier referred to how the slaves were described by the Natives, describing them as unusual soldiers, with kinky hair which reminded them of the hide of a buffalo. Bringing this into a Jamaican context, Marley compared the buffalo soldiers to the Rastas who had the nappy hair in common and were seen as different to the rest of society. Marley saw himself as a soldier of Jah’s justice against the evils of slavery and this can be seen in the song and on the album cover as the album cover speaks to a battle between a Rasta man and a mythical dragon. In the song, Bob Marley shows that justice for Africans was ignored and he expresses his fight for African rights through his music. This music Marley saw as the only hope for liberating Jah’s people from the slave system.
Coming from another era is Redemption Song where freedom is the main point of the song. The message can refer to Marley looking at the history of the slave trade from Africa to where it is now. It is a song many can relate to in relation to barriers they are faced with such as mental or physical barriers causing them to be locked in. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds shows this. One person had an interesting view of this song in that it was viewed as one which speaks to breaking free from all forms of slavery existing presently for them such ad debt and institutional slavery. The song is one of encouragement telling people to not allow things to hold them back and to let go of them in order to move forward. Marley referred to atomic energy not being the cause of the world ending so we shouldn’t fear it. This can be because there are certain things in the bible that have to be fulfilled before the world can end which is seen in the phrase “We’ve got to fulfil the book.”.
Another famous song, Get Up, Stand Up has been declared the unofficial anthem for Amnesty International. Even before the singing starts the instrumentation is one that calls for attention as it is catchy. Looking to the findings, Get Up, Stand Up was seen to be song that everyone liked as it was about standing up for one’s rights and not giving up in the process. It is believed that the song came out of a situation occurring in Jamaica where the IMF wanted to assist Jamaica, but Bob was saying Jamaica does not need to rely on them and he stated “If you have a goal, get up and don’t be lazy! Many have the perception of receiving hand-outs and most people think God will spoon feed them by coming and giving them exactly what they want but reality is we must take the initiative and make the extra effort to getting things ourselves and this is when we accomplish what Bob is implying, fighting for what you want until you achieve it. Bob Marley is also encouraging people to not cannot sit down but to get up and stand up against issues such as racism, poverty, elitism and sexism to name a few. This song is similar to a chant that calls for some sort of action. This can be seen in the lyrics, “Move! “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.” It is definitely one that calls for people in the crowds to sing along in agreement and it has become a true anthem for many Bob Marley fans.
Bob Marley is one of the main influencers in the spread of peace, love, unity and freedom in the Jamaican culture and Rastafarianism due to the words and lyrical content used in his music. Gilroy defines Marley calling him the greatest man in reggae music and the greatest leader and advocate of the spread of the Rasta religion and even though early Rastafarianism was intentionally directed toward Africans and against Whites, achieving a universal vision of peace, love, and unity was done through Bob Marley’s outlook on the religion. Marley is seen to show peace publicly when he made a move at a Reggae concert for peace encouraging Michael Manley and Edward Seaga who shook hands on stage, to resolve the political war between them. Participants stated that the message in Marley’s songs are prophetic and he touched on history and controversial topics. Common words used by them answering this question in relation to this aspect was that Marley created a mood fighting for unity, self-dependence, faith, peace, and love. There was a mix of persons adding he sang about justice, inspired others to do good deeds and remain committed to one’s goals. One person stated he was a psalmist, so his music gave off a gospel type message. Marley in his songs looked to racial and national issues and call for the unity of all persons under Rastafarian principles. Through looking at these things, the second major category of songs that will be discussed in this section fall into two categories as the two main themes seen are peace and love and calls for unity. Two songs that are powerful illustrations of his lyric genius in this category are “One Love” and “Exodus” They both also point toward the steady increase in his status as a songwriter, a prophetic voice of freedom, and an internationally known leader of human rights and unity for all people.
One Love is a song that can be heard played on political platforms, television commercials and overall it is a household song for many. Despite its commercial usage the song has achieved, according to the Jamaica Information Service it has a status as one of the most important songs in his collection as it was voted the best song of the 20th century. The song was named the “Song of the Millennium” by the BBC at the end of 2000 because of its message of hope and its plea for unity and peace. “One Love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right…. ‘Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right.” Marley is pleading to mankind to stand in unity and give thanks to God and allow him to take control of everything in your life and from talking to persons, it is one which gives hope when facing a down time in life.
Bob Marley’s album Exodus, from which the song Exodus is taken was a huge success for him. Time magazine declared it the album of the century and praised it for “drawing inspiration from the Third World and then giving voice to it the world over’ (McCann and Hawke 2004, 82). The main theme of the song is the end of the suffering of all people. It draws on the image of the Biblical story on the Exodus and we see this in the repeating line of the song which is “Exodus, movement of Jah people. Move!” It is evident that as part of Marley’s message here, as in other songs, is that it is incumbent upon his audience to become engaged in the movement of peace, love, freedom, and unity. As Gregory K. Stephens claims, “The return to Africa, in Marley’s vision, represented not a quest for racial purity, but a return to a more humane philosophy”. Through these descriptions, Gallardo shows that Marley lead a musical revolution and through that revolution, brought the political realm into his music, with the steadfast attachment to his ideas of poverty, oppression, and political corruption. Additionally, one participant went on to say, “He was a revolutionary and another added he fought for the underprivilege mainly those in the ghetto and was singing about the inequality”. Marley as a result is seen as an icon for the struggle for justice, peace and human rights.
Bob Marley skilfully blended multiple cultures, syncretistic religious influences, and a commitment to freedom, justice, hope, and unity through the gift of his musical and lyrical genius. Smith in his study stated, Marley never saw himself as anything other than a messenger of Jah, to strengthen his people’s resolve about freeing themselves and to strengthen their faith and used his music as a device to empower persons toward personal and corporate transformation. Rolling Stone ranked Bob Marley number 11 in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and he is seen as the greatest ever reggae singer. Marley, in the interview entitled, Bob Marley Denouncing Material Things (Riches) said that we cannot solve problems with war and “the one thing he would like to see happen is “all men, black, white, shiny, anyone live together”. He spread reggae and his message of love and unity to a worldwide audience. In the findings of the questionnaire, one person stated that Bob Marley introduced the world to Reggae music and another looked to the smoking of marijuana. Of the others, collectively it can be safe to say he was looked to as a humanitarian and when we hear his music being played we automatically feel at peace and the message of his songs has played an important role in the lives of many through encouragement and upliftment.
His work on behalf of the Third World’s poor and powerless led to impressive awards. The United Nations awarded him the 1978 “Medal of Peace” and just a while before his death in 2982, Jamaica gave him its highest honour, the Order of Distinction. “In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Bob Marley number 11 in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In the article highlighting this, Wyclef Jean states, “Marley brought the idea that through music, empowerment and words, you can really come up with world peace”. Bob Marley’s legacy continues to stand the test of time long after his death and is still visible in present day. This is evident as in the findings all participants knew Marley’s songs and most of them listen to his music, yet they were all born after his death, so it is interesting to learn and safe to say that his name still lives on. As long as there are people who know him and appreciate his music, his teachings and work outside of music will be relevant for a long time to come. As for his legacy in Jamaica participants stated his legacy lives in his children, his estate and his music. As a result, it is important for us to safeguard Bob Marley’s possessions and accomplishments for other generations as well as do more to spread the messages he taught in order to keep it alive.
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