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Like all movies there is a soundtrack to go along with it. Bob Marley: One Love is no different and of course is all songs written and performed by Bob Marley (Bob Marley and the Wailers). These songs were all written and recorded 40-50 years ago and have been played and heard millions of times. So nothing new here right, but what was the meaning of each song, why did Marley write them? And where were they in the movie?  You find six of the ten songs from Exodus, the film centers around the time Bob was living in exile in London after the assassination attempt on his life, bookend by two major concerts, and the timing of when he wrote and recorded Exodus.  I wonder why we don’t get all ten songs, and as I wrote in my movie review, I would have loved to see the creation of each song from Exodus.  But to me, the biggest omission was “Simmer Down” which was played in one of the best scenes in the movie.

The album starts off with “Get Up, Stand Up.” Written back in 1973 by Marley and Peter Tosh. It is said the idea came from a trip to Haiti when Bob saw the poverty and oppression of the people. But this is a universal song that still stands true today, he tells the people to not wait until the next life to find fulfillment and happiness. In the movie this song is heard after his press concert stating that the peace concert is still on. Next up is “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” release in 1976 on the Rastaman Vibration album, a song about the connection of cultural heritage (Roots), bringing a modern and dynamic twist to the music (Rock), and the heartbeat of Jamaican music (Reggae).  This is briefly heard when Marley meets up with his family early in the film and again when he travels back home and is met by Rita and others. “I Shot the Sheriff” comes in next, written for the Burnin’ album in 1973. This is a song about self-defense, he felt persecuted by the powers that be, he did not want to use violence, but had no choice. Marley said of the song, "I want to say 'I shot the police' but the government would have made a fuss so I said 'I shot the sheriff' instead... but it's the same idea: justice." This is heard in the movie when the band and Marley are rehearsing for the peace concert, right before he is shot in his kitchen. “No More Trouble” is up next, released in 1973 on the Catch A Fire album, a song about putting an end to violence, discrimination, and socio-political unrest.  We hear this song briefly when he leaves Rita in the hospital after the shooting and heads to talk with local gang leaders.

“War,” released in 1976 on the Rastaman Vibration album, with lyrics derived from a speech made by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I before the United Nations General Assembly on October 4, 1963.  A song about racism and discrimination, Marley says “until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes, a mi she war.”  We hear this song in the movie live when Marley and the Wailers play the peace concert in Jamaica, it is the song he started the concert off with. Next up is "So Jah S'eh" off of the Natty Dread album released in 1974. In the movie this is also played during the concert, Bob has a vision of the gunman in the crowd as we hear the beginning of the song. This song conveys a message of unity, love, and hope in the face of hardships, especially in the ghetto.  This is followed up by “Natural Mystic,” from the Exodus album. Marley wants us to be aware of this amazing mystical power that is all around us. This natural mystic exists in nature and is for all. It is all around us and everyone has the ability to hear it. In the film we hear the wailers working on this in the studio, showing how they came up with the song. Showing the talent of Marley and the Wailers.

Another song from Exodus, “Turn Your Lights Down Low” is a love song with a strong sexual undertone. Marley and his lover have not been together in a long, long time. But the message is deeper, it is a beautiful message about devotion and surrender oneself to love.  Bob plays this acoustically to Rita when she arrives in London to see him in the movie, she tells him he needs more songs like that.

We first hear the song “Exodus” in the film when The Wailers start to create and play the song as Bob comes up with the lyrics.  We hear it again when they show the Paris concert and continues as they show concerts throughout Europe. It is a song about the descendants of the African diaspora returning to the Motherland, just like the Hebews returning from Babylon to Isreal. The center of Black Africa is Ethiopia. And it is time for an exodus back to Africa. “Jamming” is next, also from the Exodus album. The song promotes unity, hope and urging people to put aside their differences and just enjoy each other. The song embodies what Reggae music is all about, spreading joy, peace and love.  The song first appears in the movie when Ziggy plays the song at the beginning.  It is also heard as Bob is playing soccer and during a studio session. “Concert Jungle” from the Catch A Fire album is about the lack of positivity and love because of the struggles and hardships of marginalized communities in the urban environment.  We hear this in the film while Bob is jogging in a London park as he is met by gang leaders Claudie Massop and Bucky Marshall.

Next up is the live version of “No Woman, No Cry” recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London on June 4, 1977. We hear this in the film when a young Bob is playing this for Rita and again when they show glimpses of Bob and Rita’s relationship over the years. It is a song of sympathy, times are tough, the world can be cruel and takes no prisoners, but we have each other, we have the simple things, we have love to get us through. Next up on the album is also from Exodus, “Three Little Birds.” The meaning of this song is disputed with a few different interpretations; Tony Gilbert, a long time friend of Marley, was present at the time Bob wrote the song, “Bob got inspired by a lot of things around him, he observed life. I remember the three little birds. They were pretty birds, canaries, who would come by the windows at Hope Road.” The I Threes, Bob’s background singers, claim it is about them. I Threes member Marcia Griffiths said, “After the song was written, Bob would always refer to us as the Three Little Birds. After a show, there would be an encore, sometimes people even wanted us to go back onstage four times. Bob would still want to go back and he would say, 'What is my Three Little Birds saying? And some claim that it is a metaphor for the way Jamaicans had to grow marijuana. In the movie we hear Kingsley Ben-Adir singing this to Ziggy and Stephen in the car after they witness a shooting while Bob is playing soccer. We hear it again once Bob returns home to Jamaica to perform the One Love concert.

The last quarter of the album starts with “Redemption Song,” believed to be written in 1979 and was the final track on his 12th album, Uprising. One of Marley’s greatest and most powerful songs, was originally recorded as a solo acoustic track. This was his final message before dying, while we don’t know if he knew it would be his last song he would record, he battled cancer for years and knew his time was short. The song starts off telling the listener he has been persecuted for years but has overcome it, with the help of a higher power. He was letting his family and fans know that he was going to be fine on his next journey. He then turns the message to the fans, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our mind.” He paraphrases Marcus Garvey, telling the listener you have the means to break free of any mental bonds.  I could write an entire article on this song, there is so much meaning and thought. In the film, we first hear Angelique Kidjo humming part of the song at the start. We then hear the young Bob playing it for his mother in the kitchen and then again at the end of the movie when Marley was sitting around the fire singing to his children. 

“One Love / People Get Ready” first recorded in 1965 as a Ska song by the Wailers, was remade for the Exodus album. It is a song that Marley had changed and recorded through the years. A song about unity and love, it became a rally cry to unite but also address the violence and oppression in Jamaica. This song starts to play as the credits to Bob Marley: One Love begin and continues to play as the information about what happened to Bob afterwards continues. From the Kaya album is “Is This Love,” released in 1978. This song is about Marley’s deep connection with someone he loves, searching for that true love and then finding it. It is about sacrifice and commitment. We hear this song in the movie during some of the credits. The soundtrack is finished off with “Ratsaman Chant,” from the Burnin’ album written in 1973. This song reflects on a deepened sense of spirituality in Rastafari but also a universal sense. By the time this song was written, all the Wailers had started to follow Rastafarianism, it was a vocal expression of the Rastafarian culture and spirituality.  This song is played at the end of the credits of the film.

This is a great collection of Bob Marley and the Wailers songs, a diverse group of songs for the listener, especially those not familiar with Marley’s music. Check out the movie (see my review) it gives a nice insight into Bob Marley and check out the soundtrack, some amazing and meaningful songs, placed throughout the movie, giving even more insight into who Bob was and what made him an icon. One thing is certain, all Bob Marley songs had great meaning when they were written, but they still stand true 40-50 years later with the meaningfulness Bob intended.


One Love – Todd Judd


Todd Judd

Photojournalist - Pennsylvania

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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