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Wailing Wailers, (from left) Bunny Wailer, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
Wailing Wailers, (from left) Bunny Wailer, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

The portrayal of Bob Marley as a singer of love songs has never really been properly documented, or has he been given due recognition by musicologists and music historians for his work in that area.

Marley has, almost invariably, been depicted as the ultimate revolutionary – the man whose musical lyrics provide solace, comfort and hope for the downtrodden.

Songs like, Redemption SongBlackman’s RedemptionWe and ThemWho The Cap FitGet Up, Stand UpSurvival and Babylon System, conveyed the message of hope that triggered the resilience that many needed to survive.

At the international level, songs like Revolution, from the album Natty DreadWar from the album, Rastaman VibrationAfrica Unite andZimbabwe from the album Survival, provided guidance to world leaders in efforts geared towards the dismantling of apartheid, and general equality and justice for all.

In 1980, Marley was hailed as a peace agent in Africa, and was invited to perform in Zimbabwe (previously white-ruled Rhodesia) at an epicconcert, marking their Independence in April of that year. Exactly two years earlier, April 22, 1978, Marley performed his famous heroics – the ‘Manley-Seaga joining of hands’, after they were invited onstage, at a somewhat similar concert, labelled ‘The One Love Peace Concert’, atJamaica’s National Stadium.

Geared towards easing the tension between political factions at the time, the act shocked many, including the invitees, who were caught totally by surprise. The move, however, seemed to have somewhat achieved its objective.

Bob Marley

Bob Marley

Marley’s early years, growing up under tough ghetto conditions in Trench Town, seemed to have moulded him into the character that he became. He quickly learned to defend himself against Trench Town’s rude boys, and soon earned for himself the respectful moniker, ‘Tuff Gong’, from his formidable street-fighting skills.

Tuff Gong, in fact became a record label that was established in 1971 by Marley and his best friend and manager, Alan ‘Skill’ Cole. Its first releaseTrench Town Rock – the Trench Town anthem, was the No. 1 record in Jamaica in 1971.

While speaking to a packed room at the third International Reggae Conference at the University of the West Indies in February, Cole uncovered other character traits of the ‘Gong’, that helped to mould him into the no-nonsense individual he became. Cole described The Gong, as a workaholic who was religiously dedicated to his work, and one who never slept much, as it was his view that ‘any man who sleep too much, miss out’.

Cole said Marley was such a perfectionist, that during the recording session of Rat Race, he destroyed three stampers because they weren’t precisely the way he wanted it.

Bob Marley in 1965

Bob Marley in 1965

Marley’s very first recording, titled Judge Not, a solo piece, backed by the Drumbago All Stars, for producer Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s label, although not a hit at the time, should not be taken too lightly in these deliberations.

It may very well be the first and most important indication of the direction in which he was heading when he proclaimed:

Judge not, who are you to judge me and the life that I live,

I know that I’m not perfect, and that I don’t claim to be

So before you point your fingers, be sure your hands are clean.

Judge not before you judge yourself.

The road of life is rocky and you may stumble too

So while you talk about me, someone else is judging you.


With so much emphasis being placed on the serious side of Bob Marley’s life – his revolutionary songs, his workaholic character and his meticulousness, the lighter side may easily have been sidelined.

This side included numerous love songs with deep emotional content.

I’m still Waiting, performed with the Wailing Wailers in the early 1960s, for producer Clement Dodd, was perhaps the earliest. In it, he admits:

Bob Marley2

My feet won’t keep me up anymore

With every little beat, my heart beats girl, it’s at your door.

I just wanna love, and I’m never gonna hurt you girl

So why wont you come out to me girl

Can’t you see I’m under your spell.


Lonesome Feeling, for the same producer, was the No. 11 song in 1965. In it, Marley seemed heartbroken as he sang along with the Wailers:


Tried to run away, but the road leads back to you

Tried to forget you, but the memories linger on.

It’s a lonesome feeling


Other romantic recordings that Marley did during the ska era includedLove and AffectionJust Another DanceHow Many TimesLove Won’t Be Mine, and I don’t Need Your Love, all for Studio One.


The album Exodus, voted, the album of the century, contained two of Marley’s most romantic efforts. In track two on side two, his patience seemed to have been tested to the limit when he laments:


I don’t wanna wait in vain for

your love.

From the very first time I blessed

my eyes on you girl, my heart

said follow through

But I know now I’m way down

on your line

But the waiting game is fine

Don’t treat me like a puppet on a


For I know how to do my thing


Marley’s romantic urgings soars to new heights in track 3:


Turn your lights down low, and pull your window curtains

Oh let Jah moon come shining in, into our life again.

I wanna give you some loving, some good good loving

Turn your lamps down low

Never try to resist oh no.


Kaya, the album of lovesongs, contains Is This Love, which ran in part:


I wanna love you and treat you right

I wanna love you every day and every night

We’ll be together, with a roof right over our heads.


It also contains the tearjerker She’s Gone:


My woman is gone

She had left me a note, hanging on my door

She said she couldn’t take it anymore

The pressure around me, just couldn’t see

She felt like a prisoner who needs to be free.

Rastaman Vibration:albumcover

From the album Rastaman Vibration, comes the cut Cry To Me – a call for a cheater to face retribution:


Walk back through the heartaches

walk back through the pain

shed those lonely teardrops

the reaction of your cheating game.


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