Part I: The Artist and the SongBob Marley was born and raised in Jamaica, a nation and island in the Caribbean. The island’s population is descended by former slaves of the British companies who kept sugar and other plantations. Bob Marley grew up in Nine Mile, a small village in the Dry Harbour Mountains of St. Ann Parish where most people today still live a very simply life and follow the Rastafarian religion and culture. He later moved the capital Kingston, where there was extreme prejudice against Rastafarianism, as well as a focus on money and modernization.
Part II: The Era and Context
“Redemption Song” was written in 1980, after Jamaica has been an independent country for more than a decade. Despite this new freedom there were still a lot of problems in this country, including poverty and discrimination against the Rastafarians such as Bob Marley. The stimuli for writing the song was the writing and philosophy of Marcus Garvey, who wanted more than freedom from slavery for Jamaican people and for black people- he wanted them to thrive. The message that Bob Marley has for the listener is that they should not hold themselves back just because others do not support them, and they should not worry about having material things at the expense of that freedom.
Part III: Relevance and Impact
People today still connect with Bob Marley’s songs about freedom from the constraints of those with control of society. Today the listener might consider the demands of a job and school as infringing on freedom, and costing time with family and social life. Freedom would require not wanting to have it all, such as the nice house and nice car, but instead valuing that freedom and community. This was the message that Marcus Garvey was trying to transmit to the poor Jamaican people in the early twentieth century, and it was repeated by Bob Marley in “Redemption Song” in the later twentieth century.