Redemption has many meanings, but there is one definition that embodies the spirit of Bob Marley’s beliefs and music: to reform, or to change for the better. Forty years after the release of his iconic “Redemption Song,” his desire to make the world a better place through mental and spiritual emancipation—important first steps to physical emancipation for the larger community—remains powerful and vital to this day.
Using Marley’s own words from interviews and his powerful song lyrics, his eldest daughter, Cedella Marley, creates a powerful narrative about the hard but rewarding path to redemption.
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About the Author
The eldest child of Bob and Rita Marley, Cedella Marley is a descendant of reggae royalty. She is an award-winning recording artist, producer, author, and fashion designer. She is the C.E.O. of Tuff Gong International, the label founded by her parents, and the director of the Bob Marley Foundation. She is the author of the children’s books The Boy from Nine Miles, Three Little Birds, One Love, Everything Little Thing, and Get Up, Stand Up.
Read an Excerpt
October 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of my father’s timeless “Redemption Song.” I say timeless instead of popular, iconic, or beloved, though those words apply. “Redemption Song” resonates today as much as it did when my father originally wrote it. It is an anthem for times of conflict and despair and calls out the systematic oppression that continues to plague all levels of society. But it also offers a way forward. The answer is in the title itself.
The word “redemption,” has many definitions. It can mean to save, or be saved, in both a figurative and literal sense. It can also mean to take back, regain, reclaim, or repossess what has been lost. These two ideas go hand in hand. When one has suffered great losses, or inherited generational trauma and loss, one might look at the outer world and think, something has been taken from me. I can only be whole if I reclaim it. This is the instinct of an individual. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but if every individual only pursues what they believe is rightfully theirs, there can be no laying down of arms. There can be no peace and harmony. My father believed we were entering a new world when he wrote “Redemption Song,” but we have yet to fully create that new world. How can we complete the work my father set out to do?
There’s another definition of redemption: to reform, or to change for the better. This type of redemption expresses hope and longing for reconciliation, both within and without. It’s a two-part process that starts with a reclamation of the self—understanding who you are and where you come from. But the second part is just as crucial and can only be achieved by becoming part of the world—of a community. Only then can you have a true sense of purpose. Only then can you know where you’re going.
My father said, “I don’t just love my neighbor and then hate a stranger…I have no place for hate. But I bless those who say they hate me.” He understood the only way to make things better is to become better. To rise above individualism. To embrace others, whether they want to be embraced or not. This is the way to unity. This is way to true redemption for all.
The quotes within this book are taken from a compilation of interviews in my personal collection, as well as song lyrics that speak to my father’s pursuit of redemption. They can be appreciated individually, but when read together, they create a kind of road map, from identifying concrete problems and solutions to achieving spiritual fulfillment. They offer a glimpse into the way my father thought about and processed the world around him. Hopefully they inspire you on your own journey.
My father was, and is, wise beyond his years—some say even beyond time itself, and I’ve lived long enough to understand just how true that is. Happy 75th birthday, Dada.