Bob Marley's Love Songs Express The Deep Emotions Associated With Love.

Bob Marley's Love Songs

As Kwame Dawes has argued quite effectively in Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius, Bob was able to articulate the most complex political thoughts as well as complex emotions for the mass public to understand.

The populism of Bob’s music is remembered in many instances for the political messages; however it is important to remember the softer side of Bob Marley.

For many couples the first song they danced to was one of Bob Marley’s love songs.

Marley joins a long line of reggae artistes such as Dennis Brown and Beres Hammond who are renowned for their ability to speak to the ladies. For many women the sight of Marley performing “Waiting In Vain” or “Turn the Lights down Low” sent them into seventh heaven.

Marley is a part of a tradition of black artistes who have been able to express the deep emotions associated with love. Marley joins artistes such as Luther Vandross, Teddy Prendergast, Peabo Bryson, and Lionel Ritchie who have been able to express the sensuous desires of black people .

It is important to note that they have done so without denigrating the black woman, which often tends to be the norm in popular black music genres such as hip hop.

For artistes such as Marley the black woman was a mighty queen that needed to be crowned and honored.

As a Rastaman Marley was well aware of his social responsibility to the black woman . He was conscious of the 400-year period of Atlantic slavery and slave trade and recognized that those abused most by the system was the black woman.

Bob Marley’s love songs did not just express sensuous desires; it was a part of an attempt at honoring the black woman and her immaculate beauty.

One of the legacies of Atlantic slavery has been the production of unhealthy relationships among black men and women.

These relationships are often times subject to physical and verbal violence, in many ways black men and women during slavery and after have been trying to learn how to love each other in a healthy and productive manner.

In many respects Bob Marley and his music was a part of the process of rekindling the love between the black man and black woman.

The examination of Bob Marley’s love songs speaks to the various ways in which black people love each other. Marley was able to express all the moments in a couple’s life from the tender care of a spouse to that intimate moment ushering in sexual ecstasy. Marley helped to move black love from the barbaric to the romantic.

One of the songs that started the process of reaffirming Black love and independence of thought was the song “Could You Be Loved”. The song speaks to the need for black people to think and love themselves freely. The song is an honest examination of the black reality and reflects the realization of Bob Marley that as a people love must come from within. It’s made clear in this Bob Marley love song:

Don’t let them fool ya,

Or even try to school ya! oh, no!

We’ve got a mind of our own,

So go to hell if what you’re thinking is not right!

Love would never leave us alone,

A-yin the darkness there must come out to light.

In this first stanza of “Could You Be Loved” is a clear example of what Rex Nettleford refers to as the creative imagination and what Lloyd Best calls epistemic sovereignty working together to articulate love and free thought. Marley continues on this trend in the second stanza.

Don’t let them change ya, oh! –

Or even rearrange ya! oh, no!

We’ve got a life to live.

They say: only - only –

Only the fittest of the fittest shall survive –

Stay alive! eh!

Marley combines the liberation philosophy of Rastafari and love.

Marley moves love away from its simple emotional understanding and recognizes the political element of love. For black people whose basic rights and freedoms have been abused through slavery and colonialism the basic act of loving ourselves and other people has increased significance.

Marley is calling on black people to love themselves in order to ensure survival in a world that has been less than favorable to black people.

Is This Love ?

In the song “Is this love” Bob expresses the more intimate expressions of love as he interrogates the mixed emotions associated with the feeling of love. In the first stanza of Bob Marley’s love song the feelings of love is expressed, showing the caring and devoted side of his personality.

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;

We’ll share the shelter of my single bed;

We’ll share the same room, yeah! - for jah provide the bread.

Is this love - is this love - is this love –

Is this love that I’m feelin’?

Is this love - is this love - is this love –

Is this love that I’m feelin’?

I wanna know - wanna know - wanna know now!

I got to know - got to know - got to know now!

The song is a favorite among many of the admirers of Marley’s music as it expresses the emotions that many people are unable to do, people connect to the feelings of desire. As a man expresses in the second stanza of the song Marley speaks form the heart as a man possessed to ensure that his lover is treated right.

I’m willing and able,

So I throw my cards on your table!

I wanna love you - I wanna love and treat - love and treat you right;

I wanna love you every day and every night:

We’ll be together, yeah! - with a roof right over our heads;

We’ll share the shelter, yeah, oh now! - of my single bed;

We’ll share the same room, yeah! - for jah provide the bread.

The interesting thing about Marley’s love songs is the way he was able to politicize the romantic. This politicization should be seen in a narrow and corrupt form, Marley was able in all of his songs to instill a broader message to the people.

Marley would set the mood right but in that same breath there is a calling lovers to respect and honor each other. Love was to Marley more than just sexual ecstasy it was a process of love and devotion. This theme is most represented in the song “No Woman, No Cry”. In the first stanza Marley reflects on life.

Said - said - said: I remember when we used to sit

In the government yard in trenchtown,

Observing the ’hypocrites

As they would mingle with the good people we meet.

Good friends we have, oh, good friends we’ve lost

Along the way.

In this great future, you can’t forget your past;

So dry your tears, I seh.

For Black people loving each other has been the only way through which we have been able to sustain ourselves through poverty and political oppression.

One can’t help but think that the song is Bob’s only personal reflection on the early years with Rita after they got married. As a newly married couple the only thing they shared was there musical ambitions and poverty. These are the experiences that help to bring people together.

In the second stanza Marley continues to reflect on this theme.

Said - said - said: I remember when-a we used to sit

In the government yard in trenchtown.

And then georgie would make the fire lights,

As it was logwood burnin’ through the nights.

Then we would cook cornmeal porridge,

Of which I’ll share with you;

My feet is my only carriage,

So I’ve got to push on through.

As Carolyn Cooper argues Marley’s music must be seen as an important part of the contribution to Caribbean literature. In one verse and in one stanza Marley was able to say articulate and express many ideas.

Marley using music as his tool was able to ensure that the message reached a popular audience. It was able to reach the audience because as a son of the soil he was able to speak for his generation of youth struggling to build a life and family.

Marley however was able to be the hopeless romantic as he articulated erotic desires in a respectable and alluring fashion. As most black men will agree putting on a Marley love song sets the mood right for the night. This is exactly the case in relation to the song “Stir It Up”.

In the first stanza Marley is able to express the romance between two lovers.

Stir it up; little darlin’, stir it up. come on, baby.

Come on and stir it up: little darlin’, stir it up. o-oh!

It’s been a long, long time, yeah!

(stir it, stir it, stir it together)

Since I got you on my mind. (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh) oh-oh!

Now you are here (stir it, stir it, stir it together), I said,

It’s so clear

There’s so much we could do, baby, (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

Just me and you.

Come on and stir it up; ..., little darlin’!

Stir it up; come on, baby!

Come on and stir it up, yeah

Little darlin’, stir it up! o-oh!

Those who speak of the song consider it to be one of the best love songs performed by Bob Marley. The reviewers of Marley’s work constantly see it as a masterpiece of intuitive seduction. Marley was able to seduce women through his seductive lyrics, which is most pronounced in the song “Turn the Lights down Low”.

Turn your lights down low

And pull your window curtains;

Oh, let jah moon come shining in –

Into our life again,

Sayin’: ooh, it’s been a long, long (long, long, long, long) time;

I kept this message for you, girl,

But it seems I was never on time;

Still I wanna get through to you, girlie,

On time - on time.

I want to give you some love (good, good lovin’);

I want to give you some good, good lovin’ (good, good lovin’).

Oh, I - oh, I - oh, i,

Say, I want to give you some good, good lovin’ (good, good lovin’

This song is known for its allusion to the relationship that Marley had with Cindy Breakspear. Rita in her book No Woman, No Cry discusses the song revealing that she refused to perform the background vocals for the song.

Marley one of the Greatest Romantic Performers of All Time?

In conclusion Marley stands as one of the greatest romantic performers of all time. It is not only that Marley was skilled at seduction through lyrical prowess it was also the rhythm that accompanied the lyrics. It was the way that Marley played the guitar and moved his body and locks. This transformed him into more than just a political messenger into an international sex symbol.

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