The Influence of Jamaican Politics on the Music, Life and Philosophy of the Late Great Robert Nesta Marley OM .

Bob Marley and Jamaican Politics

The music, life and philosophy of the late great Robert Nesta Marley OM has to a great degree been shaped and influenced by the political climate of Jamaica.

This political atmosphere has affected his writings tremendously and his writings in turn, affected the Jamaican politics of the day.

Marley’s music grew out of both severe and constant economic impoverishment as well as political discontent with the government and its policies; and it is in this context that as well his music must be analysed and understood.

The cultural and political content of Marley’s work must be examined using the Bob Marley timeline.

This explores the genesis of Marley and his works as well as an examination of aspects of the political climate in Jamaican after independence in 1962 and later the 1970’s and the 1980’s.

During this period he rose to prominence and his music gave rise to a new form of consciousness among blacks and a defiant rejection of the system of oppression.

Bob Marley was Exposed to The Staunch Realities of Abject Poverty...

Bob Marley moved from the obscurity of rural St. Ann where Marley was born on February 6, 1945 to the gritty streets of Trench Town, Kingston where Marley relocated to seek a better life.

He was exposed to the staunch realities of abject poverty, low pay, malnutrition and disease and a lack of political rights by the poor, houses which were anything from cardboard boxes to beaten out oil drums nailed together, roadblocks, migration, food shortage.

This move to Trench Town would later provide the catalyst for him to hone his talents and form one of the greatest reggae acts of all time, the Wailing Wailers.

The move to Kingston allowed Marley to sense and understand the peculiar realities of post-independent Jamaica, one which saw the impoverishment of the majority of blacks, still with a lack of access to education, or the possibility of economic improvement or increased political clout.

This discontent and disillusion among the poor blacks would provide material and influence for Marley’s dissemination of political opinions in his words and actions and his cry for spiritual redemption.

Bob Marley's Revolution…Marley’s notion of revolution comes from everyday resistance to oppression. …

’Get up, Stand up’ Urged People to Rise and Stand and Fight For Their Right

By 1964 Marley had teamed up with Neville Livingston (Bunny Wailer) and Hubert McIntosh (Peter Tosh).

They quickly decided to forego involvement in ska and rocksteady but chose to immerse themselves in music more reflective of the truth of the Jamaican poor and inner city youths of which they were apart.

Songs such as ‘man to man is so unjust…’ identified the struggles and inequity of the society, as Marley, through his music career represented the Jamaican working class, those who had no real voice or power in the cut throat reality of Jamaican “politricks”.

The inadequate housing and political unrest which was taking place at the time found root in lyrics which such as ’Get up, Stand up’ which urged people to rise and stand and fight for their rights, and to no longer be just reactive but to become proactive.

He argued that there needed to be a revolution, one that would have to be pragmatic and one that would take place from within the working class and no where else.

Songs such ‘Simmer Down’, then seem to easily contradict this revolution that Marley believes should take place, but Marley was not interested in violence but rather for blacks to develop a healthy sense of self through examination of self.

But this is indeed not the case.

The many of the albums produced aided in the inspiration of the ordinary man to fight against his oppressor, the New World Order.

In many of the songs, the political content is deliberate and unapologetic:


'Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Road Block)',


‘Rat Race’,

‘Slave Driver’,and

‘Africa Unite’

reflected the common interests of the ordinary working class, peasant- one that was of struggle and resistance and had a notion of promise of ultimate redemption from struggle and repression.

Marley’s music advocated for a change in governmental regimes and a distrust of politicians, to be done by agitation and creating disenchantment with existing value system.

Marley’s political interest grew and reflected itself more and more and his music and reflected a median resistance and challenge to the system of neo-colonialism.

Marley did not mimic the master at the core of the plantation culture rather he sought to create a separate identity for blacks.

Using the teachings of Garvey ‘rise ye mighty people there is work to be done so lets do it little by little, rise from your sleepless slumber we are more than sand on the sea shore…’ Marley’s notion of revolution comes from everyday resistance to oppression.

…’dem a go tired fi see mi face...dem get me outta di race..’ echoes a deliberate attempt by Marley to urge people to be defiant in the face of adversity.

And change from a life of dependence and subjugation and lack of self-will to that of a I can and I will mentality.

The 1970’s and 1980’s brought with it a great sense of uncertainty as political tensions between the two rival political parties often resulted in deaths and a growing sense of distrust for political parties and the game of ‘politicks’.

Marley’s message of solace to the oppressed cannot negate the wider scope and impact of his messages that of both a deep sense of self-realisation and self-actualisation which was needed.

Marley therefore came as a revolutionary who came to conquer rather than to bow, and his music would reflect three things:

1) the need to demand justice from power elites;

2)a belief in exile and return to Africa;

3)and lastly the belief in tolerance rather than the judgment of individuals.

In fact his political message was as powerful as his musical message and the two were inextricably bound up together.

Since the 1970’s Jamaican politics have seen the most rapid institutional transformations.

It is a conscious and intentional search for a new world economy in which there is no limit to nationality and is borderless.

This would counter the economic, social progress which independence was to bring but in indeed failed to do.

“Out of many one people” was in fact a façade which failed to solve problems but rather unearth the continuing racial, social class divide which existed pre-independence.

Bob Marley and Jamaican Politics:Michael Manley

Bob Marley and Jamaican Politics:One Love Peace Concert

Return from Bob Marley and Jamaican Politics to home of Rasta Man Vibration