Listen: Bob Marley

by Adrian Boot

Photo by Adrian Boot

If I were to try (though why would I want to?), I don’t think I could listen to reggae while keeping my head entirely still. This was certainly my experience on Monday night at a Berklee-Valencia concert celebrating Black History Month. Among the highlights was a song whose message resonates these days with renewed force, so I wanted you to hear it. Here is “War” by reggae legend Bob Marley.*


With leeway for Marley’s stylizing, and the way song lyrics tend to work, the words are almost exactly the text of a speech made by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I before the General Assembly of the United Nations on October 4, 1963.

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another
Inferior
Is finally
And permanently
Discredited
And abandoned –
Everywhere is war –
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes –
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race –
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained –
Now everywhere is war – war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola,
In Mozambique,
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed –
Well, everywhere is war –
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south –
War – war –
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight – we find it necessary –
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah!

haile-selassie

Emperor Haile Selassie I

*The song is from the 1976 Island Records album Rastaman Vibration by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

[Images: Adrian Boot at bobmarley.com, macaulay.cuny.edu]

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2 thoughts on “Listen: Bob Marley

  1. I usually send you a separate email but thought this time I would reply here. I am continually amazed by the things you find and post about! They are truly remarkable and I always feel enlightened and encouraged by the wisdom of others, including you! Thanks for the amazing things you share. There will be a day when there is no more WAR. Love, MOM

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