Bob Marley
Rastaman Vibration, 1976
Bob Marley


A  tribute to the Emperor of Ethiopia, H.I.M. Haile Selassie I ( 1891 -1975 ) "...Born Tafari Makonnen in 1891, Haile Selassie came to be identified inextricably with Ethiopia...the fortitude of the man sometimes referred to as "The Lion" inspired Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and even Malcom X, each of whom corresponded with Haile Selassie --who advocated civil disobedience when it was necessary to remedy fundamental social injustice or restore freedom to the oppressed. The Emperor's presence at President Kennedy's funeral is still remembered. It seems somehow appropriate that the motion picture "Born Free" was filmed in Ethiopia during Haile Selassie's reign."

The origin of this song is quite interesting. The song lyrics were extracted directly from a 1963 speech Selassie delivered  at the United Nations in New York City. In 1976 Marley stated, "It's not music right now, we're dealing with a message. Right now the music not important, we're dealing with a message. Rastaman Vibration is more like a dub kinda album and it's come without tampering y'know. Like War or Rat Race, the music don't take you away, it's more to listen to."

The 1983 song, Buffalo Soldier is another human rights and social justice song by Bob Marley that was inspired by actual events. "In 1866, through an act of Congress, legislation was adopted to create six all African American Army units. The units were identified as the 9th and 10th cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st infantry regiments. The four infantry regiments were later reorganized to form the 24th and 25th infantry regiments." These soldiers soon came to be known as "Buffalo Soldiers". There are numerous theories for the origin of this name. "...Some attribute it to the Indians likening the short curly hair of the black troopers to that of the buffalo. Another possibility for the nickname was the heavy buffalo robes the soldiers wore on winter campaigns. Others say that when the American bison was wounded or cornered, it fought ferociously, displaying uncommon stamina and courage, identical to the black man in battle."

Bob Marley's song, Buffalo Soldier pays tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of these heroic soldiers but is also critical of the American government's policies and practices with respect to slavery, Manifest Destiny and the genocide of Native Americans. He sings, "...There was a Buffalo Soldier In the heart of America Stolen from Africa, brought to America Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival..."

Sadly, Bob Marley's life was cut short by cancer and he died on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36. A prolific song writer, Marley's music has influenced numerous artists while his message of love, equality, and empowerment has inspired people and movements around the world. As he said, "...Music gonna teach dem a lesson..."

Source(s)      "Reflections on Haile Selassie", Imperial Ethiopia, official site of the Imperial Family of Ethiopia.
                     "The Beginning" and "How They Got Their Name"  Buffalo Soldier Museum.
Buffalo Soldier", The Words of Bob Marley. Official Bob Marley Web Site.

Bob Marley Music and Lyric Resources:

Official Bob Marley Web Site

Bob Marley Foundation

Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers

Referenced and Related Works:

Haile Selassie United Nations Speech

Haile Selassie "Education" speech

Maya Angelou's Poem, "A Brave and Startling Truth" ( 50th Anniversary of the United Nations )

Langston Hughes' "I Dream A World"

United Nation's Charter

Marcus Garvey and "Ras Tafari"

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, "I Have A Dream"

Constructed Response Activity

Constructed Response Activity

YouTube – “War” (external page)

YouTube – “Buffalo Soldier” (external page)


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