“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere there is war,” the song begins, immediately flooring me. This song sounded far more eloquent than I was used to hearing from Bob Marley and his band The Wailers. Having heard most of their singles in the past, such as “No Woman No Cry,” “Buffalo Soldier,” “Three Little Birds,” and various others, I was intrigued from this sudden departure from their more tradition stylings.
Upon doing some research, it appears that the song is actually taken word for word from a speech Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia made to the United Nations in 1963, urging world leaders to advocate for equality, make efforts to stop the exploitation of African nations, and to disarm all nuclear weapons. Now, this unto itself would have been fascinating enough, however, another layer of intrigue arose when I remembered that Bob Marley was a proud Rastafarian. Rastafari is a religion that developed in Jamaica during the 1930’s, well-known for its association with Raggae music, the colors red, yellow, and green, dreadlocks, and spiritual use of marijuana. I believe (and I may be incorrect) one of the primary beliefs of Rastafari is that Haile Selassie I is the second coming of Jesus Christ, and that he is the messiah that will deliver the righteous from the corruption and evils of the modern world (referred to as “Babylon” by Rastafarians in reference to the Biblical city). Therefore, it seemed only natural that Bob Marley would gravitate to his words, and make a song with that subject in mind.
On the subject of the song, it appears to address many human rights issues that we still face today, such as poverty, racism, slavery, and (as the song is directly referencing) war. It directly addresses the causes of these problems, and suggests that they could all be brought to an end if we are united despite our differences in race, income, and philosophy. The song claims that a united African people will fight these issues (primarily war), and will be victorious as it proclaims “Good over evil, yeah! Good over evil, yeah! Good over evil, yeah!” And I think that most people can agree with that sentiment. I liked listening to the song as I don’t often listen to reggae willingly so it was nice change of pace.