Rewind album: Uprising by Bob Marley and The Wailers (1980)
Bob Marley and The Wailers
In Bob Dylan's 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, the American musician wrote about his frustration at being labelled a saviour, a leader and a prophet.
Dylan had been worshipped since the early 1960s, and the dizzying effects of fame, coupled with a collective compulsion to view him as the de facto leader of various causes, eventually took its toll. Dylan distanced himself from his fans, retreated from the limelight and entered a religious phase.
Bob Marley, who died in 1981 aged 36, was seen in a similar light and posthumously became the poster boy for peace as well as protest. He was handsome, intelligent, committed, passionate, and a gifted guitarist and singer-songwriter. With his Rastafarian beliefs (which he had adopted in favour of his traditional Catholic upbringing), he too was considered a modern-day prophet by the masses. But it was on his final album, recorded a year before his death, that the religious themes were at their most explicit.
Did the titular uprising concern people or spirits? Born in Jamaica in 1945 to Cedella Booker and Norval Marley, the teenaged Marley moved to Trenchtown, Kingston, to live with Neville Livingstone, who would later become Bunny Wailer.
Their mutual love for the American R&B they heard on the radio and the indigenous sounds of ska encouraged Marley and Livingstone to pick up their own instruments, and when he was 16 Marley released a song, Judge Not. A few years later, and now with Peter Tosh on board, the three became known as The Wailers.
The intervening years saw Marley become one of the most celebrated and beloved reggae artists not only of his generation, but also across the entire musical pantheon. A slew of classic records were released, aided in no small part by the studio prowess of Lee "Scratch" Perry. Between the arrival of Soul Rebels in 1970 and this final album in 1980, The Wailers put out close to one LP a year - including their most famous, 1977's Exodus.
Surrounding these developments was the continued political and social instability in Jamaica. Marley had tried to foster harmony among the warring government factions, but up to this point the message had been relatively hopeful and full of love.
On Uprising, however, he struck a note of fatigue and submission, explicitly on Real Situation where he talks about "total destruction" and sings, "ain't no use, don't even try, no-one can stop them now". As an album closer, Redemption Song is, in many respects, Marley's parting song to the world.
Perhaps it was a personal evocation and raising up of his own spirit, but whatever Marley's aim, he will be forever lionised as a protest singer, much like Dylan was.