Five extremely important Bob Marley protest songs

Marley mastered about writing about the oppressed.
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"Crazy Baldhead" (1976)

The album this track came from, Rastaman Vibration, became Bob Marley's first top-ten album in the United States and the record peaked at number 8. Like nearly all of Marley's long plays, the record is a mix of love songs, cool grooves, and straight-ahead political statements. "Crazy Baldhead," of course, is in the latter group.

"Baldhead" is rasta slang for an outsider who is not part of the movement to help poor people overcome their state. The song includes the biting, "Build your penitentiary, we build your schools," which speaks of systemic oppression. While people made very little money building schools that were extremely underfunded, the people in charge built prisons that the ill-educated could one day wind up in and the prisons would make money off of how many people they had incarcerated.

"I Shot the Sheriff" (1973)

Ironically, it took a white man, Eric Clapton, to turn this song into a number-one hit. The issue, other than the point of the song is Marley's people are being oppressed by a government that is unnaturally white, is that Clapton turns the song into crap. From reggae, Clapton's track is mostly soft rock with a tinge of blues. The sad part is that while many knew who Clapton was at the time, many had not heard of Marley who was by far the greater songwriter of the two.

Marley said the line, "I want to say 'I shot the police' but the government would have made a fuss so I said 'I shot the sheriff' instead." The intent of the song was a cry for justice and while Marley had the voice and power in Jamaica to bring people together and get noticed by officials, he was one of the very few. Possibly only actually shooting a sheriff and then being jailed for that would have brought international attention, but thankfully, Marley did not do that.