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The name of the song that I selected was “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley and the

Wailers. “Get up, Stand Up” is a reggae song that was written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh

and was released on The Wailers 1973 album titled Burnin and also made an appearance on the

famous Bob Marley compilation album, Legend. Bob Marley was born in a rural area in St.

Ann’s Bay Jamaica and later moved to Trenchtown in Kingston, Jamaica where he experienced

poverty and other social injustices that remained after slavery.[1] It was during these times were

Marley began to write songs about what he experienced while growing up and also adopted

Rastafarianism, as well as the teachings of Marcus Garvey.[2] This became the inspiration for

many Bob Marley songs, in which in “Get Up, Stand Up”, he advocates the uprising of socially

unjust systems within Jamaica and other oppressed countries after gaining inspiration for the

song while touring in Haiti.[3] When released in 1973, “Get up, Stand Up” charted at number

thirty-three on the Dutch top 40 and peaked at number forty-nine in New Zealand.[4] The song

did not see Billboard success until appearing on the Legend compilation album when the album

itself charted Billboards.

“Get up, Stand Up” is a reggae song that is noticeable by its calypso rhythm that is

incorporated with African drums, guitar, and other melodies. When initially listening to the

song, the initial theme that comes to mind is standing up for human rights, taking actions, and

banishing oppression. As noted by Angelica Gallardo, “Get up, Stand up” is a song that explains

why it is important to fight back against oppressive government systems, which was critical

during the time of release because there was an ongoing battle between two of Jamaica’s top

Angelica Gallardo, “Get Up, Stand Up”, Peace Review 15, no.2 (2003): 201-208.
Ibid., 201.
Jason Genegabus, “HIFF Review: Bob Marley: Making of a Legend”, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 20, 2011,
Dutch Top 40 “The Wailers-Get Up, Stand Up”, Media Markt Top 40, www.top40.nl/the-wailers/the-wailers-get-
political parties: the Jamaica Labour Party and the Peoples National Party.[5] This song became

popular amongst the oppressed and many governments such as the South African government, as

well as the CIA feared Bob Marley’s messages within his songs.[6] This song can be seen as a

political attack against all elite government systems, as the song calls out government terms and

policies, in which Peter Tosh states in the second verse, “We’re sick and tired of your –ism and –

skism game”, which showcases the disgust against political and social terminologies, as well as

governmental policies that have those suffixes (racism, sexism, classism, fascism, etc.). There

are many religious references in the song as well, in which Bob Marley criticizes church

institution teachings about God and heaven. For example, the opening lines of the song state,

“Preacher man don’t tell me, heaven is on the earth. I know you don’t know, what life is really

worth”. These lines criticizes compensatory thinking, as well as Christian and other religious

doctrines stating that you must only obtain heaven in death, in which Bob Marley is suggesting

that you can obtain heaven on earth as well, if you only knew what life is really worth.

Within the second verse, Peter Tosh also continues with the Rastafarian religious

references, in which he states, “Die and go to heaven in Jesus name looorrd!! We know when we

understand, that mighty God is a living man. You may fool some people sometimes, but you

cannot fool all the people all the time, so now you see the light. So stand up for your right!”.

This line reinforces Rastafarian ideologies and beliefs in the idea that every human has God’s

divine living sprit within them, along with denouncing ideologies that you must die in Jesus

name in order to obtain heaven, which was common thought amongst many African descendant

people at the time. In correlation with James Stewart’s Political Commentary Typologies in

Black Music, this song is a mixture of the commentary types of Documentary and Revolutionary

Angelica Gallardo, “Get Up, Stand Up”, Peace Review 15, no.2 (2003): 201-208.

Manifesto because the song describes the negative situations affecting the community and also

calls for the eradication of existing political, economic, and religious systems in order to uplift

your community/nation.[7]

During the time of the release of “Get Up, Stand Up”, Jamaica was still under the

pressures of existing colonialism under British Rule, although they received independence 11

year prior. The conditions of Jamaica at the time were extreme poverty and violence along with

corruption from the political parties. During his short stay in the United States during the mid to

late 1960s, Marley was able to gain a new perspective on human and civil rights after observing

the Civil Rights movement on television. This inspired Marley to provide new messages within

his songs in order to liberate people in Jamaica from social and political oppression. The

influence that the song had on Africa can be somewhat attributed to the patterns of African song

and rhythm that the record had, in which the song exhibited call and response within the chorus,

multiple rhythms within verses, as well as sliding from one note to another, which is exhibited by

Marley and Tosh. Furthermore, although this song primarily is seen as a message toward

Jamaicans, it can be seen as representing all cultures of oppressed people due to the song being

influenced by the time period of the Civil Rights Movement and other revolutionary movements

of its time and of the past, such as the Marcus Garvey Back to Africa movement.

James B. Stewart, “Message in the Music: Political Commentary in Black Popular Music from Rhythm and Blues
to Early Hip-Hop” The Journal of African American History 90, no.3 (Summer 2005): 196-225.