In a world that is morally and spiritually bankrupt in idleness, people need to make a giant leap of faith. We have stayed way too long doing nothing while people in Asia are grappling with poverty, African children dying from starvation, European people downplaying immigrants’ lives whose sole crime is to seek after better lives their own countries cannot give them. 

This is because of the political seeds of corruption and misappropriation planted by the same people those very immigrants go to in order to pull up stakes for their social salvation. Now the devil has found work for our idle hands. Covid-19 is painting the town red but no one dares join the party.

While more than half of the world’s population are quarantined, isolated or confined, good music could keep them company and maybe help them realise that real eyes are needed to impose a Right World Order. 

The Old and New World Orders have both failed. They brought nothing but pain as Bob criticizes them in “Survival” singing:

How can you be sitting there telling me that you care? When every time I look around, people suffer in every way, in everywhere. We’re the survivors in this age of technological inhumanity, scientific atrocity, atomic “misphilosophy”, nuclear “misenergy”. It’s a world that forces lifelong insecurity.

In “Trenchtown Rock”, Bob sings that “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” As always, his songs are among those very few hits which you need to lend an ear. 

Difficult to understand sometimes because of his deep-rooted Jamaican patois merged into fluent English, Bob’s lyrics give wings. They consist of spiritual words of wisdom tinged with soft cadence and slow rhythms all matched with a colorful mixture of the guitar, the piano, the drums and the sweet voices of the I-Threes. 

The following four messages encourage people to put their shoulders to the wheel if they want things to change once for all. But the change has to begin with our own individual selves before it can reach others.

Lesson 1: Want all lose all

In “Craven Choke Puppy,” the reggae star lays social and political climbers into tooth and nail. The latter are so egoistic and megalomaniac that they are like a greedy dog that tries to eat so much that he chokes. This song is summed up in these words:

“You want all for yourself alone and you don’t think about the other man. Let me tell you my friend if you’re gonna live this life, it’s not good for you to build strife. […] Want all lose all. And I know the wicked must fall. I say want it want it can’t get it, and get it get it no want it. […] The craven dog will lose its bone grafting after something else.”

Lesson 2: In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty

In “Rat Race,” Bob depicts an apocalyptic world where violence and frenetic competition destroy countries while people behave no better than animals. People lie, deceive, gamble, steal, rape, poison and kill. 

Instead of declaring war on poverty, superpowers seek to annihilate each other to the detriment of the Third World. Technology is now another poison which is eating away any humaneness in people. 

We can cap it all in this passage:

“Oh what a rat race! This is a rat race! […] I’m saying that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. Political violence fills your city. Don’t involve Rasta in your say say. Rasta don’t work for no CIA. […] I’m saying when you think you have peace and safety, a sudden destruction. Collective security for surety. Don’t forget your history, know your destiny. In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty. […] Oh it’s a disgrace to see the human race in a rat race! You’ve got the horse race, you’ve got the dog race but this is a human race.”

Lesson 3: Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality

In this song, Bob passes on useful advice about life in general. Sometimes it is good to take one’s time and not hurry too much, especially when it comes to personal ambitions. 

However, most people are so impatient to get rich that they can undertake anything risky whereas they could enjoy only a part of their wealth and leave the rest behind. 

Others spend all their lives daydreaming about things they will never get instead of living positively and realistically with what is already at hand. 

Mostly, people lose their time on the material aspect of life forgetting about the other beautiful and good aspects of the soul.

“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you’re riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. […] Rise, you mighty people. There’s work to be done. So let’s do it little by little. Rise from your sleepless slumber. We’re more than sand on the seashore. We’re more than numbers. […] You see, one cocoa fills a basket. When you live big today, tomorrow you’re buried in a casket.”

In other words, what’s the use of living so sophisticated a life if tomorrow you will die and be buried whatsoever? Life is nothing but a stop in a flight which ends when we meet our Maker. So let us wake up and live our lives positively.

Lesson 4: Who the cap fits, let them wear it

In his song “Who the cap fits, let them wear it,” Bob warns of people who never show their real faces and always hide their true characters until they get what they want from you. 

So beware of people you call friends. They might hide a very ugly face until the day when they can put you in trouble. This hit is summarised in these words:

“Man to man, it’s so unjust. Children you don’t know who to trust. Your worst enemy could be your best friend and your best friend your worst enemy. Some of your friends will eat and drink with you. […] Only your friends know your secrets and they could reveal them at any moment. Who the cap fits, let them wear it! […] Some of your friends will hate you pretending they love you. If you turn your back to them, they try to eliminate you. But who Jah blesses, no one curses. Thank God! We’re past the worst. Hypocrites and parasites will come up and take a bite. And if your night should turn to day, a lot of people would run away. So who the cap fits, let them wear it!”

Beyond the lyrics, Bob Marley was a humble man who loved people, sports and herb. But between the lines of his lyrics, too, you discover a philosopher who once said that “The lips of the righteous teach many but fools die for want of wisdom” (in “Stiff-necked fools”).

It is hard to deny that Bob Marley’s music is one of the world’s most influencing tool. The way people see him or learn from him shows how much human beings might be different in terms of their choices. 

Often pictured as a dreadlocked man partial to marijuana, which is true, Bob must be remembered also as a precious source of life lessons from which we have just taken a meaningless part. 

We hope the world will overcome this coronavirus together being inspired by the lyrics of the Rastafarian legend.

Jah, Rastafari!

Mouhamed DIOP

The author is a PhD candidate in American Studies at Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar.

You can contact him at

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