Bob Marley’s Redemption Song Finally Gets an Official Video: Watch the Animated Video Made Up of 2747 Drawings

Who­ev­er Bob Mar­ley was singing for, it could sound like he’s singing for all of us. Of course, this is received opin­ion, on the oth­er side of almost 50 years of Mar­ley wor­ship since the Wail­ers crossed over to a rock audi­ence with Catch a Fire and Clapton’s cov­er of “I Shot the Sher­iff.” Call­ing Mar­ley an icon is per­haps iron­i­cal­ly accu­rate in ways he would nev­er con­done. In death he has become a brand.

Though he wrote some beau­ti­ful love songs, Mar­ley also didn’t water down his mes­sage to Rasta­far­i­an true believ­ers, nor tem­per his pan-African­ism for scores of new white fans when fame struck. Like the waves of reg­gae bands that broke into the inter­na­tion­al scene in the 70s, the cul­tur­al par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of Marley’s reli­gion and pol­i­tics didn’t seem much hin­drance to his wide appeal.

Proof is in the lis­ten­ing, and no song in the Mar­ley oeu­vre seems more point­ed­ly direct­ed to the his­toric black experience—even quot­ing Mar­cus Garvey—while also appeal­ing to uni­ver­sal sen­ti­ments, than “Redemp­tion Song.” (To very dif­fer­ent emo­tion­al effect, U2’s “Sun­day Bloody Sun­day” comes to mind as accom­plish­ing a sim­i­lar feat.)

The song telegraphs a kind of wise but ten­der strength, announces its inten­tions with con­fi­dent can­dor, and invites its lis­ten­ers, all of them, to join in. The ref­er­ences may not be part of your expe­ri­ence, but if this can be redeemed, Mar­ley sug­gests, maybe every­thing can.

In its essen­tials, “Redemp­tion Song” is clas­sic Marley—tough-minded but gen­tle, hope­ful but real, and pure melod­ic genius. But musi­cal­ly, it’s a sig­nif­i­cant depar­ture, and per­haps a know­ing farewell to the world, as the last song to appear on the Wail­ers’ twelfth and final album, 1980’s Upris­ing,

“While there’s no indi­ca­tion that Mar­ley knew for sure that the song would be his last record­ed doc­u­ment,” writes Jim Beviglia at Amer­i­can Song­writer, “the con­tem­pla­tive mood of Upris­ing and the fact that he had been bat­tling the can­cer for years seems to sug­gest that he knew the end was near.”

The song’s “empa­thet­ic strains and social con­cerns, along with its camp­fire sing-along qual­i­ty,” has made it a favorite to cov­er almost since its release. Now, in its 40th year anniver­sary, it’s final­ly got a prop­er video, thanks to French artists Octave Marsal and Theo De Guelt­zl. The “breath­tak­ing ani­ma­tion,” notes Twist­ed Sifter, fea­tures “2,747 orig­i­nal draw­ings” and “uses pow­er­ful sym­bols to ampli­fy the mag­ni­tude of the song’s time­less lyrics and impor­tance in today’s world.”

Its black and white imagery direct­ly ref­er­ences the Rasta­far­i­an themes and Mid­dle Pas­sage expe­ri­ence in Marley’s lyrics, but pulls back now and then to show his sta­di­um-sized crowds, and the whole Earth, as if to say, “this is a glob­al sto­ry.” The video is the first in a year-long cel­e­bra­tion of Marley’s 75th birth­day, which would have been Feb­ru­ary 6th, 2020. Learn more about upcom­ing events here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John­ny Cash & Joe Strum­mer Sing Bob Marley’s “Redemp­tion Song” (2002)

Bob Mar­ley, The Leg­end, Live in San­ta Bar­bara: Watch the Com­plete 1979 Con­cert

Watch a Young Bob Mar­ley and The Wail­ers Per­form Live in Eng­land (1973): For His 70th Birth­day Today

Video: Bob Mar­ley Plays a Big Soc­cer Match in Brazil, 1980

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (9)
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  • Sylvia Suggs says:

    Robert Nes­ta Mar­ley, I def­i­nite­ly love the song, and with over 2 000 draw­ings. BEAUTIFUL, lots, lots, of hard work to the artist. Thank you Bob for the lega­cy, I have grown to respect peo­ple, stand up for my rights. I love enjoy­ing advo­cat­ing for oth­ers who do not know any bet­ter. I wake up and thank the almight jah for a POSITIVE day, a new one.

    R.I.P Bob Mar­ley
    1945 — 1981


  • Christopher Carlon says:

    Whomev­er wrote this piece of crap did not know then and most def­i­nite­ly does not know now.

    Do not say that you know about some­thing you know noth­ing about at all.

    You peo­ple make me sick.

  • Alvin says:

    You know noth­ing you dick­head!

  • Pete says:

    Christo­pher you know noth­ing you idiot!!!! ( BOB FOREVER)

  • Dave Hill says:

    Bril­liant art­work that suits a tru­ly mag­nif­i­cent song ,

  • Doreen Campbell says:

    Lis­ten to the lyrics and feel the lyrics. Then you envis­age an every­day video of what it is like to tru­ly be on the oth­er side.
    Tru­ly deserved and long over­due.
    Long live your songs Bob. One Love

  • Djuanas ALEXANDER says:

    Sim­ply Awe­some 😊👍👌

  • Sister Halimah says:

    Egypt­ian art­work is not Rasta­far­i­an. No mat­ter how “beau­ti­ful“ it is. Ethiopia For­ev­er! His Impe­r­i­al Majesty Emper­or Selassie I Live! This is not the way to hon­or our beloved broth­er. One God! One Aim! One Des­tiny!

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