The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #189: Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley and the Wailers (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #189: Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Education matters. As does Wisdom. Empathy and tolerance and kindness and a whole host of other positive qualities emanate from a personal belief system grounded on a foundation of Wisdom and Education. Conversely, it is ignorance and self-absorption that lead us toward feelings of exclusion, intolerance and abuse toward those we deem different from ourselves.

The battle for control of our society between those who revel in the darkness versus those who believe in the light is ongoing. It is not surprising that the latest battleground appears to be schools and, in particular, control of School Boards. Whether the specific details of raging disputes against School Boards revolves around mask mandates, Critical Race Theory (or, here in Canada, Indigenous initiatives) or Sex Education, the bigger picture issue is the battle for control over whether our children will grow up with the knowledge necessary to make their own decisions accurately or will they grow up believing the seductive songs of salesmen with agendas.

Unfortunately, this battle for control of the minds of our children is not a recent phenomenon. It has occurred at all stages of History. As I have always maintained, one of the most consistent aspects of those who resist is that resistance is almost always steeped in The Arts. For many generations now, it has been singers and poets and actors and authors who have shined the light that illuminated the way forward, out of the darkness. Therefore, it is, also, to no one’s surprise that when controlling factions gain power, one of their first areas of budget cuts in schools is in the area of The Arts.

The Arts represent danger to those who seek control because the Arts are, so often, a source of inspiration to others. If you feel a stirring in your soul it is often because you have heard a song or looked at a painting or watched a play that speaks to an issue of importance to you. When souls begin to stir, citizens tend to be more willing to rally around a cause. Therefore, The Arts and an educated, wise populace are a fundamental component of any society if it is to flourish for all of its citizens. Therefore, understanding the History of the land you call home, should be a source of enlightenment and an opportunity for personal and collective growth. This is what I believe and, as his career so ably demonstrated, this is what Bob Marley believed, too. His song, Buffalo Soldier” arose from the premise that it was an important part of the history of an entire race of people and, for a myriad of reasons, the story of the Buffalo Soldiers was being ignored and forgotten and, conversely, that it was a story that needed to be told. So, in the true spirit of The Arts, Marley wrote this song. As he wished, let’s take a closer look and grow wiser as a result of his words.

The song, “Buffalo Soldier” comes from an album called, “Confrontation” which ws released in 1983, after Marley had died. The term, “Buffalo Soldier” was a name given to US Army units made up entirely of people of colour who were tasked with fighting the various Indigenous Nations that stood in the way of western expansion across America by white settlers. The irony of the situation was not lost on Marley while he was alive. In this conflict for control over America, the white man enlisted former slaves and the descendants of slaves to do his fighting for him against a similarly oppressed and vilified group, the American Indians. Marley wrote the song, “Buffalo Soldier” as a call to his brothers to resist the urgings of white colonizers to inflict pain and suffering on another marginalized group. The song was also a shot across the bow of white society that said that your motives are clear for all to see and we, as people of colour, no longer wish to participate in your wars against the weak. FYI, the term, “Buffalo Soldier” came from the Indians of the Plains who likened the curly hair of these soldiers to that possesed by the mighty buffalo who, at one time, so freely roamed those very same Plains.

The song, “Buffalo Soldier” is a song that celebrates the cultural origins of these soldiers (Rastafarians, Caribbean roots, etc.) and helps to paint them as real, three-dimensional people. It is a History lesson that we, as a society, ignore at our peril. I don’t know about you but, I can’t believe that a truly just and honourable society can be built upon a foundation of oppression. So, as Bob Marley sings his words of wisdom from beyond the grave, let us all pay attention to the lessons being taught. Our world will be the better for it.

Here is “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Enjoy….and learn….and grow.

The link to the video for the song, “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley and the Wailers, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bob Markey and the Wailers, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the most informative music in the world. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.