The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #91: One Love/People Get Ready by Bob Marley (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 and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (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 (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 #91: One Love/People Get Ready by Bob Marley.

Earlier in this countdown, we discussed a song entitled, “People Get Ready” by the late, great Curtis Mayfield and his group, The Impressions. *(That post can be read by clicking on the link here.) “People Get Ready” was a spiritual song that was written during the time of the Civil Rights Movement in the southern U.S. during the 1960s. The song is built in the tradition of all great Gospel songs that offer thanks to The Lord for gifts given and strength provided. So, while “People Get Ready” is, sometimes, referred to as a Soul song or an R&B song, it is, first and foremost, a Gospel song. In “People Get Ready”, Curtis Mayfield gave those in the Civil Rights Movement a rallying cry to rely on when Life seemed to be at its darkest moments. It is a song that states that we are all equal in the eyes of The Lord and that those who work in his name do so in the name of all that is righteous and good. “People Get Ready” became one of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions greatest hits. It inspired those working for justice, as well as, those who simply liked good music.

The power and influence of “People Get Ready” was felt around the world; even on the island of Jamaica, where it was heard by three teenage boys by the names of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. These three young men had formed their own singing group called “The Wailing Wailers”. For their debut album, Bob Marley wrote a song that came to be known as “One Love”. This song was directly influenced by Mayfield’s own song, which can be seen in the fact that Marley cribbed whole lines and used them in his own song. In the late 1960s, there were no copyright laws, as we know them today so, no one felt any pressure to acknowledge Mayfield as the original source of the idea for the song. So, the song was simply released as, “One Love”.

Like “People Get Ready”, “One Love” is a song that begs for unity and that claims that we are all equal under God’s watchful eye. One of the more pressing reasons that Marley wrote the song was because of the political situation on his island of Jamaica. At the time, and especially as his career went on, Marley was a much beloved citizen of Jamaica. In fact, as it came time for local elections to be held, the popular opinion was that Bob Marley was the most respected man in Jamaica and that he could have easily won the Prime Ministership had he chosen to run. But, Marley did not wish to descend into the mudslinging chaos that characterized much of what passed for political discourse at the time so, instead of running for election, he wrote a song called, “One Love” to act as a gesture making his ideals and wishes known.

There are many people around the world who are convinced that “One Love” is actually Jamaica’s national anthem. It is not. But, never-the-less, it has become the unofficial anthem for Reggae Music around the world and is, in most cases, the first song one thinks of when thinking of Jamaica. It was not by fluke that the Jamaican Tourism Board selected “One Love” to act as the soundtrack by which they invited the world to come to Jamaica and experience the beauty of the island for themselves.

Bob Marley’s final album was called, “Exodus”. In preparation for this album, he decided to re-work “One Love”. But, by now, copyright laws had become standardized around the world and Marley could no longer claim sole authorship of his own hit. So, in order to prevent a lawsuit from those who worked for Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, Bob Marley offered Mayfield a songwriting credit, as well as, a share of the song’s title. That was agreed to by those representing Curtis Mayfield. Consequently, the song that I always knew to be called, “One Love” is now, legally known as “One Love/People Get Ready”. In this way, two great men of peace and unity are recognized, along with two anthems that have brought Joy and Comfort to many around the world.

In 1981, Bob Marley passed away from cancer. A few years later, in 1984, a Greatest Hits album was released called, “Legend”. The “Legend” album reads almost like a greatest hits list for all of Reggae. The album sold in the tens of millions and is, by a long shot, the biggest selling Reggae album of all-time. Needless to say, the song “One Love/People Get Ready” is on that album. However, because of renewed interest in Marley’s career, along with a general upswing in the public’s awareness of Reggae music, it was felt necessary that a music video be made about the song. Unfortunately, with Bob Marley having passed away, he was, obviously, not available to participate. The makers of the video wanted something fresh so, they refused to simply pull out old concert footage and pass that off as new. No, they wanted something new that still managed to reflect the message of inclusion that “One Love/People Get Ready” espouses. So, they created a new video that stars a young dreadlocked boy, walking through the streets of London and area, smiling, singing and dancing with all manner of people he meets along the way. Everyone is welcomed by him and everyone is welcoming of him. There are numerous guest appearances by UK singers of note of the day. But, the biggest guest spot went to Bob Marley, himself. The producers of the video used archival footage of Marley walking through the streets as well so it seemed as though he and the young child were both walking together.

I hope that you all enjoy the video for “One Love/People Get Ready” by Bob Marley and that, having watched it, you “feel alright”. 🙂

The link to the video for the song, “One Love/People Get Ready” by Bob Marley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bob Marley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting the most uplifting music from around the world. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

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