Are we emancipated?Monday, August 02, 2021
BY BRIAN BONITTO
MARCUS Garvey's message of “emancipation from mental slavery” is immortalised in Bob Marley's 40-year-old classic, Redemption Song .
Taken from the 1980 Uprising album (Island Records), it was recently certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry in the United Kingdom for sales exceeding 400,000 units.
Professor Emeritus Rupert Lewis — from the Department of Government at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus — said the inspirational line was taken from a speech Garvey made in Nova Scotia, Canada, on October 1, 1937.
“Garvey said, 'We're going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because while others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. [The] mind is your only ruler, sovereign; the man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man that uses his mind',” Lewis, who introduced the teaching of Garveyism at the UWI, told the Jamaica Observer.
Yesterday was Emancipation Day (celebrated today). On August 1, 1834 marked the date when all children under six years of age were deemed to be free, but all other slaves were deemed to be apprentices and forced to work 40 hours per week without pay as compensation to their owners. Full 'freedom' was not given to the slaves until four years later in 1838.
The professor gave Marley an 'A' grade for his interpretation of Garvey's speech.
“Excellent. You can't get better than what Marley did in rendering those words in a way that more people think it is Marley's words,” he said.
“Marley is now building on a traditional idea and putting that idea to music; and using the select lyrics which make a huge point, but which is more powerful as music than as prose. It's Garvey's brilliance and Marley's brilliance combined,” Lewis added.
Redemption Song was first released on vinyl in the United Kingdom and France in October 1980. It was re-released digitally in November 2015.
In 2004, Redemption Song ranked number 66 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Several artistes have covered over the years, including Stevie Wonder whose version was included on the 1996 soundtrack to Get on the Bus, and Wonder's Song Review: A Greatest Hits Collection.
Joe Strummer of The Clash did a solo cover as well as a collaboration featuring Johnny Cash.
Wyclef Jean performed a version of the song for the 9/11 benefit concert America: A Tribute to Heroes in September 2001.
Marley, a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, died in May 1981 of cancer. He was 36.
Jamaica's first national hero, Garvey, like Marley hailed from St Ann. His teachings and philosophies are integral to members of the Rastafari community, as well as the Nation of Islam, and Black Power Movement.
He was the founder and first president-general of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL, commonly known as UNIA).
Founder of the pan-African movement, he died in London in 1940 at age 52.
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