I shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley. Critical Analysis
The musical piece under consideration is I shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley & the Wailers. The song is a part of an album Burnin, recorded in April 1973 at Harry J Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, under the Tuff Gong label, part of the Island Records. The song was the last to be released by Bob Marley with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, who decided to begin performing solo. The song has become the so-called 12-inch single, i.e. it was recorded on a separate vinyl disc 12 inches through.
The song tells the story of a man, accused of a murder by mistake. What is more, the man confessed shooting the sheriff in defense, but does not admit the guilt of shooting a deputy. Analyzing the lyrics thoroughly, one may notice that the sheriffs name is John Brown (I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley & the Wailers n.p.). Two singer-songwriters addressed the same name: first of all, Bob Dylan, in his song called John Brown, released in 1963, and Bruce Springsteens Johnny 99. In Bob Dylans song, John Brown is a young man who goes to war and returns seriously injured. In the song by Brice Springsteen, John Brown is a judge (I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley & the Wailers n.p.). Presumably, in this case, there is a link between the characters of Bob Marleys and Bruce Springsteens songs. In the year 1974, Eric Clapton has recorded his own version of Bob Marleys I Shot the Sheriff and included it on his second album 461 Ocean Boulevard, which consequently gave Marley a great support from a Rock audience. In 2001st documentary The Life of Bob Marley, Esther Anderson, the Bob Marleys girlfriend, commented that she helped the musician to write the song, claiming that it concerned the issue of birth control (I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley & the Wailers n.p.).
Listening to Bob Marleys I Shot the Sheriff, one may indicate the following instruments: guitar, drums, and electronic keyboards (synthesizer, apparently). The vocal part is split into lead vocal and back vocal. The rhythm of the song is ragged, but repetitive and moderate. The vocal part articulates the essence of music, while instrumentation creates a corresponding and harmonious background to the content of the lyrics. The vocal manner may be characterized as narrative, closely resembling the recitative manner. The back vocal part represents itself as a self-sustained and reinforcing element. The main musical tone is strong, but deliberately clear. Each melodic line is expressed vividly, and each musical phrases end is articulated distinctly (i.e. either played or sung). The loud and intended falsetto at the beginning of the song sounds a bit unpleasant. Even though such of understanding and perceiving music may be regarded as a philistine one, a certain degree of discordance in both music and lyrics alongside the topical and broad social context, in my considered opinion, make a perfected holistic unity. Emotively, stylistically, and contextually, reggae style in music is the pure expression of rejoice, peaceful energy and positive thinking.
In Richard Buskins article Classic Tracks: Bob Marley & the Wailers: I Shot the Sheriff, the story of recording the whole 1973 album, titled Burnin, is being told (Buskin). Geoffrey Philp in his article A Fable of Freedom: I Shot the Sheriff gives the syllabus of the events that preceded the appearance and establishing reggae music of Rastafarian philosophy (Philp). Bob Marley himself once admitted that the song I Shot the Sheriff was inspired by true events, but the musician did not reveal the points of the songs background that might be real. Alike jazz and blues music, social context of reggae is closely connected to the everyday life of the African American community, their rights and their calamities, their aspirations and their obstacles.
Until nowadays, Bob Marleys personality is regarded ambiguous. In my opinion, Bob Marley was a person whose life was inseparably connected with Jamaican culture and the life of the people he stemmed from. He was one of those who advocated peace and equality for all nations, cultures and ethnicities. This is what the importance of studying the creative work of such people as Bob Marley consists in.
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