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GET UP, STAND UP: The Story of Pop and Protest Revolutionary Music
About the Program
Revolutionary Music
Flash Points
The Preacher and the Slave
We Shall Overcome
Give Peace a Chance
Get Up, Stand Up
Fight the Power
Song Facts
Writer: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh
Year: 1973
Genre: Reggae
Album: BURNIN'
Performers: The Wailers
Get Up, Stand Up -- ''Get Up, Stand Up, don't give up the fight''

Bob Marley
By Ed Ward

In 1969, if you traveled in Africa or the Caribbean, you would have noticed pictures of one man on the walls of bars, nightclubs, and cafes, alongside those of local and legendary heroes: James Brown. He'd come out the year before with a smash song that electrified the entire black world, "(Say It Loud) I'm Black and I'm Proud," and had become the most revered American since Muhammad Ali.

Ten years later, his picture would be supplanted by another face, that of Robert Nesta Marley, framed by leonine dreadlocks. What had he done? He'd completed the formula Brown had brought up. Pride is all very well and good, but with the feeling of pride comes the need for accomplishment. What's to be accomplished? Simple: "Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight."

Simple words outlining a difficult task, sung to a strong melody accompanied by a midtempo but urgent reggae beat; a song that hadn't been a hit single but nonetheless took the world by storm.

It didn't happen overnight, although Marley and his group, the Wailers, had been stars in Jamaica since their earliest recordings in 1963, when they'd worked with Jamaica's top producer, Clement "Coxone" Dodd, at his Studio One in Kingston. Even back then, when their output was heavily weighted toward love songs, which were top-sellers, they'd also mix in social commentary, urging the island's gangs of "rude boys" to "Simmer Down" and espousing the "One Love" of Rastafarianism, the island's back-to-Africa, black-pride religion.

BURNIN' album cover
After Studio One, the Wailers hooked up with Lee "Scratch" Perry, another great producer, and their message got more specific: "If you are the big tree," they warned, "we are a small axe, coming to cut you down." They recounted slavery in "Four Hundred Years," criticized Jamaicans' living conditions in "Concrete Jungle," and encouraged people with "Keep on Moving."

The trouble was, nobody outside of Jamaica had heard these songs, not even in Britain, where Chris Blackwell, the white Jamaican heir to the Crosse & Blackwell sugar fortune, had started a record label to market what he called "Blue Beat" to England's homesick Jamaican-immigrant population. Blackwell did well, and his label, Island, soon expanded past what was becoming known as reggae and into the new rock sounds England was producing. By 1970, Island was known as one of the hippest labels around.

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