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GET UP, STAND UP: The Story of Pop and Protest Revolutionary Music
Home
About the Program
Revolutionary Music
Flash Points
Resources
Intro
The Preacher and the Slave
We Shall Overcome
Give Peace a Chance
Get Up, Stand Up
Fight the Power
Did You Know?
In February 2005, a month-long celebration in honor of Marley's 60th birthday was held in Ethiopia.
Get Up, Stand Up

Bob Marley
But Blackwell felt that this music had an audience beyond its immigrant core. All he needed to do was to find the right group. Then he remembered the Wailers -- and they remembered him. They were stranded in London, in trouble with the immigration authorities, and asked him for £8,000 to make an album. He gave them the money, they returned to Jamaica, and at the end of 1972, Island released CATCH A FIRE. Wanting to recoup his investment, Blackwell promoted them to the rock audience, who initially showed very little interest, but a cult following had been started.

It was the Wailers' next album, BURNIN', that really brought them to public attention. In addition to remakes of some of their earlier hits ("Small Axe" and "Duppy Conqueror"), the album featured "I Shot the Sherrif," a song propelled to the top of the charts when Eric Clapton covered it, and "Get Up, Stand Up."

With BURNIN', the Wailers were launched as stars, and Bob Marley became their focus, causing the two other members, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, to leave. The group became Marley, backed by a band, supported by three female backup singers, including his wife Rita. This is the group that recorded the 1975 live album in London, surely one of the most exciting live albums ever made, which ends with a rousing version of "Get Up, Stand Up."

Bob Marley
Marley died in 1981, just as the one audience that had eluded him, black Americans, was becoming aware of him. His records had also begun to appear, usually as bootleg cassettes, all over the Third World. Reggae became identified in many African countries as a music of rebellion and protest, its rhythms supplanting those of local traditions. African reggae stars like Lucky Dube became international figures in the 1980s, and many African reggae songs were in languages other than English. One song always seemed to be in the book, though, and always sung in its original English -- "Get Up, Stand Up." Maybe it was because any band that had heard the London concert recording was dreaming of an audience roaring the song back at them the way the Londoners had done with Marley.

Or maybe it was simpler: it's an anthem that rouses people to consider a solution to their troubles, to get started on the road to freedom.

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