Why it's a Great Song #3: Redemption Song
This was a fan request. I'm not a massive reggae fiend I'll admit so I was pleased to get to know this song inside out, and it IS great! It is also a fine reminder that there are no bad genres, only good and bad songs within every genre. As ever Dr Fox wants to find out the why and the how. Let us delve...
1) Raw arrangement It's a scratchy guitar track to accompany Marley's vocal and that's your lot. There is no hiding behind slick production - Bob is naked with his words and the melody, and that is really all you need for a great song.
2) Simple chords
The chorus is just those four chords (G, Em, C and D). Nothing fancy going on. Makes it a campfire favourite. 3) Plucking good intro It's so gentle it could almost be the start of a children's song. Again, it's just the basics, no need for show-boating here. The music serves the message which is how it should be.
4) Unresolved ending
That last chord and the build up creates some unexpected tension right when we had nearly entered our comfort zone. It's just enough friction to keep us on our toes. Perhaps Bob is asking us to sing these songs of freedom with him, but knows we will never all be able to sing from the same sheet in this world. Heavy.
5) The good book
This song is peppered with biblical references: "by the hand of the Almighty", "prophets", "fulfil the book", "slavery" and "redemption". It's not overdone - just enough to let that seed germinate and ponder the deeper message.
6) The call to action
Every great story has one. The genius of this song is that WE are the ones, the listeners, who are directly summoned to fulfil Marley's request. This makes it not only an exceptional protest song but also leap out of its genre to take its rightful place in popular culture.
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