Bob Marley “Get Up, Stand Up” — ‘Burnin’ (1973) Song

Bob Marley “Get Up, Stand Up” — ‘Burnin’  (1973) Song


“Get Up, Stand Up” may be the most potent song ever about human rights and the fight to secure them.

Marley and Peter Tosh were often at odds about the Wailers’ music (for instance, how many Tosh songs should be featured on their albums), but the co-written “Get Up, Stand Up” was a case of two minds thinking as one. Marley had taken a trip to Haiti and witnessed its poverty firsthand, and Tosh was similarly attuned to oppression, particularly in the music business. “I am doing something,” he said, “because I see the exploitation.” The song’s direct, chant-style chorus was further enhanced by the Wailers themselves; unlike its predecessor, Catch a Fire, which used overdubs by U.S. musicians, Burnin’ presented the Wailers’ sound undiluted, propelled by bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his brother, drummer Carlton Barrett.

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But the group worked hard to nail the definitive album version. One alternate take from the Jamaican sessions had more of a soul groove; another, cut in New York in the summer of 1973, when they were in town to play Max’s Kansas City with Bruce Springsteen, had a busier vocal arrangement. An instant signature, it was a highlight of 1975’s Live! (where Marley added the indelible “wo-yo-yo-yo” chant), and frequently led the battle-hardened troika that capped many of Marley’s late-Seventies concerts, appearing alongside “War” and “Exodus.” It has since been reworked by everyone from Tosh (on his 1977 solo set Equal Rights) to Public Enemy, from Springsteen to Rihanna. In the words of Chuck D, “This song is a battle cry for survival.”

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Aaron Cole

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