A hit, a story: “I shot the sheriff”, by Eric Clapton

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This Bob Marley track, I shot the sheriff, only achieved worldwide success when it was picked up by Eric Clapton.

In 1973, Bob Marley chante « I killed the sheriff, but I spared his deputy ».
The kid from the Kingston ghetto is writing a real little musical western, influenced by the films of Sergio Leone very popular with Jamaican youth, as explained by Francis Dordor, who wrote four biographies of Bob Marley.

« The western, like karate movies, was extremely popular in Jamaica. This song is also the result of his personal experience. Bob Marley coming from the ghetto, he was quite often subjected to the harassment of the police, which one called the “Babylon”. When you’re a young Jamaican, coming from the ghetto and starting to have dreadlocks … Bob Marley said quite often that at one time in his life, not a day went by without he is being chased. He had to step over fences to escape the police. »Says Francis Dordor.

Bob Marley. Getty/Mike Prior/Redferns

Bob Marley popularized reggae, this then nascent syncopated musical genre.
The music is relaxed, but the text denounces police violence and justifies self-defense. Marley, mixed race, was plagued by racism on the part of whites but also blacks. He would then spread the Rastafarian movement worldwide, a spiritual current advocating the redemption of the black people and the return to original Africa of the descendants of slaves.

« Bob Marley is a crusader. It is also clearly someone who is there to carry a message. In the previous album, there is an unnecessary song ‘Slave Driver’, the one who drove the slaves. Bob Marley puts himself in the shoes of one who undergoes slavery and at the same time, he draws a parallel with the chain of poverty that descendants of slaves experience today, Francis Dordor analysis.

But this title does not really become a hit until 1974, taken over by Eric Clapton

Bob Marley was completely unknown at the time the song was released. Clapton, strong of his career in the group ‘Cream’ and absolute ‘guitar hero’ with rock fans, obviously, it has an impact »Recalls Francis Dordor.

Since then, from Michael Jackson to Yannick Noah, I shot the sheriff has been covered on multiple occasions, and adapted in French by the Ivorian Alpha Blondy.

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