Flashback: My Memories of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’

As I’ve been consolidating my various web profiles, I came across this post that I originally wrote back on February 2, 2009.

I really don’t know why this came to mind today, but my memories come and go so I figure it’s best to write some of them down for posterity. Of course if the Internet crashes I’m screwed. Anyway…

My dear parents somehow saved enough money to send me to NYU. I was an ingrate at the time, but I’ve heard that is not uncommon at that stage in life. Taking the ACE to West 4th for class, I always seemed to run into the same busker and many times he was in the middle of song that I couldn’t identify. Those were the days before I could pull out an iPhone and have it search for the song. Ah, the innocent days.

One day I was passing by as he finished the song. My life lessons had taught me not to engage strangers in NYC, but I had to stop and ask what he was playing. The answer was short and to the point: Redemption Song by Bob Marley. I wish I had money at the time to throw him a tip, but that was a point in my life when a $1 McChicken sandwich was my main meal of the day. I hope I run into him again now that I can afford that tip plus interest.

I wish I could say that this was the moment that I was inspired to listen to everything that Bob Marley had written. That took a couple more years and I can’t claim to have gone much deeper than the classic hits. But what made it stand out was this old black guy with a raspy voice singing Redemption Song in the subway station. If I could recreate the feelings I had while listening, I would be a much better person. I have great respect for popular musicians, but I’ve found these random people you run into have a quality that doesn’t exist in musicians who are actually trying to be musicians.

This man was not singing to sell records. He was singing to eat. He wasn’t playing the song that would get airplay, he was playing something that was special to him. A song that no matter where he was would mean something to him when he played it.

I can only envy that. My meager attempt is that the lyrics to Three Little Birds are my mantra whenever things get rough.

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