Happy Memorial Day internet. While today is a great day for relaxing in the ever-warming weather, for taking a load off and looking forward to a four-day work week, it’s also a day for remembrance and hope. Remembrance, for those who have fought and died for us, and hope for a future when such needless violence will not be necessary.
With this in mind, we’ll be centering our week of songs around the themes of war and peace. Call it a tribute to Memorial Day.
Once again, we’ll provide brief rundowns of each artist, as well as some historical context to go with each song. Then, we’ll dive right in to the lyrics.
Our first song this week comes from the legendary Bob Marley, “War/No Trouble”.
Bob Marley is considered one of the pioneers of reggae. His contributions increased the visibility of Jamaican music worldwide, and catapulted him to a legendary status in popular culture. Throughout the course of his career, Marley became a Rastafarian icon, and infused his music with both political and spiritual meaning.
“War/No More Trouble” is a combination of the penultimate track from Marley and The Wailer’s fifth studio album, “Rastaman Vibration”, which released in 1976, and the penultimate track from their fifth studio album, “Catch a Fire”, from 1973. Both albums are inherently political. “Catch a Fire” drew connections between the history of slavery and the current state of urban poverty. “War/No More Trouble” is just one of the tracks that draws from the album’s theme.
The lyrics to “War/No More Trouble” are drawn from a speech made by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I, which were adapted and then set to music. The songwriting credits, however, are attributed to Allen Cole and Carlton Barrett of The Wailers.
“War/No More Trouble” lays out the conditions that must be fulfilled if the nations of the world ever wish to see a world without war. We’ll be dividing our focus first on “War”, and then move onto “No More Trouble”. As always, we’ll begin by taking a look at the first verse.
“Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
Everywhere is war
Me say war.”
While Marley delivers the lyrics slowly along to the reggae beat, it isn’t hard to miss the meaning behind these words. There are no fancy metaphors or clues we need to untangle and extract meaning from. The meaning here is self-evident. In short, until racism has been extinguished, there will be war in the world.
To put it dispassionately, this isn’t so much a declaration of war, as it is an observation of human tendency. As long as there are those who spout hateful rhetoric and practices towards other races, they will create war.
Another verse later in the song pounds this message home, and in itself acts as a sort of call to action.
“That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained
Now everywhere is war, war.”
This verse illustrates that no matter how much “good” is done in the world, peace will never truly be attained until true equality for all is achieved.
No More Trouble Lyrics
The last words from “War” before the segue into “No More Trouble” are Marley’s exultant cries of the triumph, “Of good over evil”. In “No More Trouble”, this dichotomy is represented in the familiar line, “Make love and not war!”.
“Make love and not war!
Cause we don’t need no trouble.
What we need is love (love)
To guide and protect us on. (on)
If you hope good down from above, (love)
Help the weak if you are strong now. (love)”
Here, Marley lays out some moral necessities. There is love, and there is war. War brings trouble, which we don’t need. Love is what we need, and brings goodness to the world. And goodness to the world is brought on by the strong helping the weak. In that act, Marley suggests that there is love.
Now, if you’re one of the ignorant, who would try to argue that Marley was advocating for war in “War”, the follow-up message in “No More Trouble” pretty much shuts that down. But then again, if you’re one of the ignorant, you probably didn’t read this far, and have your own flawed logic to fall back on, so let’s move on.
Before today, the only Bob Marley album I’d listened to was “Exodus”. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring one of Bob Marley’s songs I was less familiar with, but our discussion today has come to a close.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue with our week of songs of war and peace with another from the vault.