Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” Lyrics Meaning
“Buffalo Soldier” is a famous song by Bob Marley and the Wailers. The lyrics of the song recount the illustrious fight put up by the members of the legendary 10th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army during the American Indian Wars. The “Buffalo Soldiers”, who were established by the United States Congress in September 1866, were famed both for their valor and for the fact that they were the first peacetime regiments made up of only black men in the United States Army.
On of the main tasks that the “Buffalo Soldiers” were tasked to do during the wars was to protect the white men who settled on Native American lands. They protected these men from being attacked by the Native Americans.
In the song, Marley sheds light on the remarkable bravery and courage of the black soldiers in the Indian Wars while at the same time lamenting on the oppressions that the black man was subjected to in the same country he fought for and helped building with his own hands and strength. The song also signifies black resistance.
This is one of the more historically-minded songs that the late Bob Marley had put out. You see, the term Buffalo Soldier was used to describe a group of Black American soldiers who, succinctly put, the Whiteman used to fight against the Native Americans during frontier wars.
In other words, they were slaves, i.e. “stolen from Africa” as Jah Bob puts it. And as the story goes, the reason they were likened to buffaloes was based on a description the aforementioned Native Americans used to describe the texture of their hair. As the singer also alludes to, these warriors were most likely “dreadlocked” or at least possessed a significant amount of unattended-to, natural Black hair.
And of course possessing dreadlocks happens to be a main physical characteristic that believers in the Rastafarian religion, such as Marley, adhered to. And as for the thesis sentiment of this song, it does not center on presenting the Buffalo Soldiers as historical figures per se. Rather it’s more along the lines of putting forth that these individuals themselves were the ancestors of Rastafari.
Or another way of looking at it is as they being the prototypical Rastas. That is to say that they come off as being fiercely independent as well survivalists. Indeed the fact that they “won the war for America” isn’t as harped upon as the notion that the titular characters were obviously some type of outcasts or nonconformists.
Indeed Buffalo Soldiers were “fighting on arrival” in America, and even after the aforementioned wars stopped, their battles continued. And in terms of latter, it would be more along the lines of fighting for equal rights and justice. And such is apparently what spurs these Soldiers to traverse the continent, “driven from the mainland” North America into “the heart of the Caribbean”.
So the overall implication is that Buffalo Soldiers were not only Rastafari but also freedom fighters who deserve a noted place in North American history.
Facts about “Buffalo Soldier”
“Buffalo Soldier” was written by Marley. He however, worked with Jamaican musician and music producer Noel Williams (best known as King Sporty) to compose it. King Sporty died in 2015 at the age of 71.
A number of artists have covered this song over the years, including American rapper Vanilla Ice in November 2008.
The song was used prominently in the 1990 Claire Denis film titled No Fear, No Die.
The melody of the song’s bridge containing the following lyrics “woy! yoy! yoy!” is very similar to the chorus of the song The Tra-La-La Song. The said song is from the popular children’s TV show The Banana Splits Adventure Hour that ran from 1968 to 1970.
“Buffalo Soldier” was a major hit in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In the former territory, it peaked at position 3. In the UK Singles Chart, it also reached a peak position of 4. It was also a top-10 hit in Norway.
“Buffalo Soldier” is the 5th track on the famous 1984 album Legend from Bob Marley and the Wailers.
The aforementioned project is actually a compilation album. It is made up of over ten Bob Marley iconic hits, including the following:
This iconic roots reggae album is widely regarded as the most successful reggae album ever. It has so far sold over 25 million units around the world. In 2020, Rolling Stone placed it at number 48 on their list of “Greatest Albums of All Time”.