Meaning of “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley

I Shot the Sheriff is a song performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers. In the song’s lyrics, the narrator kills a local sheriff after claiming the sheriff tried shooting him. However, he is falsely accused of shooting and killing the deputy sheriff of his area – an accusation which he vehemently denies. According to Marley, in writing the song, he wanted to use the phrase “I shot the police” instead of “I shot the sheriff” but was afraid that the authorities would have created a “fuss” out of that, so decided to use the latter phrase instead to avoid any unnecessary issues.

I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley.

Facts about “I Shot the Sheriff”

  • The song was solely written by Bob Marley.
  • The song was the third track on the side one of the 1973 album Burnin’ by The Wailers (later known as Bob Marley and the Wailers).
  • A music video was never made for I Shot the Sheriff.
  • Several years after Marley’s death, Jamaican filmmaker and actress Esther Anderson, who was once a girlfriend of Marley, said she helped Marley write the song. She said of the line in which Marley sings about “Sheriff John Brown” hating him and always wanting to kill the seeds he planted was about Marley being against her use of birth control pills during their relationship. Anderson said Marley used the word “sheriff” in place of “doctor”.
  • I Shot the Sheriff has over the years been covered by numerous musicians, but none of the covers has been as famous as Eric Clapton’s 1974 cover. Clapton’s version was so popular that it not only brought Marley’s version into the limelight but it also exposed Marley to rock music fans all over the world. In addition to that, Clapton’s version of I Shot the Sheriff was so successful that it reached the number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and in 2003 received an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

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