“Ride Natty Ride” by Bob Marley
First things first, the word “natty” is actually the Jamaican patois way of saying “knotty”. And what said term most often points to in such cases is the hair of Rastafarians such as Bob Marley.
These individuals are sometimes referred to as ‘dreads’, pointing to the fact that, ideologically speaking, Rastas tend to have dreadlocks. In other words, their religious beliefs stipulate that they don’t cut their hair, and in most cases they refrain from combing it also.
So what happens is that their hair naturally knots up. Therefore instead of generally referring to a Rastafarian as a ‘dread’, they can also be referred to as “natty”, with both terms being heavily utilized in this song.
That said, the lyrics of “Ride Natty Ride” have nothing to do with hair. Rather, Bob Marley was about as much as an actual prophet as any other popular musician in recent history. So that means for instance that most of his songs, such as this one, are not about trivial or pleasure-seeking matters.
Also his lyricism was heavily influenced by Biblical doctrine, in this case speaking to the concept of we living in the last days and relatedly the persecution of the righteous or truly woke, as some people may say these days.
But Jah Bob doesn’t just come out and say it like that. Instead, the ‘natty dread’ subject of this song is a representation of, most basically put, a righteous individual. Yes, for the sake of clarity we can say that Bob is referring to an actual Rastafarian.
But at the end of the day, a person’s hair or what have you is beside the point. More importantly is natty being, shall we say a conscious person in the grand scheme of things. This person is someone who noticeably has a spiritual “mission” to fulfill. And as such, once again in line with books like the Bible, this calling has naturally puts him at odds with the world.
In terms of the prophetic quality of this piece, the vocalist proceeds to depict the world as being corrupt. Or more specifically, the world system is presented as being built on deception. And conversely it can be put forth that the natty dread, in this context, symbolizes truth.
Therefore, the system being what it is has the ambition to, one way or another, remove natty from the equation. And that is apparently one of the reasons why Marley is advising natty to “ride”, i.e. such flexibility minimizing the chance of he or she being ensnared by the powers that be.
But more pressingly, as noted earlier and as stated at the beginning of the song, is natty having this sort of destiny to fulfill. So on one hand yes, he is being advised to “ride” as idleness, if you will, equals doom for dreads. But also, natty must endeavor to complete his God-given mission.
Thesis Sentiment of “Ride Natty Ride”
The thesis sentiment of this song is in fact an encouragement for him to do so, or “ride” as Jah Bob puts it. And the reason why Marley is compelled to invigorate his ilk in that regard is because, once again going back to the world system, he knows that they face considerable and discouraging opposition along the way.
Facts about “Ride Natty Ride”
This song is from “Survival”, the album Bob Marley and the Wailers that dropped on 2 October 1979. Said project is perhaps most notable for featuring the Bob Marley classics “Africa Unite” and “So Much Trouble in the World”. Marley himself would go on to pass away just a couple of years after, in 1981, at the age of 36.
“Ride Natty Ride” was written exclusively by Bob Marley. And he and the Wailers produced the track with Alex Sadkin (1949-1987), who also worked with the band on their 1976 album “Rastaman Vibration”.
“Survival” made it onto the top 20 of the UK Albums Chart. The labels that put out this record are Island alongside Tuff Gong, the latter of which was founded by Marley.
Unfortunately Irish singer Sinead O’Connor’s second son and third child overall, Shane, took his own life at the age of 17 in early 2022. And in memorializing him, the woke songstress used “Ride Natty Ride” as a dedication song.
With the exceptions of 1972 and 1975, Bob Marley & The Wailers dropped a studio album every year from 1970 to 1980. (They actually came out with two, “The Best of the Wailers” and “Soul Rebels”, in 1970.)