“Waiting in Vain” by Bob Marley

The full title of this song, as presented in the chorus, is “I don’t want to wait in vain for your love”. And that sentence does a pretty sound job of encapsulating what this narrative is about. For the lyrics generally point us in the direction of the addressee being a romantic interest of the vocalist, but one he has yet to conquer, so to speak. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Bob Marley's Waiting in Vain at Lyrics.org.

And according to the vocalist, this is someone who he has been chasing for a solid “three years”. So by this point we can say that, understandably, he’s a bit disheartened. In other words, he doesn’t want to continue pursuing homegirl if there’s no chance of her ever giving in to his love. 

So it’s like now, he wants her to definitively let him know whether their relationship will go there or not. However, it should be noted that one line in the second verse does imply he is already familiar with ‘her love’. Or if not, then Bob is able to perceive beforehand that being the recipient of it will be a major form of “relief” from his stresses.

Lyrics of “Waiting in Vain” are Autobiographical?

And we know that Bob Marley was one of those types of singers who meant what he sang and sang what he meant. So with that in mind, it has been concluded that this song is about a real-life romance he was in at the time. 

Of course Bob was married to Rita and had been from 1966 until his passing. Moreover, Rita Marley was concurrently part of the Wailers. But all lyrics considered, this song wouldn’t be about their relationship, unless maybe Bob was harping back to the days of their courtship during the 1960s. 

Thus the more acceptable explanation has been that in this song, Bob was referring to his extra-marital relationship with Canadian-Jamaican beauty queen Cindy Breakspeare, whom he briefly dated during the late-1970s. This is a theory which Breakspeare herself has supported, though she noted that the narrative is stretched a little.

But that aside, most simply put what we are dealing with are the sentiments of a man who is tired of being led on by a romantic interest. And to note, it doesn’t read as if he’s giving her an ultimatum like ‘date me, or I’m out’.  Rather the way the singer comes off is more along the lines of ‘I’ve been waiting to have you for so long, so please give in already’. 

Indeed the implication is that if the addressee weren’t likewise interested, then she probably would have terminated this relatively extended courtship a long time ago.

Lyrics for Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain"

Facts about “Waiting in Vain”

Bob Marley wrote “Waiting in Vain, as with virtually all of the tracks featured on the album it is derived from. And that album would be 1977’s Exodus. And he and the Wailers produced it as a unit.

The official release date of this song, as with the entirety of Exodus, was on 3 June 1977, via the collaborative efforts of Tuff Gong and Island Records. However, this track was also issued as the third single from the album some time during 1977. 

And in that case on the B-side was a tune entitled Roots. Roots was actually not added to the playlist of Exodus until the Deluxe Edition of the album came out in 2001.

Upon release, “Waiting in Vain” made it onto the top 30 of the UK Singles Chart. Also to note, Scottish songstress Annie Lennox covered “Waiting in Vain” in 1995, breaking the top 40 of said list.

As with most of Bob Marley’s classics, an official music video to “Waiting in Vain” was not made until well after his passing. And in this case, according to IMDb the clip was put together in 1984 and would have actually been filmed in Hawaii.

Waiting in Vain

More Interesting Facts

Even some four decades after his passing, Bob Marley (1945-1981) is still unanimously considered to be the greatest reggae artist to ever grace the music industry. 

In some parts of the world people are even more familiar with his work than that of the late, great Michael Jackson (1958-2009). 

Jah Bob, alongside the Wailers, dropped many hits during his day. However, as implied earlier, as the entertainment world seems to go sometimes, he seems to have become more of a legend after his passing, with Marley leaving the mortal plane at the age of 36 due to cancer.

Marley, being who he was, had a bunch of children via various women. And even though he and the aforementioned Cindy Breakspeare, who won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1976, only dated for a year, in that time he did manage to impregnate her. And this resulted in the birth of her first child and officially Marley’s 11th and last, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley in 1978, who actually proved to be the best musician out of all of the children Bob sired.

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