Legend

Music review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Legend Music Poster Image
Wonderful posthumous collection favors hits over politics.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Bob Marley's iconic, reggae grooves carry a message of love and hope. This excellent hits collection features inspiring human rights anthems ("Buffalo Soldier," "Get Up Stand Up," "Exodus," "Redemption Song") as well as sensual love songs ("Is This Love," "Stir It Up") and must-play party songs ("Jamming"). "One Love/People Get Ready" sends a moving message of unity through love and faith.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bob Marley used his music as a means to inspire Jamaicans and black Africans, and any downtrodden people, to value love and freedom and stand up to their oppressors. The songs on Legend are not Marley's most aggressive, but as an artist and activist, this reggae icon set a shining example of how music can at once exude great beauty and great power. Marley was a member of the Rastafarian movement, which is associated with copious pot smoking, so many parents may consider this artist a poor role model.

Violence

"Buffalo Soldier" and "Get Up Stand Up" encourage listeners to "fight for survival" and urge them, "Don't give up the fight." These are political sentiments meant to inspire courage rather than provoke aggression. In "I Shot the Sheriff," the singer insists that he fired his gun in self defense, but admits to using it.

Sex

Most of the songs on Legend are more political than personal, but there are a few romantic and somewhat sexual tunes. "This Love" invites a lover to "share the shelter of my single bed." "Stir It Up" uses stirring a cooking pot as a metaphor for sex, saying "I'll push the wood, I'll blaze your fire," "Your recipe, darling, is so tasty / and you sure can stir your pot," and more explicitly: "I'll stir it up, yeah, ev'ry minute, yeah / All you got to do is keep it in, baby."

Language

The song "Could You Be Loved" uses the word "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Despite Bob Marley's reputation for marijuana use, only one song on Legend explicitly mentions the drug, or any drug for that matter. The bonus track "Easy Skanking" includes the lines "Excuse me while I light my spliff / Good GOD I gotta take a lift from reality" and "Herb for my strong wine, honey for my strong drink."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Legend is a compilation of 14 of Bob Marley's best-loved songs. The album was first released in 1984, a few years after the artist's death (from cancer) in 1981. The CD was later reissued with two bonus tracks; there's also a deluxe edition that includes a bonus disc of remixed songs. Legend, which is Diamond-certified (meaning it has sold more than 10 million copies in the United States), includes mainly hit songs that tend to show a softer side of Marley's music; songs on his later albums, which are not represented here, are more aggressively political. Still, this is a warm and wonderful collection of favorites that raises few red flags in the parenting department. A couple of songs are somewhat sensual; only one is quite sexual ("Stir It Up"), there is one curse word ("hell"), one reference to drugs (a spliff [joint] in "Easy Skanking"), and one song with a violent event ("I Shot the Sheriff").

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What's the story?

LEGEND is a collection of 14 of reggae superstar Bob Marley's best-loved hits. It was released in 1984, three years after the artist died of cancer. Included are iconic songs such as \"Three Little Birds,\" \"Get Up Stand Up,\" and \"I Shot the Sheriff.\" The CD was reissued in 2002, with the addition of two bonus tracks: \"Easy Skanking\" and \"Punky Reggae Party.\" For most listeners, Marley's name is synonymous with reggae; this collection has sold more than 10 million copies in the United States, making it the best-selling reggae album of all time.

Is it any good?

Legend is full of warm, wonderful songs that lift the spirits and inspire social conscience. Though some have criticized this collection for favoring friendly hits over Marley's later, politically-charged songs, this album full of classic tunes is an absolutely joy to hear and should have a place of honor in any reggae lover's record collection. The bonus tracks ("Easy Skanking" and "Punky Reggae Party") are not of the same caliber as the 14 original tracks, but they do round out the collection in their own ways.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the song "I Shot the Sheriff." What's going on in that song? Is the protagonist in this song a sympathetic one?

  • "Punky Reggae Party" shows the connection between punk and reggae music. What are some other songs that show how reggae influenced punk?

  • Listening to these songs, how would you describe Bob Marley's religious beliefs?

Music details

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