Recently, we’ve observed a trend of influential songs from the past making a comeback thanks to movies and TV shows. The latest to be remade like this is “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley & The Wailers. The track is featured in the trailer of the upcoming Marvel movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”. Anyone who watched the trailer can’t help but be curious about the soulful rendition of “No Woman No Cry” by Tems. In this post, we’re taking a look at Bob Marley’s original version of the song and the story behind this inspirational track.
“No Woman No Cry” was first featured in the 1974 album ‘Natty Dread’ by Bob Marley & The Wailers. The song was said to have been written by Marley’s childhood friend Vincent “Tartar” Ford. Yet it is widely believed that Marley himself may have been the composer, as the song refers to intensely personal experiences and memories. The reason to credit Ford on the song had been Marley’s way of ensuring that his childhood friend could be financially stable and keep Ford’s soup kitchen running through the royalties from the song.
Of course, the most well-known version of the song came out in 1975, as part of the ‘Live!’ album, recorded when Bob Marley & The Wailers were on tour. The crowd at the Lyceum Theatre reacted emotionally when the opening lines of “No Woman No Cry” started to play. This prompted their second concert in London on July 18, 1975, to be recorded live and released as an album, attesting to the enduring impact of the song and making it Marley’s first reggae hit.
When it comes to music charts, the original rendition of “No Woman No Cry” has only performed marginally well. Nonetheless, some cover versions of the song have done exceptionally well, notably the Fugees version and the recent Tems version. Fugees’ version was at the top of New Zealand Singles as well as UK Singles charts, whereas the Tems version peaked at the US Billboard World Digital Song Sales chart. Yet the song undoubtedly had a considerable impact both culturally and spiritually, as the track is acknowledged on Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list and was certified Platinum by BPI in April 2022.
Listen to “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Bob Marley & The Wailers “No Woman No Cry” Lyrics Review and Song Meaning
“No Woman, No Cry” is both personal and political at the same time; Bob Marley talks about his humble upbringing in Kingston but he also talks about the plight of many who grew up as he did. The song offers both hope and consolation, especially to the countless women in Marley’s life that embodied the true strength of womankind.
“No woman, no cry
Little darling don’t shed no tears”
Undoubtedly all music fans have heard these iconic lines at least once in their lives. Of course, if you’re a Marvel fan, you might have heard it recently in the “Wakanda Forever” trailer.
Easy to misinterpret, for the longest time, people outside Jamaica took these lines to mean that without women there’s no need for sorrow. However, this is merely the dialect used by Marley and the actual lines were “No woman, nuh cry” which conveys the meaning, “woman, please don’t cry”.
Once we move beyond the initial refrain this becomes obvious as Marley, quite endearingly, asks women to not shed tears – offering consolation but also acknowledging their strength. He sends out a universal message, that the women he has seen in his life, and all the women out there have the inherent strength to overcome all obstacles in life. Hence, the title of the song is quite appropriate, women as Marley perceives them, should not cry.
“‘Cause, ‘cause, ‘cause I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown”
Speaking of the place where he spent most of his life, Marley reminisces about the public housing slums in Kingston – particularly the Trenchtown his grandmother lived in. He observed how the poor were treated and noted how some people were hypocrites and others genuinely good men. It seems to be as if for Marley these ghettos were the university in which he learned the lessons in life. He believed that both the best and the worst in life can be found in the place where he grew up. Hence, “No Woman No Cry” carries Marley’s resolve; no matter how successful he would be in the future, these memories will serve as his guiding light.
“Then we would cook corn meal porridge, I say
Of which I’ll share with you, yeah”
Again, it is evident that this song is quite personal for Marley. He talks about his friend Georgie who kept the bonfires burning through the night as well as his favorite meal of corn meal porridge. Marley did not grow up rich but what he wanted to convey through “No Woman No Cry” was the richness of his culture. Despite all the hardships his people endured, they would still foster that community spirit. They would share meals and make certain that even the poorest are looked after.
Marley’s beliefs as a Rastafarian shine throughout this song as well. “No Woman No Cry” is extremely political in how it rejects capitalism and all that it entails. Marley didn’t believe in material possessions, so he could bravely state: “My feet is my only carriage”. A man of simple tastes, Marley’s conviction must have been a breath of fresh air for the audience that heard him sing this in 1975. It is the second verse in particular that made people question who wrote the lyrics as the references could have only been made by Marley – or by someone who grew up right next to him.
“Everything’s going to be alright”
The bridge encompasses the idea of comfort and consolation. It uplifts your soul as Marley repeats that everything will be alright – a promise for the future. It was no wonder that the audience at the Lyceum Theatre in 1975 reacted emotionally to this song. “No Woman No Cry” is a song of hope, especially since it originated from the ghettos of Jamaica bringing with it the courage and energy of the people Marley grew up with.
“No Woman, No Cry” is also interpreted by some as a farewell song. Perhaps, the reason why Marley is comforting this unnamed woman (most likely his wife Rita) is that he’s saying goodbye to the place where he grew up and moving ahead in life. Yet, he is also consoling this woman saying that he’s carrying all these memories – of his community and his people – holding them close to his heart. In “No Woman No Cry” Marley is referring to the courage of all women who are able to carry on with or without the support of men. It is probably why this song was remade over and over again by different artists.
As years passed, the message that Marley conveyed seemed to resonate with people in different ways. Marley did keep his promise, as though “No Woman No Cry” he immortalized his experience growing up in Trenchtown in the hearts of many, and his memories are alive even today.
Let us hear what you think about this classic in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics on Genius.