Best Bob Marley Songs: Top 5 Reggae Tracks Most Recommended By Fans

In February of 1945, Robert Marley was born in Nine Mile, Jamaica, and only 17 short years later would he record his first song and change the trajectory of reggae music forever. With iconic songs like “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Three Little Birds” taking households by storm for generations, it’s no wonder Bob Marley has sustained a successful career beyond his short time on Earth. With his icon status, positive ideals, and guitar, he created some of the best Bob Marley songs, and some of the best reggae music in general. On February 14, 2024, the biopic “Bob Marley: One Love” hits theaters, bringing with it the full tale of the King of Reggae.

In fact, did you know that a recent study showed that “Sun is Shining” by Bob Marley is (scientifically) proven to make people happier? Dr. Michael Bonshor, who has a Ph.D. in music psychology, believes in creating a happy song; it should also have a short intro, repeated riffs, high volume, bright tone, and a mix of predictability and surprise. This formula perfectly fits Marley’s song, making the top ten list of happiest songs!

The happiness doesn’t stop with humans, though; another study found that specific types of music can also help calm dogs, specifically on car rides. Reggae was at the top of the list, which is often associated with sunshine and chilling out, so it’s no wonder Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” was at the top of the list. So next time you spend quality time with your pup, throw them a bone and play some Bob Marley.

On that note, let’s get started on the list so you know exactly what songs to put on your Marley playlist. Here at StudyFinds we have thoroughly researched to bring you the top five best Bob Marley songs according to the consensus of 10 expert music critics. Don’t agree with our list? We would love to hear from you and your favorite songs by the Rastafarian icon in the comments below!

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Bob Marley albums
Bob Marley albums (Photo by Stefano Chiacchiarini ’74 on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Bob Marley Songs, According to Experts

1. “No Woman, No Cry” (1974)

First on the list is the classic and ever timely “No Woman, No Cry.” As SingersRoom points out, this powerful ballad speaks to the struggles and hardships faced by marginalized communities, particularly women, in Jamaica. The iconic title and refrain, “No woman, no cry,” resonates with many as a message of resilience and hope in the face of adversity. Marley’s soulful vocals, emotional lyrics, and catchy melody have cemented its place as one of his most beloved songs, solidifying his legacy as a musical and cultural icon.

This is not just a song; it’s a cultural touchstone. UDiscoverMusic highlights the song’s pivotal role in Bob Marley’s career, calling it his “international breakthrough.” The studio version from the “Natty Dread” album was already powerful, but it was the live performance at London’s Lyceum Theatre that truly elevated it. The Guardian describes this live version as “luminous and utterly magical,” praising its raw intensity and the audience’s participation in the iconic chorus. The song’s emotional journey, from melancholy nostalgia to optimism, is amplified by the live performance, making it a truly unforgettable experience.

Whether you connect with the song’s social commentary, its message of hope, or simply its musical beauty, “No Woman, No Cry” remains a timeless classic. Its enduring legacy and ability to touch hearts across generations is a testament to Bob Marley’s artistry and the song’s universal power.

2. “One Love/People Get Ready” (1977)

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The next choice comes in the form of a legendary mash-up in which just reading the title you can hear Marley’s hauntingly beautiful tone. a call to action. As SingersRoom points out, this reggae classic combines Marley’s “One Love” and Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” blending social commentary with uplifting messages of unity and love. Its infectious rhythm and catchy melody, alongside lyrics urging us to overcome differences and come together, have made it a timeless anthem of hope and resilience.

This song is undoubtedly a call to action. Extra Chill praises the song’s message of peace and harmony, highlighting its ability to encourage people to set aside differences and unite. They emphasize how Marley’s positive message, beautiful harmonies, and lyrics of compassion make “One Love/People Get Ready” a classic, urging listeners to follow its path of love and peace.

Complex acknowledges the song’s immense popularity, even becoming the theme song for Jamaica’s tourism board. However, they delve deeper, highlighting lyrics like “Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armageddon” and “There ain’t no hiding place from the father of creation,” reminding us that this is more than just a feel-good tune. While the concept of “One Love” has resonated widely, with even Nas referencing it in his song, the fight for true unity remains ongoing.

3. “Redemption Song” (1980)

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Though best known for his contributions to the reggae genre, this hit highlighted Marley’s folksy approach to music. As UDiscoverMusic points out, this deeply moving track showcases Marley’s often-overlooked folky side, released in 1980 on his final album, “Uprising.” The “Songs Of Freedom” box set offers an even more poignant version, featuring a frail Marley performing the song live with profound emotion and strength.

“Redemption Song” isn’t just a classic Marley tune; it’s a powerful testament to his spirit and artistry. SingersRoom delves into the song’s essence, giving kudos to its stripped-down arrangement with just Marley’s acoustic guitar and vocals. The lyrics, a powerful call to action against oppression, are delivered with raw passion, making it a haunting anthem of hope and resilience. Its enduring popularity and ability to inspire generations stand as testaments to its lasting impact.

The Guardian adds another layer, suggesting that “Redemption Song” served as Marley’s musical epitaph. While a full band version exists, it pales in comparison to the raw emotional power of the acoustic rendition. Described as closer to folk than reggae, the song alternates between broodiness and exultation, maintaining its emotional impact despite its widespread popularity. Even more impactful, this song came out after Marley survived an assassination attempt. Bob Marley passed away shortly after, in 1981, after a battle with cancer

4. “Get Up, Stand Up” (1973)

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Filling suit with many of Bob Marley’s hits, “Get Up, Stand Up” is a rallying cry for human rights and a call to action against oppression. As Rolling Stone points out, this powerful collaboration between Bob Marley and Peter Tosh transcends their occasional musical differences. Inspired by Marley’s firsthand experience of poverty in Haiti and Tosh’s awareness of exploitation in the music industry, the song delivers a direct message through its chant-like chorus. Its impact has resonated across generations, with diverse artists like Public Enemy, Springsteen, and Rihanna reimagining it.

MusicGrotto acknowledges the song’s enduring legacy, highlighting its numerous live recordings and consistent presence on “greatest songs” lists. While it achieved commercial success, its true power lies in its message.

ExtraChill emphasizes the song’s political relevance, urging listeners to unite against corruption and hatred. It challenges the notion of waiting for salvation and instead advocates for claiming rights and justice in this lifetime. Whether you view it as a call to fight for human rights, a message of empowerment, or a timeless anthem for unity, “Get Up, Stand Up” remains a powerful testament to Bob Marley’s artistry and his commitment to social justice. Its enduring message continues to resonate and inspire individuals to fight for a better world.

5. “Three Little Birds” (1977)

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“Three Little Birds” has been described as one of the most cheerful reggae songs that exists, according to SmoothRadioLive365 hails it as “perhaps Marley’s most well-known hit,” praising its positive vibes and upbeat energy. The story behind the song is equally uplifting, with Marley finding inspiration from canaries frequently visiting his windowsill at his home on Hope Road, offering him solace and hope.

MidderMusic dives into the song’s impact, noting how its positive energy and catchy melody make it a crowd favorite, perfect for joyous occasions. Its enduring popularity is further evident in the numerous covers and remixes that continue to pay homage to the original.

“Three Little Birds” has been featured in almost a dozen films, such as “I Am Legend,” “In Her Shoes,” “Funny People,” and “Romona and Beezus,” as well as been covered numerous times, even by Marley’s son Ziggy himself. The song often serves as a reminder to enjoy the little things and not worry so much and is often heard in happy celebratory moments, making it a classic now and for years to come. 

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.


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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

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Comments

  1. Hey, Jilly Hite! Yeahman, you are on par! There are so many and in different order. I would definitely have to have the one word titled: “War” (when you check the reasons behind wars in the world today, it’s a philosophy of superiority. That’s why we have the word superpower and third-world countries). And right with that is “Natural Mystic.” There is no way I can leave out one of the most militant, yet historical facts of all-time, known, loved and sang by some many people who have never even experienced it, is no other than, “Buffalo Soldier.” And I have thrown in a lover’s Rock, groovy, stimulating, and mind swaying is ‘Stir It Up’. And how could I leave without telling you that I got my freedom right of passage to exhale and live with “Exodus!” Exodus gets you in a hypnotic feeling of excitement and experience all in one that something as this is really, really happening, “So we gonna walk…”! Luv your collection of seeing why the legendary Bob Marley lives on! One Luv ❤️!!!

  2. Omg i love the ICONIC BOB MARLEY HIS MUSIC IS RELAXING RAT RACE IS ALSO GREAT SONG The Sun is shining great ness Is this LOVE 💕💖❤️😘💕 RIP MR.BOBMARLEY I LOVE U I HAVE A POCKETBOOK I WEAR EVERYDAY WITH THE SONG NO WOMAN NO CRY AND UR PICTURE ON IT A NECKLACE WITH RED YELLOW GREEN I LOVE ALL UR MUSIC ALL OF THEM IS EXCELLENT OUTSTANDING MIND BLOWING RELAXING MOST IMPORTANTLY TRUE MEANINGS BEHIND EVRY ONE OF THEM SONGS MY CONDOLENCES TO UR WIFE MRS RITA MARLEY YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN I WISH I COULD MEET YOU I PRAY I GET THE CHANCE IN HEAVEN

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