The lyrics for this 1973 track were written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh who were influenced mainly by their Jamaican upbringing. The song is basically about the fight for acceptance of their Rastafarian religion and the need to take action to avoid oppression, however, much of the inspiration appears to have come from another song `Slippin' Into Darkness' by War.
The meaning behind the lyrics can be interpreted as both religious and anti-religious depending on your point of view. On one hand, the line, `Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights,' can be seen as a rallying call to stand up and demand respect for the Rastafarian religion. On the other hand, the lines, `Preacher man don't tell me, heaven is under the earth, I know you don't know, what life is really worth,' suggest hanging on to freedom of thought rather than the words of religious leaders.
In the track by War, the lyrics warn of the thin line between sanity and insanity and how your own thoughts can be enough to push you over the edge into darkness. In this song, the lyrics tell us that religion can also be responsible for altering the way some people think with the lines, `Alf the story has never been told, so now you see the light, eh!'
There may well be some underlying political as well as social undertones but the main message in the lyrics is to live for the here and now; not to wait for the promised ever after.
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