"No Woman, No Cry": how Bob Marley wrote a hymn to all the women and mothers of the world

About the legendary anthem "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley.

The story of the song "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley

"No Woman, No Cry" one of the most famous songs in the repertoire Bob Marley. It became a worldwide hit, and the live version from the album is the most popular among listeners. Live! 1975.

Today the composition is included in the list "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" according to the magazine "Rolling Stone. The song was written by Bob Marley himself - at least the lyrics and melody. However, he transferred all copyrights Vincent Ford - to his good friendwhich ran a soup kitchen for the needy in Trench Town, a ghetto in Kingstonwhere Marley grew up. Of course, royalties played a big role for Vincent, as well as for everyone who needs free food.

Trench Town served as a refuge for Rastafarian communes. The area was devastated by a hurricane in the early 1950s. "Charlie": after restoration, it consisted of one-two-story concrete houses, with patios and a shared kitchen. People here lived very poorly - against the backdrop of unemployment, crime flourished. And thanks to the song “No Woman, No Cry”, the whole world started talking about Trench Town!


Jamaican pressings of Bob Marley albums to be released
Bob Marley

The track closely echoes the personal life experience Marley, who grew up in Trench Town in Kingston, Jamaica, is his most recognizable tune today. "No Woman, No Cry" also brought him his first UK hit single! Bob Marley wrote this song when his mother got sick: thus, the Jamaican musician wanted to somehow brighten up and perpetuate the work of women and mothers. He called his creation "No woman, don't cry". At first the lyrics were misunderstood people outside of Jamaica: listeners thought Marley was hinting that "if there is no woman, then there is no reason to cry". Later bassist "The Wailers" Aston Barrett says:

““No Woman, No Cry” is a song about the power of mothers and women… Women with a rod that look like lionesses! This song is about strong, independent women. Of course, a man is always there to help! But to have an inner core is a great quality for a woman.

In the song, Marley mentions Government Yards of Trench Town a public housing project in Kingston, where he grew up, and cornmeal porridge, a popular breakfast in Jamaica.

Popular Version

Bob Marley at the Crystal Palace. Photo: David Corio
Bob Marley at the Crystal Palace. Photo: David Corio

The most known version "No Woman, No Cry" is a live performance by The Wailers recorded and released as a single from the Live! Familiar today and adored by many music lovers version of the song was recorded in London in 1975: it was on a hot July evening and The Wailers gave a really rousing performance that made the band and Marley in particular mainstream! We can feel the audience bubbling with enthusiasm. And sound soulful rhythmsover which rises bittersweet marley vocals, impregnated harsh nostalgia.

The original version is very different from live performances: The track was much shorter and sped up. So there is no doubt: Marley brought to the live version a completely different, magical energy. Live single initially reached 22nd position in the UK in 1975, but after the death of the musician, he got up to the eighth line reissued in 1981. Bob Marley got cancer aged 36 years. By that time, he had already firmly taken his place in the musical arena.


Bob Marley
Bob Marley

On the album cover "Natty Dread" listed multiple songwriters, including friends, family members, and band members, but all songs were written by Marley. At that time, the musician was involved in contract dispute with his former publishing company Cayman Music. Marley didn't want his new songs to be associated with "Cayman" and it was speculated that he intentionally signed them. in other people's names, to avoid contractual restrictions, and “provide ongoing assistance to family and close friends”.

former manager Marley, Danny Sims, later sued, To obtain license fees and ownership to the songs, stating that Marley wrote them, but transferred credit Ford to avoid the obligations assumed in previous contracts.

In 1987, the court sided with the Marley estate, taking full song control. Vincent Ford died at the age of 68 in 2008 in Kingston. Ford was a close friend of Marley, and it seems that then it was not about legal and contractual difficulties: Marley just wanted Vincent received royalties. This is more than possible, since Marley himself claimed that music was much more important to him than success.


"No Woman, No Cry" remains a truly standout moment in Marley's career. And the live version with "Live!" still withdraws echo all over the world. This is a song that has stood the test of time, and women all over the world still find in it comfort. Even today, decades after that hot summer night in London, magic is in the air as Marley turns "No Woman, No Cry" in a trance. And when it sounds last chorusit's really hard not to believe that "everything will be fine".

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