“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds.”
~ Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”
I try to play the guitar each night before going to bed, and “Redemption Song” is one of my favorite songs to sing. Imagine it: a tall white girl sitting cross-legged on her bed, singing a Bob Marley tune. It’s kind of funny, right?
But there’s a special truth in this specific line that leads me to play this song over and over and over again. I feel a surge of power when I get to these words. My voice becomes stronger, clearer, more confident. I’m singing it to myself, for myself. It’s an affirmation, courtesy of Bob Marley — sung without the Jamaican reggae accent.
There’s a sweet irony to this line when it comes to my relationship with the guitar, too. For years, I longed for the ability to pick up a guitar and strum with the easy coolness of a 1970’s singer-songwriter. But I “never had time” so it remained “something I wish I could do.” I mentally blocked myself. Emancipation came in the months leading up to my 30th birthday, when I vowed to do 30 new things. One of those new things: learn how to play the guitar. I signed up for beginner guitar lessons at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music … and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” was one of the first songs I learned how to play.