Survival is the eleventh studio album by reggae group Bob Marley & The Wailers. Released in 1979, it didn’t perform too well on the charts; peaking at No.70 in the US & and at No.20 in the United Kingdom. It didn’t produce any hit singles either, however it’s actually my favourite Bob Marley record. Themes of African unity and anti-colonialism are very strong, Marley leaving behind some of more optimistic lyrics from previous album Kaya.
Background & themes
A long supporter of independence and the struggle of black people all over the world, in the late 1970s Marley focussed his attentions on Africa. After spending some time in a Rastafari settlement in Ethiopia (which was home to Haile Salisse, the former emperor of Ethiopia and in the eyes of Rastafarians, the Second Coming of Christ), Marley would write the bulk of the record.
Just looking at the names of some of the tracks it’s clear the main theme of the album is colonial freedom and pan-African unity, songs like “Africa Unite”, “Zimbabwe”, “So Much Trouble in The World” and “Babylon System” are all politically charged tracks.
Other songs focus on Marley and his life, “Ambush In The Night” tells the story of the assassination attempt on his life in 1976.
Celebration in Zimbabwe
The cover of the record is a patchwork of all the African flags at the time. Rhodesia (which would become Zimbabwe in 1980) was in the midst of their own struggle for independence in 1979 when Marley released “Zimbabwe”, a song in support of the independence movement.
When Zimbabwe achieved it’s independence, Marley was the only foreigner invited to play at Rufaro Stadium in Harare. Despite unrest, Marley would later go on to call it the most important show of his career.
This concert in Zimbabwe marks everything Survival is meant to be, a celebration of independence, unity and Africa. A powerful message that was heard across the world.