Over 40 years after his death, a surprise new Bob Marley single has been released.
The restored 1968 recording, “Selassie is the Chapel” is available to stream on all digital channels for the first time, and a limited edition 7” vinyl pressing of just 2000 copies will also be released via Marley’s original label JAD Recordings.
According to a spokesperson for JAD Records, “Bob Marley is known and loved worldwide not only for his music, but as a truly spiritual figurehead and an embodiment of peace, truth and love. ‘Selassie is the Chapel’ is a rare, spiritual and emotive recording, one that was incredibly dear to Marley and delivers a personal statement from him about his beliefs. This beautiful song is being presented as a message of peace to the world, at a time of global turbulence.”
“Selassie is the Chapel” reveals a subtler side to the musician known principally for hits like “No Woman, No Cry”, “Three Little Birds” and “One Love”. Rather than following the reggae rhythms he helped pioneer, the newly-released track is a slower, stripped-back composition, more in the style of a traditional spiritual. Against minimal percussion and a muted guitar, Marley’s distinctive voice stands out, accompanied by female backing singers.
The title refers to Haile Selassie, the former Emperor of Ethiopia and a key figure in the Rastafari religion, whom many Rastafarians see as the Messiah. When Selassie visited Jamaica in 1966, he was greeted by musician and Rastafari elder Mortimer Planno, Marley’s friend who later became his manager and producer. Inspired by Selassie’s visit, Planno adapted the Orioles’ 1953 hit “Crying in the Chapel” and in 1968, aged just 23, Marley recorded the version released today. It was to be the singer’s first openly Rastafarian song and laid the foundations for his lifelong devotion to the Rastafari faith.
Alongside a recording career that saw him bring reggae music into the mainstream, Marley was regarded as a Rastafari icon in his own right, and an ambassador for the faith. Before his death from cancer in 1981 aged just 36 he had become a worldwide star – not only for his music, but as a symbol of Jamaican, and Rastafari, culture. He has since sold over 20 million records, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In December 1999 his song “One Love” was designated Song of the Millennium by the BBC, and the 1977 album Exodus was named Album of the Century by Time Magazine.
“Selassie is the Chapel” is the first release from JAD Records in seven years, and is part of a larger catalogue of Bob Marley recordings that were produced exclusively for the label during the 1960s and 70s.