The Truth Behind ‘No Woman, No Cry’

I’ve got a weird obsession when it comes to collecting music trivia that can be matched only my my good buddies Guitar Jon and Mr. D, who could tell you what colour underwear Keith Richards wore when he played Woodstock ‘69.

But one of my favourite pieces of music trivia is about the Bob Marley song ‘No woman, no cry’ and was told to be by my good buddy Stikey on yet another nameless drunken night spent in a nameless drunken bar.

I love this piece of trivia for two reasons, one because basically EVERYONE knows ‘No woman, no cry’ and two because basically everyone who’s heard it has never given a moment’s thought as to what it means.

I mean, it’s not rocket science, right? He’s singing about how if you don’t have a woman, you won’t cry, ie. cut the bitch loose, problem solved.

Sounds a little cynical for a man who dedicated his life to spreading the message of peace, love, understanding and respect to our fellow man, no?

Damn fucking right it does!

As it turns out, the original version of the song was sung slightly differently than the live version which made it famous. In the original, Marley was singing, ‘No woman, nuh cry’ which becomes hugely significant because the word ‘nuh’ is Jamaican for don’t.

He’s not saying ‘No ho = no heartbreak’ he’s singing a song to his wife Rita, telling her not to cry for him when he leaves.



Originally I’d heard that he recorded the song during the self-imposed two year exile he took from Jamaica after the politically-motivated assassination attempt on his life, but the dates don’t add up right.

All I can surmise is that the song was recorded during a time in his life when he was travelling abroad to record overseas.

He was on a mission that man and even though I’m not a huge reggae fan, I respect Bob Marley because he was a true prophet and a man who changed this world for the better and who’s music will exist for as long as we do.

He was a great man. He died at 36, and his last words to his son Ziggy were, ‘Money can’t buy life.”

Money can’t buy life.


7 Responses to “The Truth Behind ‘No Woman, No Cry’”

  1. April 22, 2010 at 9:49 am

    I talked to someone the other day who said “Bob Marley’s music is like bubble gum reggae”. Needless to say I didn’t bother to argue with the fool but I do pity him.

  2. 3 Stikey
    April 22, 2010 at 11:36 am

    ‘And then we will cook oatmeal porridge
    of which I’ll share with you.’

  3. April 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    The Stones didn’t play Woodstock ’69.

  4. 6 Mervincat
    February 2, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Awesome site and great writing. Stoked to have found it.

    In my understanding, I believe you and your friend are in fact half right. He was indeed saying “No Woman ‘don’t’ cry” but it wasn’t because he was leaving or missing her or going on tour for a while. It was because he was having an affair [again]and was trying to console and explain to Rita that regardless of his infidelities, he still very much loved her and she shouldn’t stress too much – even if he was 2000 miles away and balls deep into anything with, 2 tits a heartbeat and some orange bud…

    But it’s Bob and he can do pretty much as he pleases, as far as I’m concerned.

    PS. Shot for the heads-up on the new Cake album. And right you are, the guitar player only plays the good notes. Kudos.

    • February 2, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      Mervincat! Welcome aboard homes, glad you dig the writing and very hectic about our buddy ol’ pal Mr Marley. I do remember hearing something about him screwing around behind Rita’s back but I think it was one of those instances where I instantly forgot about it / forgave him because like you said, it’s Bob. The man made the world a better place because of his music, but that doesn’t make him any less human.

      Thanks for the comment and stop by any time, the whisky’s fine 😉


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