Zarathustra vs Bob Marley and The Wailers

Thus Spoke Zarathustra – First Part – Chapter 1: ‘On the Three Transformations’ II
vs “Iron Lion Zion” [Original Version, c.1973-4], Bob Marley and The Wailers (Songs of Freedom, 1992)

In ‘On the Three Transformations’ we encounter the transformation from camel to lion, and from lion to a child: ‘Three transformations of the spirit I name for you’. Each deserves its own track. Here, the lion.

“Iron Lion Zion” by Bob Marley and the Wailers has something of the feel of this passage from Zarathustra. The track was originally recorded as a demo sometime in 1973 or 1974, after Burnin’ (1973) and around the time of Natty Dread (1974), between which The Wailers officially became Bob Marley and The Wailers with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer leaving the band. The track was never used, however, and lay forgotten till well after Marley’s death. It surfaced on the box-set Songs of Freedom (1992) and was remixed for release in 7” and 12” in the same year. The remixes are great, the song stripped back and vocal lines paired down, then given some new instrumentation and backing vocals. But the album version retains the essence of a live jam and the time in which it was originally cut.

Usually seen as a song about Rastafarianism, the original lyric contained two verses each repeated twice with difference, the fourth verse (which did not make the cut of the remixes) with the line ‘See my brothers want to be the star / So they fighting tribal war’. “Iron Lion Zion” is a song reflecting upon a moment of transformation; Marley is ‘on the rock’, taking ‘stock’, he’s going to ‘run like a fugitive to save the life I live’, ‘I'm gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion’.

Zarathustra is preaching to ‘my brothers’: ‘In the loneliest dessert the second transformation occurs: the spirit here becomes a lion; it will seize freedom for itself’. This seizing for Nietzsche, for Zarathustra, is ‘To create freedom for oneself’, ‘a sacred Nay even to duty’: ‘for that, my brothers, the lion is needed’. Against the commanding dragon of ‘Thou wilt’, the lion asserts ‘I will’, becomes iron, and in so doing creates new values, a new world, a Marley-esque Zion.

First Part: Chapter 1.III - Bow Wow Wow

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