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H.I.M. Haile Selassie I
If you’re one of the many who have chosen reggae as your religion, then you would know that ‘War’ is a song recorded and made popular by Bob Marley. It first appeared on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1976 Island Records album, ‘Rastaman Vibration’. What you might not know is that the lyrics are almost literally derived from a speech made by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I before the United Nations General Assembly. The song honors Haile Selassie I while calling for action against racial inequality and international injustice. Here is the part of Haile Selassie’s speech put to music by Marley in his original song, ‘War’.
“That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.” – H.I.M. Haile Selassie I
Here are the lyrics from the Bob Marley and the Wailers at the album Rastaman Vibration:
Until the philosophy which hold one race superior / And another / Inferior / Is finally / And permanently / Discredited / And abandoned / -Everywhere is war – / Me say war.
That until there no longer / First class and second class citizens of any nation / Until the colour of a man’s skin / Is of no more significance / than the colour of his eyes / – Me say war.
That until the basic human rights / Are equally guaranteed to all, / Without regard to race / – Dis a war.
That until that day / The dream of lasting peace, / World citizenship / Rule of international morality / Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, / But never attained / – Now everywhere is war – / War.
And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes / that hold our brothers in Angola, / In Mozambique, / South Africa / Sub-human bondage / Have been toppled, / Utterly destroyed / – Well, everywhere is war – / Me say war.
War in the east, / War in the west, / War up north, / War down south – / War – war – / Rumours of war. / And until that day, / The African continent / Will not know peace, / We Africans will fight – we find it necessary / – And we know we shall win / As we are confident / In the victory
Of good over evil -/ Good over evil, yeah! / Good over evil – / Good over evil, yeah! / Good over evil – / Good over evil, yeah!
In his speech to the U.N., H.I.M. Haile Selassie I reminded his listeners that these are only words; their value depends wholly on our will to observe and honor them and give them content and meaning.
‘War’ would become one of Bob Marley’s greatest classics, carrying the Rastafari message to the world in Haile Selassie I’s own words.