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Credit: Eddie Mallin


The real “Three Little Birds” in Bob Marley’s classic anthem


Bob Marley’s spiritual balms to the world were timeless and the message of ‘Three Little Birds’ is as prescient as ever. With absolute sweetness, he offered up a hefty dose of profundity with the light air of a sunny day at the beach. It is a classic that defined what the star was all about, however, there was a secret subtext to the track that many have missed amid the poetry. 

You see, beyond his spirituality, Marley was also a very personable guy. Thus, it perhaps comes as little surprise that behind his message of peace was a real-world tale. The three little birds were not, in fact, poetic symbols of hope, but rather chirpers of sweetness whom he knew by name. 

Prior to the release of Exodus, Marley began working with a trio of reggae vocalists known as I Threes. Consisting of Marley’s wife Rita, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths, the entwined vocals of the group were so beguiling that they became the sirens of reggae who charmed with sweetness as they extolled a message of the Rastafarian ‘Godhead’ concept.

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Marley himself was enamoured with the vocal group and worked with them from their formation in 1974 right up until his death in 1981. And as Marcia Griffiths claims, his classic track was somewhat of an ode to the beauty they brought into his life. As she explained: “After the song was written, Bob would always refer to us as the Three Little Birds.”

Continuing: “After a show, there would be an encore, sometimes people even wanted us to go back onstage four times. Bob would still want to go back, and he would say, ‘What is my Three Little Birds saying?’”

Concluding: “’Three Little Birds’ was our song, officially for I-Three. It was more or less expressing how we all came together, when he says, ‘Rise up this morning, smile with the rising sun.’ We loved it. Even when we were recording it, we knew that it was our song.”

As far as odes go, it is just about the sweetest that you could find in music. Exodus is undoubtedly a masterpiece, and ‘Three Little Birds’ seems to be the culminating moment when Marley puts a fine point on his message. In fact, “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be all right,” could just about be the epitaph of his entire life wrought out in simple lyrics of melodies pure and true saying this is his message to you.

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