The Meaning of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”

Bob Marley live in June of 1977. Photo by Vincent McEvoy/Redferns.

Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” is a reggae classic and a song that brings happiness to all those who hear it, which is exactly how Mr. Marley intended it. Bob was a preacher of love and letting your worries float away, and “Three Little Birds” says it clearly: “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be alright.”

“Three Little Birds” is widely seen as one of the best Bob Marley songs, and certainly one of the most popular. It first appearing on the album Exodus in 1977 and was later released as a single in 1980. The song was fairly popular upon its release, but truly exploded in popularity after his death in 1981 and through to today, where it can be heard at just about every beach bar and island resort around the world.

As for the meaning of “Three Little Birds”, that is up for debate.

The first story about the meaning of “Three Little Birds” comes from Bob Marley’s friend Tony Gilbert. Gilbert says that Bob wrote the song about three actual birds who came and sat at the window when he lived on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica, where now stands the Bob Marley Museum.

The other meaning suggests that Bob wrote the song about the I-Threes, the female backup singers who accompanied him on the road and in the studio. The I-Threes, which consisted of Bob’s wife, Rita Marley along with Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths, recall that Bob would refer to them as his “three little birds”, and insist that he wrote the song about them.

Another, less direct meaning that has been suggested by fans is that Bob Marley wrote “Three Little Birds” with religious intent, and that the three birds represent two people as well as God, or the Holy Trinity. This would rely upon the rumor that Bob Marley converted from Rastafarianism to Christianity before his death being true.

In recent years the Bob Marley family has also released an animated music video for “Three Little Birds” that provides a fun cartoon representation of the positive song. You can watch that below.

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