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The Meaning of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up”

Bob Marley live at the Brighton Leisure Center in 1980. Photo by Mike Prior/Redferns.

With a vibe that is nothing short of immaculate, Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” is a reggae classic, and one of his best songs.

First written and composed by Bob Marley in 1967, it was released as a single by the original Wailers (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer) that year. Later, after Bob Marley had split from Tosh and Bunny, the song was re-recorded for release on his 1973 album Catch A Fire.

The song was not a major hit in the US at the time of its release, only reaching number 91 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it was his first big hit in his home country of Jamaica. Bob Marley was on the path toward bringing mainstream attention towards reggae music, but that would come later.

Over the years, “Stir It Up” has become one of the most popular Bob Marley songs, and perhaps my own personal favorite. The song was covered by the American reggae artist Johnny Nash in 1972, prior to the Catch A Fire release.

It was also often covered by the Jerry Garcia Band in the 1970s, because as you may know, Jerry had an ear for a good vibe.

According to Rita Marley’s memoir No Woman, No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley, this song was written as a reflection of her life with Bob Marley. The pair had been married since 1966, and stayed together right up until Marley’s succumbing to cancer in 1981.

The lyrics to “Stir It Up” refer to being intimate, in a real easygoing way, with a lover in your life. The song reminds one of a lazy afternoon spent hanging around somewhere tropical, with somebody who makes you feel at ease.

There may be a little bit of dancing, or, ahem… other activities going on, and together you’re just having a wonderful time “Stirring it up” together.

Some fans also suggest that the meaning of “Stir It Up” has to do with marijuana, a notion that comes from the well-known fact that Bob Marley was a Rastafarian and he smoked a lot of marijuana. Notably, he smoked spliffs, which are a mix of marijuana and tobacco.

When you “Stir It Up” in that sense, you are mixing up the cannabis and tobacco into a nice little blend prior to rolling it up and smoking it. And as Bob Marley suggests, there is no better way to “Stir It Up” than with somebody that you love.

Listen to “Stir It Up” by Bob Marley below.