Natty Dread is the seventh studio album by Bob Marley and the Wailers, released in 1974. It was the first album released as Bob Marley and the Wailers instead of just the Wailers, the first recorded without Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, and the first recorded with I Threes, a female vocal trio consisting of Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, and Marley’s wife, Rita Marley.
The Wailers’ rhythm section of bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett and drummer Carlton “Carly” Barrett remained in place and even contributed to the songwriting.
Natty Dread is a spiritually charged political and social statement. It opens with “Lively Up Yourself”, a blues-influenced positive celebration of skanking, reggae and sex. The original and still unreleased demo of the Island version of “Lively Up Yourself” was recorded in 1973.
“No Woman, No Cry”, the second track, is probably the best known recording on the album. It is a nostalgic remembrance of growing up in the impoverished streets of Trenchtown and the happiness brought by the company of friends. Songwriting credit for “No Woman, No Cry” went to V. Ford. Vincent Ford, better known as “Tartar” to his friends and neighbors, had been a kind friend of Marley as a child in Trenchtown. Marley claimed he would have starved to death on several occasions as a child if not for the aid of Tartar.
“Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” is a warning against allowing a nation’s poor to go hungry, with the prophetic warning “a hungry mob is an angry mob”, while “Talkin’ Blues” and “Revolution” go deeper into controversial political commentary. “Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock)” is a reflection on the potential impact of reggae music on Jamaican society. The song was written after Marley had been stopped by a night-time police car check.
The influence of Marley’s increasing devotion to Rastafari can be heard in religious-themed songs like “So Jah S’eh”, “Natty Dread” and “Lively Up Yourself”, while Marley’s reputation as a romantic is confirmed with smooth, seductive songs like “Bend Down Low”. The title track of the album takes its title from an idealized personification of the Rastafari movement, Natty Dread.
Natty Dread peaked at No. 44 on Billboard’s (North America) Black Albums chart, and at No. 92 on the Pop Albums chart. In 2003, the album was ranked No. 181 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.