I Shot the Sheriff

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"I Shot the Sheriff"
I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley and the Wailers German vinyl.jpg
Artwork of original German vinyl release
Single by Bob Marley and the Wailers
from the album Burnin'
Released 1973
Format 12" single
Recorded April 1973
Studio Harry J. Studios, Kingston, Jamaica
Genre Reggae
Length 4:41
Songwriter(s) Bob Marley

"I Shot the Sheriff" is a song written by Bob Marley and released in 1973 by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Bob Marley and the Wailers version

The narrator claims to have acted in self-defense when the sheriff tried to shoot him. The song was first released in 1973 on The Wailers' album Burnin'. Marley explained his intention as follows: "I want to say 'I shot the police' but the government would have made a fuss so I said 'I shot the sheriff' instead… but it's the same idea: justice."[1]

In 1992, with the controversy surrounding the Ice-T song "Cop Killer", Marley's song was often cited by Ice-T's supporters as evidence of his detractors' hypocrisy, considering that the older song was never similarly criticized despite having much the same theme.[2]

In 2012, Bob Marley's former girlfriend Esther Anderson claimed that the lyrics, "Sheriff John Brown always hated me, For what, I don't know: Every time I plant a seed, He said kill it before it grow" are actually about Marley being very opposed to her use of birth control pills; Marley supposedly substituted the word "doctor" with sheriff.[3]

Eric Clapton version

"I Shot the Sheriff"
I Shot the Sheriff by Eric Clapton UK vinyl 1974.jpg
A-side label of the original 1974 UK vinyl release
Single by Eric Clapton
from the album 461 Ocean Boulevard
Released 1974
Format 12" single
  • 4:26 (album version)
  • 3:30 (single version)
Label RSO
Songwriter(s) Bob Marley
Producer(s) Tom Dowd

Eric Clapton recorded a cover version that was included on his 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard. His take on the song has a soft rock[4] and reggae sound.[5] It is the most successful version of the song, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2003, Clapton's version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[6]

Chart performance

Weekly charts

Chart (1974) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[7] 11
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[8] 19
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[9] 7
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[10] 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[11] 4
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[12] 5
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[13] 5
New Zealand[14] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[15] 3
South Africa (Springbok)[16] 9
Spain (AFYVE)[17] 12
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[18] 9
US Billboard Hot 100[19] 1
US Billboard Hot Soul Singles[19] 33
US Cash Box[20] 1
US Record World[21] 1
Chart (1982) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[22] 23
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[23] 64

Year-end charts

Chart (1974) Position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[24] 58
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[25] 11
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[26] 50
US Billboard Hot 100[27] 76


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[28] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Warren G version

"I Shot the Sheriff"
I Shot the Sheriff WG.jpg
Single by Warren G
from the album Take a Look Over Your Shoulder
Released 1997
Genre Hip hop
Length 4:10
Label Def Jam
Producer(s) Warren G
Warren G singles chronology
"What's Love Got to Do with It"
"I Shot the Sheriff"
"Smokin' Me Out"

"I Shot the Sheriff" was the lead single released from Warren G's second album, Take a Look Over Your Shoulder. Warren replaced Marley's original lyrics with his own, although Clapton's version of the song is sampled and R&B singer Nancy Fletcher sings the original chorus. The song was a hit in several countries. In the US, it peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified Gold by the RIAA on 2 May 1997. It peaked at number two in the UK and at number one in New Zealand.[citation needed]

The official remix was produced by EPMD member Erick Sermon, it is based around EPMD's "Strictly Business", which also sampled Clapton's version of the song.[citation needed]

Charts and certifications

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