(I shot the sheriff, but I didn't shoot no deputy, oh no, oh
I shot the sheriff, but I didn't shoot no deputy, ooh, ooh, ooh)

Yeah, all around in my home town
They're tryin' to track me down
They say they want to bring me in guilty
For the killing of a deputy
For the life of a deputy, but I say

Oh, now, now, oh
(I shot the sheriff) the sheriff
(But I swear it was in self defense) oh, no (oh, oh, ooh)
Yeah, I say, I shot the sheriff oh, Lord (and they say it is a capital offense)
Yeah (oh, oh, ooh) yeah

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
He said kill them before they grow, and so

Read it in the news (I shot the sheriff) oh, Lord
(But I swear it was in self-defense)
Where was the deputy? (oh, oh, ooh)
I say, I shot the sheriff
But I swear it was in self defense, yeah (ooh)

Freedom came my way one day
And I started out of town, yeah
All of a sudden I saw sheriff John Brown
Aiming to shoot me down
So I shot, I shot, I shot him down and I say
If I am guilty I will pay

(I shot the sheriff) but I say (but I didn't shoot no deputy)
I didn't shoot no deputy (oh, no-oh) oh no
(I shot the sheriff) I did
But I didn't shoot no deputy, oh (oh, oh, ooh)

Reflexes had got the better of me
And what is to be must be
Every day the bucket a-go a well
One day the bottom a-go drop out
One day the bottom a-go drop out, I say

I, I, I, I, shot the sheriff
Lord, I didn't shot the deputy, no
I, I (shot the sheriff)
But I didn't shoot no deputy, yeah
So, yeah


Lyrics submitted by alitoc

I Shot the Sheriff Lyrics as written by Bob Marley

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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I Shot The Sheriff song meanings
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63 Comments

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  • +3
    General Comment

    I'm sorry to be really annoying, but Bob Marley was about MUCH MORE than just marijuana. It drives me nuts when people think he was some sort of drug legalization crusader. He was a Rastafarian prophet! Maybe that's part of what this song is about, but it's also about injustice. I always thought "every time I plant a seed, he say 'kill them before they grow'" meant that the sheriff or those in power were trying to destroy any ideas that he sowed, particularly about defending one's human rights.

    goodmorningmisterbenon March 21, 2003   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    seriously I am sick of people thinking Im just some pot smoking guitar player because I listen to bob marley. The man had some of the most influential music ever, and still is sorely given little respect. Your talking about a man that recieved recognition from the UN for moving peace in africa and fighting for the rights of all people.

    daeldrenon March 27, 2003   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    It's metaphor. He's not singing about an actual sheriff or a deputy.

    It's about intolerance and injustice. The sheriff I think is the police force as a whole, and he is saying "Yeah, I want to change the police". But he is also saying he can tell the difference between the police as an institution and the policemen who do it as a job. That is, he doesn't hate them, but what they stand for.

    liamburkeon August 22, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    These attempts to find deep sympolic meaning in Bob's words are noble. The meaning is not so obfuscated. Sure the sherif must have hated the narator, perhapst because of rebelious or libral ideas but we don't know that. The sherif hated the narator that's for sure and he hated the narator enough to kill his oun deputy and use that as an excuse to chase down the narator and and blame him for killing the deputy. The explaination reguarding the full bucket may have merit.

    Hossson August 22, 2012   Link
  • +2
    My Opinion

    I think there's something about honesty and truth in justice in this song. he seems to be saying "Don't blame me for what I haven't done. Even if what I'm truthfully confessing to is the worse offense. Blame me for that but not for what I haven't done."

    Forrykookon May 14, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    i agree with AeroLed on how this song might or might not of been about pot and the only way we know for sure, is to ask him.

    i also agree with Goodmorningmisterben.

    "every time I plant a seed, he say 'kill them before they grow'" for me, that phrase makes me think about how everything he and his people did/do the goverment stops them before they get to far. because he has sung about how the goverment scorns them and makes them live in poverty. so that might be another meaning of that line. but of course there can be many meanings and thats another beauty of Bob's music.

    Let the legend live forever, we love you Bob!

    peace

    TakeMeAway109on April 19, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    goodmorningmisterben, agreed. marley's profound lyrics shouldn't be reduced to a plea for the legalization of cannabis or the likes (not that i disagree with legalization, just that i think marley had much more to express than his craving for pot). to me, this song is referring to the blatant injustice, more specifically, racism, that went/goes on in the world. "kill them before they grow" i think that is his metaphor for the surge of white supremism/racism against minorities, the attempts to keep their culture from flourishing (esp in america) and the attempts to keeping them from gaining any real power/social status, preventing them from having profound influence on the very laws that governed them. the entire shooting of sheriff brown is a representation of the corruption in the police force/government, especially against minorities. sheriff brown had been trying to kill him, so he had to defend himself, but in the end was convicted of murder - blatant injustice.

    then again, i could be wrong and this entire song could be about the ganja. oh well. one <3 ~ Che

    El_Cheon June 04, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Don't think of Bob Marley as a pothead songpusher. Cannabis is central for Rastafarians in their beliefs, even though it is hard for us Americans to see that because our societal moral "core" is against it. Anyway, this song is about defending oneself against pirates of evil. Bob is saying blame the people in charge when you see evil in society. What good does it do to kill the underlings (deputy) when the Sherriff will just keep hiring more deputies to replace the killed ones. People in charge shape society, Marley realized this and that's why he was so politically active and tried to help shape politics. This song is a cry to challenge leaders and not go after the "deputies" in society. The weed references serve as double entendre...as sherriff brown tells his goons not only to chop down weed, but to chop down any people who oppose him. Good song by Marley, try to see the deeper meaning though.

    --dockwats--on January 17, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I love the line "Everytime I plant a seed he say kill it before it grow" like a marijuana seed, then he says "he say kill them before they grow" like hes referencing his children.

    applejuice05on April 15, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    i agree, it gets old having everyone only respect bob because of him basically being marijuana's posterboy. i mean, while he does have alot to do with the pothead culture, he's also more..i just wish more people would realize that. he was such an amazing song writer and performer and should be respected for that just as much as he is for smoking weed...but moving on..i've heard alot of different opinions about what this song means and personally i think i'm going to go with this one...it may seem cliche and ironic' for the fact that i just preached on the whole weed thing but whatever, i think this song is about growing weed. i believe it's about a man who was growing and got caught by the fuzz. the guy doesn't see anything wrong with it though so he continues to plant it regardless. "Sheriff John Brown always hated me For what I don't know Ev'ry time I plant a seed He said, "Kill it before it grows." He said, "Kill them before they grow." makes sense right?..now i've also heard this song is about birth control though...Bob Marley's old girlfriend claims that she helped him write this song. and that's what it's really about. and maybe that's it because the seed thing would work for that also..but idk, honestly it doesn't even matter really. this song is amazing regardless. rip bob. you may be gone, but you will NEVER be forgotten..

    sxecrackfiendon June 08, 2007   Link

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