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Bob Marley recorded Small Axe for the first time in 1970 as a single. A rebellious anthem produced by Lee Perry. This was shortly before the Barrett brothers, Aston and Family Man, joined the Wailers. Small Axe was remade for 1974's Burnin', the last album released by the original three Wailers (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer). Small Axe is a prime example of Marley's use of infectiously happy melodies blended with revolutionary lyrics to create beautifully sculpted songs. Other Marley songs that use cheery tones to mask radical lyrics include Hammer, So Much Things To Say, Ride Natty Ride, Coming in From the Cold, and Rastaman Live Up.

Other obscure versions (from the pre-Island era)include "More Axe," "The Bleak Battleaxe," "More More Axe," "The Axe Man," and "Shocks 71." These versions appear on countless reggae compilations; unfortunately most are cheaply packaged and marketed. The best of these compilations are "The Complete Bob Marley & the Wailers 1967-1972" on JAD Records, and "Bob Marley In Memoriam: 1970-1971" on Trojan Records.

If you are a big tree
We are the small axe
Sharpened to cut you down (well sharp)
To cut you down

"When the song was originally written by Marley and noted Kingston producer Lee Perry, it referred to the "Big T'ree," the island's dictatorial record company triumvirate - Dynamic, Federal, and Studio One."
-Timothy White, Catch a Fire (23)

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