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Redemption Songs tells the extraordinary story of how one of Bob Marley's greatest songs was born in Nova Scotia. It opens with Marley's live acoustic performance of Redemption Song at the end of his life, and reveals that the core lyric comes from a speech Marcus Garvey delivered in Sydney, Nova Scotia, in 1937. The line "We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery" springboards the reader into the book's ambitions. The author explores why Marley so revered Garvey, and, in doing so, looks at the roots of Rastafarianism and ideas about race.