I Shot the Sheriff
"I Shot the Sheriff" is a song written by Bob Marley
Bob Marley
Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley, OM was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rocksteady and reggae band Bob Marley & The Wailers...

, told from the point of view of a man who admits to having killed the local sheriff
A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country....

, but claims to be falsely accused of having killed the deputy sheriff. He also 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."

Eric Clapton version

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE, is an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and...

 recorded a cover version
Cover version
In popular music, a cover version or cover song, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording of a contemporary or previously recorded, commercially released song or popular song...

 that was included on his album, 461 Ocean Boulevard
461 Ocean Boulevard
461 Ocean Boulevard is the second studio album by blues-rock musician Eric Clapton, released in July 1974 on the RSO label after the success of "I Shot the Sheriff"....

. It is the most successful version of the song, peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100
The Billboard Hot 100 is the United States music industry standard singles popularity chart issued weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on radio play and sales; the tracking-week for sales begins on Monday and ends on Sunday, while the radio play tracking-week runs from Wednesday...

, becoming Clapton's only #1 hit song in the U.S.

Clapton's version is in the natural-minor system in the key
Key (music)
In music theory, the term key is used in many different and sometimes contradictory ways. A common use is to speak of music as being "in" a specific key, such as in the key of C major or in the key of F-sharp. Sometimes the terms "major" or "minor" are appended, as in the key of A minor or in the...

 of G, featuring the only occasional chromaticism
Chromaticism is a compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale. Chromaticism is in contrast or addition to tonality or diatonicism...

 in that system, the VI
In music, the submediant is the sixth scale degree of the diatonic scale, the 'lower mediant' halfway between the tonic and the subdominant or 'lower dominant'...

7 chord.

During the controversy over the Body Count
Body Count
Body Count is an American heavy metal band formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1990. The group is fronted by rapper and actor Ice-T, who founded the group out of his interest in heavy metal music, taking on the role of vocalist and writing the lyrics for most of the group's songs. Lead guitarist...

 song "Cop Killer
Cop Killer (song)
"Cop Killer" is a song by American band Body Count, from its 1992 self-titled debut album. The lyrics are sung from the point of view of an individual who is outraged by police brutality and decides to take the law into his own hands by killing police officers...

", it was frequently pointed out that there were no similar complaints about Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE, is an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and...

's highly popular cover of Marley's song even though they had similar themes.

Chart performance

Chart (1974) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles 1
New Zealand Singles Chart 1
Belgian VRT Top 30 2
Norwegian Singles Chart 3
German Media Control Charts 4
Dutch Top 40 5
U.K. Singles Chart 9
South African Singles Chart 11
Australian Kent Music Report 11
Danish Singles Chart 14
Austria Top 40 19
Irish Singles Chart 23
French Singles Chart 28

Year-End Chart

Chart (1974) Peak
Canadian RPM Top Singles 11
German Media Control Charts 44
Dutch Top 40 50
Belgian VRT Top 30 57
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 76
Australian Kent Music Report 97

Later samplings, allusions, and covers

EPMD is an American hip hop group from Brentwood, New York. The group's name is a concatenation of the members' name "E" and "PMD" or an acronym for "Erick and Parrish Making Dollars", referencing its members, emcees Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith...

's 1988 "Strictly Business" LP, the title track uses a sample of "I Shot the Sheriff" (Clapton's Version).

In Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige
Mary Jane Blige is an American singer-songwriter, record producer and occasional actress. She is a recipient of nine Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards, and has recorded eight multi-platinum albums. She is the only artist with Grammy Award wins in Pop, Rap, Gospel, and R&B. Blige has...

's 1992 debut album ("What's the 411?"), Grand Puba declared "I shot the sheriff AND the motherfuckin' deputy" in the title track.

In 1997, rapper/producer Warren G
Warren G
Warren G , is an American West Coast rapper and hip hop producer. He is also Dr. Dre's half-brother.His biggest hit is the song "Regulate" with Nate Dogg released in 1994...

 covered the song for his Take a Look over Your Shoulder (Reality) album. This version peaked at #20 on the Hot 100. It hit #1 in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...


In 2000, the song has been covered in a ska-punk version by Voodoo Glow Skulls
Voodoo Glow Skulls
Voodoo Glow Skulls are an American ska punk band formed in 1988 in Riverside, California by brothers Frank, Eddie and Jorge Casillas and their longtime friend Jerry O'Neill...

 on their album Symbolic
Symbolic (Voodoo Glow Skulls album)
Symbolic is the Voodoo Glow Skulls' fifth full-length album. It was released on September 12, 2000 on Epitaph Records. This album marks the last appearance of the creator of the VGS horn style, Helios J Hernandez. Track 14 is a cover of the song "I Shot The Sheriff" from Bob Marley. The song "Say...

. It was also covered by former American Idol
American Idol
American Idol, titled American Idol: The Search for a Superstar for the first season, is a reality television singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment...

contestant Jason Castro in 2008.

In 2004, Tom Morello
Tom Morello
Thomas Baptiste "Tom" Morello is a Grammy Award-winning American guitarist best known for his tenure with the bands Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, his acoustic solo act The Nightwatchman, and his newest group, Street Sweeper Social Club...

, under his persona, The Nightwatchman
The Nightwatchman
The Nightwatchman is the alter-ego and solo act of Rage Against the Machine, Street Sweeper Social Club and former Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello...

, borrowed and changed lyrics from the song during his performance of Until the End, as part of the Axis of Justice
Axis of Justice
Axis of Justice is a non-profit organization co-founded by Serj Tankian and Tom Morello. Its purpose is to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots progressivism to fight for social justice together.-Formation:...

 Concert Series Volume 1
Concert Series Volume 1
Axis of Justice: Concert Series Volume 1 is a live CD/DVD by various artists in support of the Axis of Justice organization.-Track listing:Audio: *Interview with Michael Moore...

. The lyrics he used were: "...three times I shot the sheriff; and did not spare the deputy". A studio version of the song was later released on his album One Man Revolution
One Man Revolution
-Credits:*All songs performed by Tom Morello, with additional instruments by Brendan O'Brien*Produced by Brendan O'Brien*Recorded by Nick Didia at Buds Garage and Southern Tracks Recording, Atlanta, GA...


Argentine singer Andrés Calamaro made a mashup of the first verse of the song with the last one of his own “El Dia Mundial de la Mujer” (World Women Day), when played alive on his ‘Honestidad Brutal’ tour.

Cover versions in other languages

Country Artist Title
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

Just D
Just D
JustD was a Swedish hip hop trio formed in Stockholm in 1990. The group consisted of Gustave Lund , Wille Crafoord and Peder Ernerot ....

"Jag sköt sheriffen"
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

Бумбокс (Boombox) (2005) "Хто наклав у бобік"
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

Knorkator is a German band from Berlin that combines heavy metal with comical elements. They proclaim themselves to be "Germany's most band in the world" , as the title "The best band in the world" was already taken by Die Ärzte...

"Ich erschoss den Kommissar"
Germany We Butter the Bread with Butter
We Butter the Bread with Butter
We Butter the Bread with Butter is a German band from Lübben. Founded in 2007 by Marcel Neumann. Their debut album Das Monster aus dem Schrank was released on November 21, 2008 through Redfield Records. Their second album, Der Tag an dem die Welt unterging was released May 14, 2010...

I Shot the Sheriff
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