"I Shot the Sheriff" is a song written by Bob Marley and released in 1973 by The Wailers.
The story is told from the point of view of a narrator who admits to having killed the local sheriff, and claims to be falsely accused of having killed the deputy sheriff. The narrator 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."
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 the older song was never similarly criticized despite having much the same theme.
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.
Eric Clapton recorded a cover version that was included on his 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard. His take on the song belongs to the musical genres of soft rock and reggae. It is the most successful cover 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.