It’s hard to feel down when you hear this song.
This song got me into Bob Marley. He wrote this song in 1967 and recorded it that year and released it as a single. It was later covered by Johnny Nash in 1972 and it peaked at #12 in the Billboard 100 for Johnny.
Bob Marley and the Wailers re-recorded it in 1973 for the “Catch the Fire” album. The Nash version was Bob’s first success outside of Jamaica.
It has been said that Bob Marley wrote this song for his wife Rita.
Bob Marley on Johnny Nash
“He’s a hard worker, but he didn’t know my music. I don’t want to put him down, but Reggae isn’t really his bag,” he said. “We knew of Johnny Nash in Jamaica before he arrived, but we didn’t love him that much: We appreciated him singing the kind of music he does – he was the first US artist to do reggae – but he isn’t really our idol. That’s Otis or James Brown or Pickett, the people who work it more hard.”
Texas-born singer-songwriter Johnny Nash released his final US hit as a follow-up to his signature tune “I Can See Clearly Now.” Both singles were infused with the reggae sound he brought back from a 1967 trip to Jamaica, where he met up-and-comer Bob Marley. Not only was Marley an assistant producer on Nash’s album, but he also contributed a handful of tunes, including “Stir It Up,” a love song about stirring up desire that Marley wrote for his wife, Rita.
Nash’s version would become Marley’s first hit outside of Jamaica, but he originally recorded it with his own group, The Wailers. After Nash’s success, The Wailers recorded it again for their 1973 album, Catch a Fire. Marley’s version came to the forefront when it appeared on his greatest hits collection Legend in 1984, three years after his death.
In the UK, this was released as the first single, followed by the Nash-penned “I Can See Clearly Now.”
On this track, Nash is backed by the reggae band the Fabulous Five Inc.
A year before the album was released, Marley and Nash collaborated on the score for the Swedish film Vill sa garna tro, which cast Nash in a starring role – but things didn’t go as planned, mainly because no one could find Marley. John “Rabbit” Bundrick, Nash’s keyboardist and co-composer on the score, recalled in the liner notes for Marley’s Songs of Freedom: “I really don’t know what happened to Bob. All I do know is that his air ticket, Johnny’s guitar, and Johnny’s tape recorder all disappeared, along with Bob. Johnny never forgave him for taking his guitar. Bob disappeared as magically as he had arrived.”
Nash put his anger aside when “Stir It Up” became a hit, and invited Marley on a tour of the UK to promote the album.
Diana King covered this for the 1993 comedy Cool Runnings, about a Jamaican bobsled team competing in the Winter Olympics.
In the 2007 movie I Am Legend, Will Smith plays a Bob Marley-obsessed virologist who has survived a zombie apocalypse. When he finally meets another non-infected human, he is horrified to learn she’s never heard of Marley, so he puts on the Legend CD (note the album and movie titles), tells her it’s the best album ever made, and plays “Stir It Up.” Marley’s music is a theme throughout the film, as Smith’s character draws on it for faith. In the film, his daughter is named Marley.
“Stir It Up”
Stir it up; little darlin’, stir it up. Come on, baby.
Come on and stir it up: little darlin’, stir it up. O-oh!It’s been a long, long time, yeah!
(stir it, stir it, stir it together)
Since I got you on my mind. (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh) Oh-oh!
Now you are here (stir it, stir it, stir it together), I said,
it’s so clear
There’s so much we could do, baby, (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Just me and you.
Come on and stir it up; …, little darlin’!
Stir it up; come on, baby!
Come on and stir it up, yeah!
Little darlin’, stir it up! O-oh!
I’ll push the wood (stir it, stir it, stir it together),
then I blaze ya fire;
Then I’ll satisfy your heart’s desire. (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Said, I stir it every (stir it, stir it, stir it together),
All you got to do, baby, (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Is keep it in, eh!
(Stir it up) Oh, little darlin’,
Stir it up; …, baby!
Come on and stir it up, oh-oh-oh!
Little darlin’, stir it up! Wo-oh! Mm, now, now.
Quench me when I’m thirsty;
Come on and cool me down, baby, when I’m hot. (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
Your recipe is, – darlin’ – is so tasty,
When you show and stir your pot. (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
So: stir it up, oh!
Little darlin’, stir it up; wo, now!
Come on and stir it up, oh-ah!
Little darlin’, stir it up!
Oh, little darlin’, stir it up. Come on, babe!
Come on and stir it up, wo-o-a!
Little darlin’, stir it up! Stick with me, baby!
Come on, come on and stir it up, oh-oh!
Little darlin’, stir it up. [fadeout]