Marley wrote this song amid the turmoil of the Jamaican elections in December, 1976. Marley had supported Michael Manley when he won the election in 1972 and became Prime Minister of Jamaica, but four years later, Marley was by far the most popular person in Jamaica, and he refused to take a political stance as the country was divided between Manley’s People’s National Party and the Jamaican Labour Party headed by Edward Seaga.
It was very violent time in the country, and Marley tried to stay politically neutral while offering peace and shelter however he could – his Hope Road hope was kind of a safehouse for people with nowhere to go. The journalist Vivien Goldman was with Marley at the time and remembers him working on “One Love” while sitting on his small bed while a young girl sat on the other end and other visitors gathered in the room. “We’ll share the shelter, of my single bed,” Marley sang, as he created a song they was both peaceful and angry at the same time.
An early version of this song was released in 1965 (by The Wailers) and released as a single in Jamaica. In 1977, Bob Marley & the Wailers released the updated version on the Exodus album which became the definitive rendition and made #5 in the UK.
This incorporates parts of the 1965 Impressions song “People Get Ready.” Impressions leader Curtis Mayfield, who wrote that song, was a big influence on Bob Marley, and “People Get Ready” contains many elements of Marley’s message: unity, spirituality and struggle.
The 1965 version of “One Love” didn’t credit Mayfield, but when the 1977 version was issued, it was listed as “One Love/People Get Ready” and credited to Marley and Mayfield. (songfacts.com)