The song was originally written by Bob Marley, who wrote the song and recorded it with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer for their 1973 album Burnin‘. (Tosh and Wailer left for solo careers after this album.) Marley gave a voice to the people of Jamaica in a musical genre, reggae, the originated in Jamaica. In the story of the song, the narrator admits that he shot the sheriff in self-defense when the sheriff who hated him tried to shoot him. But they would be wrongly accusing him about any shooting of the deputy. Marley says that the song is about justice.
Eric Capton released his cover of the song on his 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard and as a single. Clapton’s version of the song was an international charting success. It rose to #1 in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand in 1974. It went to #11 in Australia, #19 in Austria, #7 in Belgium, #4 in Germany, #5 in The Netherlands, #3 in Norway, #11 in South Africa, and #9 in the U.K.
Other covers of “I Shot the Sheriff” include versions by Warren G, Light of the World, Mary J. Blige, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, and many more.