“Could You Be Loved” was the linchpin of a concerted effort to break Bob Marley to a Black American audience. Although the reggae king enjoyed worldwide acclaim for nearly a decade’s worth of albums by the time of 1980’s Uprising, he still wasn’t well-known beyond the progressive white rock community and the Caribbean-American community. While “Could You Be Loved” doesn’t deviate enough from reggae’s tried-and-true to cause jaws to drop, it’s certainly the most disco-sounding song in Marley’s catalog. A 12” remix certainly helped make it the icon’s only top 10 single on Billboard’s Hot Dance Singles chart.
A tour with The Commodores was also set up to increase Marley’s mainstream/urban presence, but that tour constituted the last shows of Bob Marley’s lifetime. He passed away in May 1981, less than a year after Uprising’s release. “Could You Be Loved” initially signified a new beginning (or at least the charting of unexplored territory), but ultimately became an epitaph. That’s sad, because Bob has rarely sounded more full of life than on this song.
The slight tinkering with the familiar reggae sound is part of what makes “Could You Be Loved” such a gem. Despite Marley’s proficiency as a lyricist, a melodist and a guitarist, his music’s sonic signatures can get a repetitive from time to time. “Could You Be Loved” is bouncier, more rhythmically aggressive than most of Bob & The Wailers’ work. It’s also a lot hookier (see: first sentence), which helps make it a canonical Marley track.