Music Throwback Saturday: Israelites

Israelites was among the first ska tunes to reach the US top ten.

DesmondDekkerIsraeliteListening to the now out-of-print Island Story 1962-1987, I was reminded of the song Israelites by Desmond Dekker and the Aces, written by Dekker and music producer Leslie Kong.

The lyrics were often misheard. Because of Dekker’s thick Jamaican accent, I didn’t really know what the song was about either.

Fortunately, he explained in 2005:

“I heard a couple arguing about money. She was saying she needed money and he was saying the work he was doing was not giving him enough. I relate to those things and began to sing a little song – ‘You get up in the morning and you slaving for bread.’ By the time I got home, it was complete.”

I assume the song is tied to the Rastafarians and is related to their claim to be a lost tribe of Israel, thus the title.

The single was among the first ska tunes to reach the US top ten. “In June 1969 it peaked at #9 on the [US] Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It hit number one in the United Kingdom [the first ska number to do so], Netherlands, Jamaica, South Africa, Canada, Sweden and West Germany.”

Listen to Israelites HERE or HERE or HERE

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “Music Throwback Saturday: Israelites”

  1. I have always thought of The Israelite as a blues to a reggae beat. I agree with your assessment of the Rastafarian connection, too.

    So many songs like this, “Louie, Louie,” and others were slammed by the “establishment” simply because the lyrics were difficult to understand and, frankly, because they were black voices; and as such, they were assumed to be BAD or WRONG. Put that in the same category as “Dancin’ In The Street,” with understandable lyrics but the assumption that it was a call to riot. Oy. Amy

  2. Dekker’s US LP was a hoot, with country and Motown covers, just to prove his versatility.

    It took me even longer to decipher his second single, “It Mek.”

  3. 1) “Israelite” is what the Jamaicans call a poor person, because that person wanders so much.

    2) This is one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded. No joke.

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