The song was pivotal in getting the Reggae music noticed in the mainstream
In 1969 a Reggae based song hits No.1 for the first time in the U.K. “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker and The Aces, blend Reggae and Pop in a perfect union
Written by Desmond Dekker and Leslie Kong, the song “Israelites” reached No.1 at the UK singles charts on April 16, 1969. The single was the first UK reggae number one and among the first to reach the US top ten and it still remains the best known Jamaican reggae hit to reach the Hot 100’s top 10. The title and lyrics of the song have been the source of speculation, but most settle on the Rastafarian Movement’s association with the Twelve Tribes of Israel. In the 1960’s, Jamaican Rastafarians were largely marginalized as “cultish” and ostracized from the larger society, including by the more conservative Christian church in Kingston. Destitute (“slaving for bread”) and unkempt (“Shirt them a-tear up, trousers is gone”), some Rastafarians were tempted to a life of crime (“I don’t want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde”). The song is a lament for this condition. “Israelites” also hit the no.1 spot in the Netherlands, Jamaica, South Africa, Canada, Sweden and West Germany. It still remains Desmond Dekker’s, who died in May 2006, signature song and his most popular one.
Watch Desmond Dekker and The Aces performing the 1969 hit “Israelites”
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