Browse by Title
A B C D E F G
H I J K L M N
O P Q R S T U
V W X Y Z #  




The Israelites

by

Desmond Dekker & the Aces



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Decker (from The Metro newspaper, April 18, 2005): "It all happened so quickly. I didn't write that song sitting around a piano or playing a guitar. I was walking in the park, eating corn. 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. And it was so funny, that song never got out of my mind. It stayed fresh in my head. The following day I got my little tape and I just sang that song and that's how it all started."
Dekker (born Desmond Dacres) was raised in Kingston, Jamaica and trained as a welder before singing. He formed the Aces and teamed up with hit producer Leslie Kong in 1966 (with whom he worked until Kong's death in 1971). He has over 20 Jamaican #1 hits and 2 other UK Top 10 hits: "It Mek" and "You Can Get It If You Really Want." He enjoyed a revival in the UK in the early 1980s thanks to the two-tone movement. Dekker died of a heart attack in 2006 at age 64. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2)
Desmond Dekker & the Aces
More Desmond Dekker & the Aces songs

Comments (21):

I recently heard this song on an Oldies station & it brought back memories of when I first heard it in 1969 on Top 40 radio. When it was just new, I'd run to the radio whenever it was playing just to listen to see if I could ever understand those lyrics. I think I was 15 at the time. And one of my older brothers noticed I was trying to decipher the lyrics & he told me the singer was talking about a lesbian girl & her lover. Well, I fell for it! I hardly understood what a lesbian was back then, but I believed my brother. What a fool I was! I kept trying to listen to the words to find out what the lesbian was doing. Then after the song got into the Top Ten and was really popular, my other brother told me he ran onto the lyrics in the old "Song Hits" magazine and showed me it wasn't about the lesbian love affair after all. I was so embarrassed and mad at my older brother! I love this song to this day, but don't hear it so much. I haven't told many people about being fooled about this song's lyrics. Can you imagine a kid believing it was all about a lesbian love affair??? I feel like such a fool. But hey, back then WHO could understand those lyrics???
- BubblesK, Memphis, TN
You really can hear the lyrics a lot of different ways. I was fully convinced the first line of the 3rd verse was, "After a storm, the mouse see a comet."
- James, American Samoa, HI
Reading Elmers comment. I was listening to A.M. radio in 1969 and the song The Israelites was playing when I opened my draft notice from good ole Uncle Sam. Every time I hear it the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I get the chills. That being said, I love the song.
- John, Hazlet, NJ
I first heard "The Israelites" on AFVN radio when I was in the U.S. Army in Vietnam (BienHoa) in 1969. I still love it. Back then, the lyrics were a near-mystery for most listeners. When I went on R&R in "Nam to Singapore, I bought a song magazine at the airport store that showed the lyrics to "The Israelites" and was surprised. The magazine featured Desmond Dekker & The Aces biographies. I do know they were from Jamaica & were not musical newcomers. I don't recall them having another release in the U.S. When I got out of Vietnam & came home to the States, I recall seeing an LP by the group, featuring this hit. But I didn't know the hit's lyrics until I checked on lyric sites on the Internet. It's still a good song & worth a listen to those who haven't heard it yet. And that reggae beat really gets to ya!!! 12-25-12.
- elmer, westville, OK
Looking on several different sites and YouTube I see that nobody really knows what the lyrics are! Here's an example of how the same line is interpreted in different places:
"Shocked then I tear up chose as I go I don't want to end up like Bonny and Clyde" or "Shirt them a-tear up, trousers are gone." or "Shirt them a-tear up, trousers a go ."
It makes me wonder whether anyone ever wrote down the real ones. And why "Poor me. The Israelites?" Are they feeling sorry for themselves? But nitpicking on words aside, it's a great song that says so much about the Rasta life and beliefs without preaching. It's all in the feeling. And Bill and Flo hit the nail on the head. Thanks for a great song, Desmond! It lives on and on and on...
- A, OshKosh, KS
One more thing.... I don't see any dates on the posts here. I'm kind of baffled, but is it my computer? Or some strategy by the site hosts?

Hi, site hosts!!! o
- Carol, Edmonton, AB
I'm new here. First post. I found this place via Desmond Decker/Israelites research. I have to say, I love all of you to death for expressing your individualism in your variety of opinions. Long story, but I'm just saying, I appreciate you.
- Carol, Edmonton, AB
Seems like there's a tradition of Rastafarians (or is it just Reggae musicians?) comparing their plight to that of the Jews of the Bible. Reminds me of Rivers of Babylon.
- Kirsten, New York, NY
jonhnny nash was from texas. dekker was the first jamaican artist to chart in the top 10 in the u.s.
- ch, portland, OR
Guys, guys - are you all missing some big points! Israelites does have biblical overtones, but it has much more meaning, means he's a rasta...Zion=Africa, anti-"Babylon" etc. I don't want to end up like bonnie and clyde - literally, not metaphorically shot full of holes! So he's tempted to turn to crime, but he's not going to. Catch me in the farm you'll sound your alarm - he's thinking about stealing some eggs, he's that hungry...
- Bill, Farnborough, United Kingdom
To "end up like Bonnie and Clyde" is to have a lot of holes, i.e., to have worn and threadbare clothes; to be poor.
- tim, baltimore, MD
I don't know if I'd call "the King of Ska" a "one hit wonder," that's insulting as well as naive. I was a bit upset when I heard that this great musician died last year and he did not receive his proper tribute. He influenced artists such as The Beatles & Rancid. "Everywhere I go, there is always trouble & misery." - Desmond Dekker
- The Last DJ, Hell.A., CA
Thank you, Flo from Toulouse, the next time I hear this song I'll listen to it in a different way. I thought it was about people living in Israel, I suppose it's because of my limited knowledge of the English language. I still like this song very much.
- Teresa, Mechelen, Belgium
This was one of the top one hit wonders of the late 60s and one of the first reggae songs since Johnny Nash made the Top 40 in 1968 with Hold Me Tight. Even memorable is the line "I don't want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde."
- Howard, St. Louis Park, MN
Flo in Toulouse--I think you've changed my thinking. I went back and re-listened and thought about what you said. I see what you mean about it. All these years I've been missing it. Thanks for the note. You've opened my eyes to what was already one of my favorite songs.
- dirk, Nashville, TN
Featured in the Jimmy Cliff film 'The Harder They Come'. Great soundtrack - buy it if you like reggae.
- Don, Newmarket, Canada
This is probably the only reggae song I'll ever like. I think this song is about a guy who's worked hard for nothing and doesn't want to crash in a heap because of his distress.
- Grace, Fairfax Station, VA
I kept hearing "abhore, abhore, the Israelites," and figured it was a rant on Jewish money lenders and pawn shop owners who kept the protagonist poor, in debt, and unable to get ahead.
- tom, Durham, NC
This song was used in the Matt Dillion movie "Drugstore Cowboy".
- Vic, Wheeling, IL
Hey dirk, i'm sorry but you're wrong. This song has a full meaning, it's about people who does not earn nuff money, which creates quarrels. "i don't want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde": still they keep honest.
"Israelites" refers to the bible, the poor Israelites who are chased from their land and bcame slaves.
If you don't understand, it does not mean that the song has no sense...
- Flo, Toulouse, France
I've loved this song since it appeared in 1970, or whenever it was. It's one of those great sounding songs where the vocal makes no sense. It's just like one of the instruments. You can't quite make sense of the words. Why are they "Israelites"? Does he mean Israelis, like from Tel Aviv? And what is he saying about Bonnie and Clyde? Then one day you find a copy of the lyrics and you think, "Oh THAT'S what he's singing?" And it sort of destroys the effect of the song. It's best not to know what the lyrics really are. Kind of like Louie, Louie... Once you read the lyrics to Louie, Louie you think, "How boring!" Better to just groove along in the dark.
- dirk, Nashville, TN
You have to to post comments.
Colbie CaillatColbie Caillat
Since emerging from MySpace with her hit "Bubbly," Colbie has become a top songwriter, even crafting a hit with Taylor Swift.
Does Jimmy Page Worship The Devil? A Look at Satanism in RockDoes Jimmy Page Worship The Devil? A Look at Satanism in Rock
We ring the Hell's Bells to see what songs and rockers are sincere in their Satanism, and how much of it is an act.
Tony Joe WhiteTony Joe White
The writer of "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "Polk Salad Annie" explains how he cooks up his Louisiana swamp rock.
Tom Keifer of CinderellaTom Keifer of Cinderella
Tom talks about the evolution of Cinderella's songs through their first three albums, and how he writes as a solo artist.