May 27, 2006

"Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir, so that every mouth can be fed. Poor me, the Israelite."

Goodbye to Desmond Dekker. The ska legend's biggest hit was "The Israelites." In 1969:
The Jamaican rhythm of ska had already generated hits in the United States, notably Millie Small's 1964 hit, "My Boy Lollipop." But that song was treated as a novelty. "The Israelites," with its biblical imagery of suffering and redemption, showed the world reggae's combination of danceable rhythm and serious, sometimes spiritual intentions.
Yes, I remember loving that hit and experiencing it as a novelty song (though that doesn't mean that we American kids didn't pick up the spirit of suffering and redemption). Another seeming novelty song that we heard and loved that same summer was "In the Year 2525."
In the year 7510
if God's a-comin' he ought to make it by then
maybe he'll look around himself and say
"guess it's time for the Judgement Day''

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake his mighty head
he'll either say "I'm pleased where man has been''
or tear it down and start again...
I remember listening to "The Israelites" and "In the Year 2525" -- both were played on the radio constantly -- and feeling really strange in that really strange year 1969. Two infectiously poppy songs with a painful, religious edge.

Did you know that Paul McCartney named his "Ob-Bla-Di, Ob-Bla-Da" character "Desmond" after Desmond Dekker?
Desmond has a barrow in the market place...
Molly is the singer in a band...
Desmond says to Molly "girl I like your face"
And Molly says this as she takes him by the hand...

13 comments:

Bissage said...

I loved "The Israelites," too. But not as a novelty song. To me, that song was chock full of authenticity. That's because I learned about it from The Clash.

Hamsun56 said...

After hearing "The Israelites" in the film "Drugstore Cowboy", I had to buy a CD with his music. I got the greatest hits CD - many good songs there but "The Israelites" is the best.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bensilly said...

didnt know that about mccartney....
i like the polka beat in that song.

Elizabeth said...

Bissage, not a novelty for me, either, and probably it's a generational thing. It was on the jukebox of a bar I worked at (the Maple Leaf). I also love his work on the Harder They Come soundtrack, and I have a bunch of Dekker in my iTunes. He was a hardworking musician; that's a life to remember.

Joe said...

The Israelites - what a great song. Still good today, crank it up every time it comes on. RIP Des.

SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

Sippican,

I had that radio, too. I'd listen to it under my pillow until the station signed off at midnight, just as a train would pass and blow its whistle. Those were good nights.

Elizabeth said...

Jamaican teens could pick up New Orleans AM R&B stations, floating over that water. You can hear their sounds in our music here, and ours in theirs. Aretha picked it up and recorded Rock Steady.

Eli Blake said...

This song sort of contradicts your post yesterday about rock music being conservative. All those preachers keep on haranguing about how the Lord is coming back soon. Every one I've heard (and I've been to some revivals in my time) has talked about it like it will happen in the next few years, and will even say they are certain that it will happen when most of us are still alive.

Which is what the preachers said in 1900, and what they said in 1800, and what they said in 1500, and what they said in 1000, and what they said in...

I believe that Christ will come. And he may come tomorrow. But it isn't out of the question that he may come in 8150, when today's world is as ancient to the people then living on earth, as the ziggurat of Ur is to us.

LoafingOaf said...

After hearing "The Israelites" in the film "Drugstore Cowboy", I had to buy a CD with his music.

Yeah, that's how I got hip to him too!

My fave is "Pickney Girl."

Rest in Peace.

archibaldo de la cruz said...

"Drugstore Cowboy" (a very, very good movie) was how I got into Desmond Dekker too, I didn't know he had died

archibaldo de la cruz said...

I also think that we should think about the rights of the Palestinian People.