PS: Hope you’ll check out the excerpts from Don Letts’ “Subcultures” series sponsored by Fred Perry — they’re outstanding…
Pre-internet, if you didn’t know an actual Jamaican who could translate the patois, you were hard pressed to correctly decipher all the words to the song. “Israelites” birthed many a mondegreen.
When you finally read the lyrics, they aren’t anywhere near as awe inspiring or majestic as the music has lead you to believe.
Musically, the beginning of “Israelites,” like Beethoven’s “Fifth,” is a portentious pre-proclamation, maybe the fanfare for a dead king.
Yet the accompanying lyrics dump us unceremoniously into a literally mundane place and time, depressingly familiar to mere commoners everywhere:
Get up in the morning slaving for bread, sir
So that every mouth can be fed
Poor me Israelites