"Israelites" as written by and Charles Thompson....
Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir
So that every mouth can be fed
Poor me Israelites Aah

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

My wife and my kids, they packed up and leave me
Darling, she said, I was yours to be seen
Poor me Israelite

Shirt them a-tear up, trousers is gone
I don't want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde
Poor me Israelite

After a storm there must be a calm
They catch me in the farm
You sound your alarm
Poor a-poor a-poor me Israelite

I said I get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir
So that every mouth can be fed
Poor me Israelite Aah

I said my wife and my kids, they are packed up and leave me
Darling, she said, I was yours to be seen
Poor me Israelites Aah

Look Me shirts them a-tear up, trousers are gone
I don't want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde
A-poor a-poor me Israelites Aah

After a storm there must be a calm
They catch me in the farm
You sound your alarm
Poor me Israelite
A-poor a-poor a-poor me Israelites Aah


Lyrics submitted by skacore_dude, edited by knightride365

"Israelites" as written by Desmond Dekker

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group,

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Israelites song meanings
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9 Comments

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  • +3
    Song MeaningRastafarians borrow the idea of the 12 Tribes from Judaism, hence the liberal application of the "Israelites" to refer to fellow devout Rastafarians, and sometimes also to poor suffering Jamaicans in general. the popularity of Rastafarianism among poor Jamaicans picked up in the mid-late 60's - contrary to the romanticized images, it was BY NO MEANS an acceptable appearance in anywhere but the very poorest, neglected neighborhoods in Kingston, or in Rastafarian settlements up in the hills our out in the country. to wear your locks out in the open walking through the city was to invite yourself to judgemental looks from church-going folk (many Jamaicans are quite conservative and religious) and occaisional police harrassment (especially when walking through not-so-poor parts of Kingston). when i was a kid, Rastas were looked upon almost like crazy people - a somewhat popular insult at the time was "comb your head, nasty dread!"..... unfortunately, that type of persecution was relatively common, and the attitude extended somewhat to very poor Jamaicans as well. the government(s) typically did very little to help poor people, so starving to death was not out of the question for someone who couldn't hustle up some kind of working situation. and there was little work to be had.

    many, many people at the time were (and probably still are) desperately poor in the most literal sense.

    that's pretty much the crux of "Israelites". Desmond Dekker said he wrote the song while walking home as he overheard a couple arguing about money, the man couldn't make enough money to provide for his wife and kids. DD probably saw some really destitute people walking around with little more than rags for clothes (a not uncommon sight in parts of Kingston), and there's your song - everyday life in Jamaica: corrupt government/police/establishment.. aka "Babylon" ... keeping poor people poor, while they struggle just to survive doing whatever menial work they can find.

    "Israelites" might seem to imply that it's about Rastafarians, but in reality it's a song about the precarious situation of poor Jamaicans in general.
    nunayaon April 30, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commenthaha if you know reggae so well why dont you learn to spell it?
    Ethiopia is the geographical Israel, but the rastafari philosophy also means this can be a mental state.
    Babylon usually refers to the downpressors of the
    rastafari, meaning capitalist civilisation.
    This song is an expression of the downpression by babylon and perhaps a pining for the Israelites of Africa to be free. The ultimate goal of Rastafari is to get back to Zion, meaning a natural coalition with the Earth, set in Africa.
    The movement is essentially an inteperitation of the bible, suggesting that it focused on the wrong set of people. The movement is centred around Haile Sellase, the Empororer of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) who was beleived to be God incarnate, and who is believed to return.
    OlskiDon October 17, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWow, what interesting information! =c) I've always liked this song and pretty much had what was going on right.

    Nunaya, your description of the Rastas and their appearance not being acceptable in main stream society reminds me of what I have been told about American "hippies". A lot of people my age (30) think that in the 60's everyone thought hippies were out and about everywhere, and everyone loved them, but some people thought they were just lazy, dirty, weird, dreamers.
    U2Kittehon March 31, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFunny that adverts are mentioned, as here in the UK I associate it with adverts of Vitalite margarine, which used a glorious parody of it - "wake up in the morning, wantin' some breakfast, tell me what am I gonna spread on my toast, oo-ooh, Vitalite".

    I figured the song was about trying to make your way in a tough world without losing your morals and core values, which is still how it reads to me. Nunaya's comment about Bonnie & Clyde fits with my interpretation too.
    JackofHeartson June 15, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMy GF says that Jamaica consideres itself the "lost tribe of Isreal". I have to ask her more about that. "Babylon" as it's know, is Jamaica and and all I know is rastas consider home "Isreal" which ironically, they consider Ethiopia.

    All I know is this song is one of the greatest in the history of raggae, and I KNOW raggae.
    scrappy123on June 03, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentand also,one more thing: the line "i don't want to end up like Bonnie & Clyde" means that the subject doesn't want to have to turn to a life of crime to survive, probably a reference to the phenomenon of gun violence and political gangs that began to plague Jamaica in the late 60's and still continues to this day.
    nunayaon April 30, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow I didn't know that! Good song...
    DJgifon February 28, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis was used in a very funny 1980s ad for Maxell cassettes - a man was shown standing in the street holding hand-written cards with lyrics on them, à la Bob Dylan. The written lyrics were as follows:

    "Get up in the morning
    Sleeping for bed, sir
    Sold out to every monk and beef-head
    Oh! Oh!
    Me ears are alight!

    "Why find me kids?
    They buck up and a-leave me
    Darling cheese-head
    It was yards too greasy
    Oh! Oh!
    Me ears are alight!"

    and finally

    "At least I think that's what he said.
    But I'll have to hear it on Maxell to be sure!"
    butterfingersbeckon March 02, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My OpinionGreat song, sung by a true humanitarian. Factually speaking though, he worked alongside Bob Marley in a welding shop back in Jamaica. He is considered to have helped launch his career. RIP to them both, as they helped bring greater peace and love to our world.
    command115on January 01, 2018   Link

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