On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Desmond Dekker & The Aces – Israelites (1968)
We’re back on a plane today, dear reader, and heading to Jamaica, land of Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, reggae music and even a bobsleigh team, to name just a few of the famous exports from this awesome island. Back in the late 1960s, a group known as Desmond Dekker & The Aces released the song, Israelites, one of the earliest examples of reggae music and a landmark song in the genre that earns its place on our list.
Israelites was well-known for its confusing lyrics upon release. It is inspired by the Rastafarian faith that states the Messiah was actually Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and that African descendants will one day return to their homeland. Ethiopia in this faith is akin to the land of Israel for those whose faith is Judaism. The song itself paints a bleak picture of working hard for food and the narrator even sings of their wife and children having left them. Not good. They lament their existence with the refrain of “poor me, Israelites.” The song could tap into the idea of our lives in this world being one of hardship and struggle, but at the end is the promise of salvation as we enter our next life.
I had heard of this song long ago but don’t recall ever hearing it. Lyrically, I can see why it is difficult to decipher. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is an easy song to listen to and lose yourself in. I fully expected to see reggae music on this list and it is great to have it on our humble list. Israelites would prove very popular with a Top 10 placing in the US while over in the UK it topped the charts. Dekker continued to perform in the decades that followed but he sadly passed away in 2006, aged 64, following a heart attack.
Favourite songs so far:
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)