Yesterday was the 123rd birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie’s birthday. I tried to get this post up on his actual birthday, but alas, it was not meant to be. While there are innumerable reggae songs dedicated to the Conquering Lion of Judah, the one song that has been stuck in my head since this morning is a song by Bob Marley called “Selassie is the Chapel”. Even though I am a big fan of Bob Marley, the first time I heard this song was in the 2012 documentary about Bob directed by Kevin Macdonald. The song was used in a clip at the end of the film which showed footage from Marley’s funeral in Jamaica on May 11th, 1981. While there are many YouTube videos of the song, I managed to find the clip from the movie itself. Even though birthdays are a thing to be celebrated, for some reason I’ve decided to share a song that for me carries a profound sadness (because I was reduced to tears the first time I heard it).
While reading YouTube comments about the song, I discovered that the song was a rewrite of a previous song called “Crying in the Chapel” by Darrell Glenn released in 1953. A little more searching revealed that this song has indeed been covered by many artists, including Elvis Presley. Apparently, the version that Bob recorded in 1968 only had 26 vinyl copies pressed (under an independent label), which now sell for thousands of dollars whenever they come up for auction. Upon hearing the original song though, I was actually glad to hear that it was a slightly happier, more upbeat song which seemed more in line with the occasion I was posting it for. Jah Bless!