Israel Vibration’s Cecil “Skelly” Spence Has Passed Away

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Israel Vibration's Cecil Skelly Spence
Israel Vibration's Cecil Skelly Spence

Cecil “Skelly” Spence born in 1952 in Kingston Jamaica was one of the reggae harmony group known as Israel Vibration. Affected by polio as children, Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin, Albert “Apple Gabriel” Craig, and Cecil “Skelly” Spence went on to form a reggae ensemble in the 1970s.

Spence and Craig met in Kingston and sought out Bulgin, who was working as a tailor at the time. They created a vocal group, with the name Israel Vibrates at first. Israel Vibrates, eventually evolving into Israel Vibration. In 1975, they created their first track at Channel One Studios, but the song “Bad Intention” was never released.

Hugh Booth, a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel branch of Rastafarai, had overheard the three men singing in a forested area outside of Kingston. As a result of this, the Twelve Tribes of Israel branch of Rastafarai awarded them a donation which they used to pay for the recording of their first album. Their first track release was the “Why Worry,” which was recorded at the Treasure Isle studio in 1976 and published on the Twelve Tribes label at the end of that same year. As a result of the group’s popularity with the record, artists like as Dennis Brown, Inner Circle, and Bob Marley asked to have them perform as an opening act at one of their concerts.

They then started working with producer Tommy Cowan, and in 1977, they released “The Same Song” on his Top Ranking label. The following year, in 1978, they released an album with the same name. On “The Same Song,” they were supported by members of Inner Circle. The record and its dub counterpart, Israel Tafari (aka Same Song Dub), were successful internationally, which led to a partnership with EMI label Harvest to publish the album in the UK. The label subsequently released a second album, Unconquered People, in 1980. Both albums were reissued in the UK.

The band moved to New York in 1982 in order to get access to better medical treatment and to get away from the developing dancehall trend in Jamaica. However, they were unsuccessful in New York and eventually decided to call it quits. They each attempted to pursue individual careers, with Bulgin recording the Mr. Sunshine album in 1985; nevertheless, by 1987, they had come to the conclusion that it was time to relaunch Israel Vibration. They had all been rejected when they approached Gary “Dr. Dread” Himmelfarb, the creator of RAS Records, during their solo periods; however, when they approached him as a group, they received a good reaction.

They were accompanied for the new album by the Roots Radics, who played at the Lion and Fox Recording Studios in College Park, Maryland. They were flown to Washington, D.C. for the recording session. The band released their fourth studio album under the title Strength of my Life. The band remained signed to RAS well into the 21st century, putting out more than a dozen albums under that label’s umbrella.