Monday, October 1, 2012

Praise This: Top Ten Songs About Jesus

Yes, he loves you.  This I know.  But churching and gospel singers and hymnals do not own the market on songs of the Christian leader.  In fact, many rock and rollers and blues musicians have found that Bible-thumping keeps pretty good time. 

So in order to keep my place in line, I offer this Holy Top Ten List.

Disillusionment came early in music as The Carter Family discovers that God doesn't have everything in heaven, as is commonly preached in the hills.  This sweet song from the First Family of Music documents the trials of a young child who longs to speak with their departed mother, only to find she's gone somewhere not even Verizon can reach you.

This song has it all.  Driving speed metal beat, lyrics belted by the son of Dallas' Mr. Peppermint, and spoken word offerings written by the greatest writer in the Southern Gothic pantheon.  The song, released in 1991, offers a point of view on Jesus' career previous to being a prophet. 


So many times I have walked the beach only to find one set of footprints in the sand.  And we've got Jesus alongside us, bragging about how he's always with us.  That makes me skeptical and, when I point it out, Jesus (always with an answer for everything...) reminds me that we'd been getting wasted and he's riding on my shoulders.  Jesus can party too.

Sure, you can freak out and rip off my head and remind me that the song was originally written by the Vaselines, but that wouldn't be very Christian of you, would it?  Sure, the Scottish alternative group offered the song in response to the children's song "I'll be a Sunbeam," but neither version caused so much as a ripple until Kurt Cobain's classic and memorable MTV Unplugged performance which introduced the world to awesome covers of many standards. 

One of the greatest late-eighties/early-nineties bands details the doubt and glory of Jesus' own greatest hits of miracles.  Further proof that Christian deities have a better sense of humor than most others.

5. "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode and Johnny Cash

You know you're cool when Johnny Cash covers you.  This song Bible-thumps to a hypnotic, sexy beat and launched Depeche Mode from underground, new wave status to arena rockers.  Once Violator hit the charts, buoyed by "Personal Jesus," the Euro-synth quartet's fame launched quicker than if negotiated by the devil.  And Johnny Cash's version is made all the more poignant due to the proximity of his own death and mortality.  Rocking song with or without keyboards.

This firebreathing Rust Belt band mixes Americana and punk and delivers a whopping sermon on what most folk appear to be missing.  And they tell it like it is.


My favorite recording artist of all time describes the blueprints of his own afterlife and apparently there are no boys allowed.  Only women.  The velvet-throated bluesman from Crockett, Texas definitely has style.

Funny how John Lennon, in one song, manages to bring every totem and ideal in society down with the power of his glass-scratched voice and not a single one of his denouncements rip at my soul until he  screams "I don't believe in Beatles."  Funny that's the line in which I feel he's gone too far. 

There is no online video of "Jesus Christ," but I can't let that stop me from giving you a dose of Slim Cessna and Jay Munly's on-stage, musical proselytizing.  So I linked "Children of the Lord" from their Cipher album, but please, do yourself a favor and buy "Jesus Christ" on iTunes or however the kids are listening to music these days. 

If it were a Top Eleven, I would have put Kitty Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," but if we were allowed extra innings, God wouldn't have cut the Gospel According to Bartholomew. 


Did I miss any?  Praise the song in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. I must confess I don't always understand all that you say, but I find your offerings fascinating.