May 5, 2013

Insincere "Jesus."

A topic this morning at Meadhouse is the insincere use of "Jesus" in pop songs circa 1970.

1. "Jesus Is Just Alright."
The song's title makes use of the American slang term "all-right," which during the 1960s was used to describe something that was considered 'cool' or very good. The song has been covered by a number of bands and artists over the years, including The Byrds, Underground Sunshine, The Doobie Brothers, Alexis Korner, The Ventures, DC Talk, Shelagh McDonald, and Robert Randolph (featuring Eric Clapton).
2. "Spirit in the Sky."
[Norman] Greenbaum... was inspired to write the song after watching Porter Wagoner on TV singing a gospel song. Greenbaum later said : "I thought, 'Yeah, I could do that,' knowing nothing about gospel music, so I sat down and wrote my own gospel song. It came easy. I wrote the words in 15 minutes." "Spirit in the Sky" contains lyrics about the afterlife, making several references to Jesus, although Greenbaum himself is Jewish.
3. "One Toke Over the Line." ("One toke over the line, sweet Jesus...")
The catchy single, "One Toke Over the Line," peaked at #10 (#5 in Canada), garnering notice from Spiro Agnew for what he saw as its subversiveness. Ironically, the song was performed (by Gail Farrell and Dick Dale) on The Lawrence Welk Show, which billed it a "modern spiritual."[2] The song is notably mentioned in the opening of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and was notably "sung" by Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) in the film of the same name. "
Any more examples? Help me out here. The topic is: Insincere (or arguably insincere) references to Jesus in popular songs in the days before Christian rock was a thing.

I know there's also "The Christian Life" on the Byrds album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo," — which came out a year before the album with "Jesus Is Just Alright" — but I'm not putting it on the list, because I don't think it was played on the radio. The Byrds suddenly switched from psychedelic rock to country music, which was a strange thing to do at the time and it didn't feel like a bid for another hit record.

"'Christian Life' was performed tongue-in-cheek," said [Chris] Hillman. "After Roger [McGuinn] sang it, he admitted to going overboard with the accent. Roger was from Chicago and here he is, doing this heavy, syrupy country twang."
My buddies shun me since I turned to Jesus
They say I'm missing a whole world of fun
I live without them and walk in the light
I like the Christian life
MORE: Maybe it all started with the Paul Newman movie "Cool Hand Luke" — "I don't care if it rains or freezes/Long as I have my plastic Jesus/Riding on the dashboard of my car...":



IN THE COMMENTS: Fr. Denis Lemieux cites "Suzanne," by Leonard Cohen:
"Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water, and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower, and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him, he said all men shall be sailors then, until the sea shall free them...'

Not exactly insincere... more a use of Jesus outside of orthodox Christian theology, I guess. I find this a fascinating topic, though - intersection of faith and culture.
I agree that this is not insincere. It is mysterious/mystical... and that is religious. Suzanne herself explains:
BBC's Kate Saunders: Could you describe one of the typical evenings that you spent with Leonard Cohen at the time the song was written?

Suzanne: Oh yes. I would always light a candle and serve tea and it would be quiet for several minutes, then we would speak. And I would speak about life and poetry and we’d share ideas.

Saunders: So it really was the tea and oranges that are in the song?

Suzanne: Very definitely, very definitely, and the candle, who I named Anastasia, the flame of the candle was Anastasia to me. Don’t ask me why. It just was a spiritual moment that I had with the lightening of the candle. And I may or may not have spoken to Leonard about, you know I did pray to Christ, to Jesus Christ and to St. Joan at the time, and still do.

Saunders: And that was something you shared, both of you?

Suzanne: Yes, and I guess he retained that.
And El Pollo Real prompts me to include Bob Dylan on this list, but I refuse, because I don't think Dylan was insincere about Jesus — not on "Slow Train Coming" and not on earlier references: "Even Jesus would never forgive what you do" ("Masters of War" on "Freewheelin'"), "Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss" ("With God On Our Side," on "The Times They Are A-Changin'"), "You know they refused Jesus, too" ("Bob Dylan's 115th Dream," on "Bringing It All Back Home").

98 comments:

El Pollo Real said...

Althouse, I've never seen you praise Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming." In fact, I suspect that you secret mock it or admire it. In any case, doesn't it count here among your litany?

If not, why not?

Bob Ellison said...

The Band pulled into Nazareth. Not really a Jesus reference, and not insincere. Doesn't count. I got nothin'.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Tame, tame. How about a post on mocking Mohammad?

El Pollo Real said...

In any case, here's an awesome cover of Dylan's I Believe In You by Cat Power. Judah Bauer (formally of the JS Blues Explosion and Appleton, WI) plays guitar.

Robert said...

Drop-kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life.

Thought it was the KK guy but some guy named Bobby Bare was first.

St. George said...

There is no such thing as an insincere reference to Christ.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Let it all hang out, Professor - "Insincere references to the Flying Spaghetti Monster."

Tim said...

How about the entire sound track to "Godspell"?

Yes, I know, it wasn't ever intended as insincere.

But it sure seems that way now.

Oso Negro said...

I always figured the reference to Nazareth in "The Weight" was Nazareth, PA where Martin Guitars are made. But "Jesus is Just Alright" was NOT taken as insincere by the kids I went to high school with when it came out.

Fr. Denis Lemieux said...

I'm not sure where the second verse of Leonard Cohen's Suzanne comes into it: "Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water, and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower, and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him, he said all men shall be sailors then, until the sea shall free them...'
Not exactly insincere... more a use of Jesus outside of orthodox Christian theology, I guess. I find this a fascinating topic, though - intersection of faith and culture.

Bob Ellison said...

Kinky Friedman sang about Jesus.

betamax3000 said...

ZZ Top:

Jesus just left Chicago And He's bound for New Orleans
Well now, Jesus just left Chicago And He's bound for New Orleans
Workin' from one end to the other
And all points in between...

Not sure about insincerity, however: ZZ Top always struck me as sincere until Synthesizers entered their mix.

Synthesisizers tend to be insincere in music, beginning with the Name itself, but that is another Digression.


Another example of ZZ Top sincerity:

She was really bombed,
And I was really blown away,
Until I asked her what she wanted,
And this is what she had to say:
A pearl necklace.
She wanna pearl necklace.
She wanna pearl necklace.

See: sincerity, through and through.
You can really FEEL that she wants that pearl necklace. He should just buy her one. Sheesh.




Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse, I've never seen you praise Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming." In fact, I suspect that you secret mock it or admire it. In any case, doesn't it count here among your litany?"

It got terrible reviews when it came out and consequently I never bought it and to this day I have never listened to it.

I am under the impression that Dylan was sincere with that religion.

Meade is telling me that the album is in fact good, but the fans didn't like him getting preachy.

I guess I should listen to it. Dylan music is deeply interwove into my psyche, but ONLY the Dylan music up to "New Morning." "Blood On the Tracks" gets in too, but that's really all that's part of me.

Bob Ellison said...

I've met Roger McGuinn. My brush with greatness. He's an incredibly talented musician. I handed him a banjo he had never seen before and said I was having trouble tuning it. He said "you can tune a car, but you can't tune a banjo". Then he re-tuned it (meaning he set the strings to entirely different notes) and proceeded to play a beautiful song.

These talented people, these athletes, singers, players, and such, even the politicians, are so much more talented than we think.

MadisonMan said...

You're own Personal Jesus.

Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares.


Great Depeche Mode song.

Bender said...

I don't think that many here understand the meaning of the word "insincere." Or if they do, how they could have these incredible powers of mind-reading with respect to many of these.

Now, if you cite Bill Clinton making sure that everyone sees him carrying that Bible around every Sunday when he was president, that would be one thing, but many of these songs, and the singers of the songs, could very likely be very sincere, even if subconsciously.

betamax3000 said...

Here's a case of one where it is sincere (listen to the fervor of the voice), but the Hipsters desperately wish it was insincere so they can stay smug in their Hipster Cocoon.

Neutral Milk Hotel song "The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 and 3"

"I love you Jesus Christ / Jesus Christ I love you / Yes I do"

Æthelflæd said...

Perhaps Flannery O'Connors's quote: “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted" applies to rock and pop music as well.

James Pawlak said...

I would like a song based on
Luke 22:35-38

betamax3000 said...

Mojo Nixon: "Jesus at McDonald's"

Probably explanatory in itself.

In the song he also relates that "I saw mama humping Santa Claus" so there is Santa Claus insincerity, also.

Dr Weevil said...

A candle named Anastasia? The name comes from the Greek word for resurrection (anastasis), so it's perfect for the context.

Surfed said...
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Phil 3:14 said...

"If God was one of us"

was that insincere (since He was)?

Surfed said...

Seeing Bobby tonight in the St. Augustine amphitheater. It might not be Jesus but St. Augustine is right up there in Chrisitian theology... So good enough I guess. Backing band is Dawes. It's been really stormy here the last few days so "when the wind begins to howl" will be appropriate if not in context.

ad hoc said...

Your own personal Jesus - I didn't think that the Depeche Mode version was that sincere, but I've always thought that the Johnny Cash version was.

Wayne Wren said...

American Pie...

ndspinelli said...

With all of these priests showing up here, which I welcome; maybe they can perform a few, much needed, exorcisms.

Pogo said...

I think the double album Jesus Chrsit Superstar was insincere as authored, but lived on despite that.

The last laugh and all that.

"Scriptures teach that the Lord is not too fussy about how clean his tools are."

Oso Negro said...

Betamax - not sure if you are serious about "Pearl Necklace". You do know that the source of the "pearls" in that song are not oysters, yes?

Greg G said...
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Greg G said...
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Mr. D said...

XTC went after God pretty good in "Dear God," circa 1986.

edutcher said...

If memory serves, "Plastic Jesus", began as a little jingle a radio televangelist (can I say that?) in the 30s started to promote his practice of sending the figurines to his listeners to keep in their cars, not unlike Catholics' using St Christopher medals.

Bender said...

Now, if you cite Bill Clinton making sure that everyone sees him carrying that Bible around every Sunday when he was president, that would be one thing

My dear Irish mother called Catholics like that "bead swingers".

ndspinelli said...

With all of these priests showing up here, which I welcome; maybe they can perform a few, much needed, exorcisms.

Be careful of that for which you wish...

Emil Blatz said...

I find it hard to believe that Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, was ever on The Lawrence Welk Show. I'm just not buying it.

Greg G said...

Let me try again, with a live link: In 1970, Skeeter Davis had a minor hit on the country charts when she revived a fantastically odd gospel number from the early 60s called We Need A Lot More Jesus (And A Lot Less Rock & Roll). Tongue in cheek or deadly sincere? You be the judge. Audible
here.

ndspinelli said...

El Pollo, Great point in the form of a question. You could be a barrister instead of a geeky lab rat! Of course, barristers are also rats, just in courthouses.

edutcher said...

Emil Blatz said...

I find it hard to believe that Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, was ever on The Lawrence Welk Show. I'm just not buying it.

IIRC, he was a relatively frequent guest.

Greg G said...

The Dick Dale that appeared on the Lawrence Welk show, a singer and a sax player, was a completely different guy than the King Of The Surf Guitar.

Mitch H. said...

XTC went after God pretty good in "Dear God," circa 1986.

That was memorable. I sometimes think that Heaven, if it exists, must be full of sincere blasphemers who called themselves atheists throughout their lives, because no-one could be that enraged at God without believing in Him with all their broken hearts.

edutcher said...

My bad.

We never watched Larry, but I did remember the name as he was starting to become a guitar legend in those days.

Greg G said...

Of limited interest, perhaps, but here's a funny prank phone call pulled on the surf guitar Dick Dale by a band called the Phantom Surfers where they pretended they actually wanted to speak to and do a radio interview with the Dick Dale from the Lawrence Welk Show.

Dante said...

My Sweet Lord, is a brainwashing tool.

In his 1980 autobiography, I, Me, Mine, he would explain that the blending of gospel "hallelujah"s with chanted "Hare Krishna"s was intended to show that the two phrases meant "quite the same thing", as well as to get listeners chanting the Maha mantra "before they knew what was going on!"[20]

Wikipedia.

Strelnikov said...

Dylan sincere about Jesus? What about this line, "On a lonely hilltop village they gambled for my clothes"?

Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery but comparing yourself, a pop song writer, directly to Jesus shows a certain pretension.

(Don't get me Wrong. I love that song, and "Blood on the Tracks" is his best album, hands down.)

phx said...

~~Christ you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be~~

Love,
John & Yoko

phx said...

I just listened to the Velvet Underground's "Jesus" yesterday, but it is sincere and I don't think they made Top 40 radio at any time ever.

Ambrose said...

"I just want to see his face" from Exile on Main Street

El Pollo Real said...

Bob Dylan recorded a song in 1962 called "In My Time Of Dyin'" (note the dropped "g," Palin fans). The song was based on a black gospel song whose history is traced here. To my ear, Dylan's version was the arrangement which Led Zeppelin used in their 1975 version. I collect versions of that song. I suppose that Led Zeppelin's is my favorite because of John Bonham's unsurpassed drumming. Was it a sincere reference to Jesus? Robert Plant disliked performing it because it hit too close to a near fatal car accident he survived.

Strelnikov said...

And "Slow Train Coming" blows. (Yes, I do own it. But haven't played it in at least 35 years.) Like a lot of converts to born againism, he was then a zealot and, also like most, he cooled. Doesn't mean he wasn't sincere in the moment.

Ann Althouse said...

""If God was one of us" was that insincere (since He was)?"

I think that was sincere, but in any event, it's from a much later time period. I'm talking 60s/early 70s, before there was any talk of Christian rock.

Ann Althouse said...

"Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery but comparing yourself, a pop song writer, directly to Jesus shows a certain pretension."

"I said you know they refused Jesus too/And he said 'You're not him."

betamax3000 said...

In "We Built This City" the Synthesizers undercut the Sincerity of the Message. Jesus is implicit in the collective "We": without His help there would be No City built on Rock and Roll.

It is obvious that in this context "Rock and Roll" is the Stone rolling away from the Now-Empty tomb, as is evidenced in the line "Say you don't know me or recognize my face": here we see the response to the Doubting Thomases who question the Authorship of the City "We" built.

The song's repeated reference to Marconi plays on the concept of Understanding the Spirit: by communicating without wires we are to see how the Spirit communicates with us without need for the Physical form or Device. This also underscores the Presence of Jesus in the song: we don't need lyrical wires to bring us to this Proper Understanding.

Further exploration of the Song's Text brings us to:

"Who counts the money underneath the bar
Who rides the wrecking ball in to our rock guitars"

This -- plainly -- is a reference to the Money Changers at the Temple, who are the ones who would Deny our City.

To sum up: without the Presence of Jesus in This City WE have Built are we not all "Knee deep in the hoopla?"

Ann Althouse said...

"Like a lot of converts to born againism, he was then a zealot and, also like most, he cooled."

He cooled or he mellowed and matured?

I prefer zealots cooled.

Lovernios said...

Hymn 43 by Jethro Tull is a fascinating song. It's a very sincere case being made against blasphemy:

If Jesus saves,
He better save himself,
From the gory glory seekers
who use His name in death.
Jesus save me.

Well I saw Him in the city
And on the Mountains of the Moon.
His cross was kind of bloody
And He could hardly roll His stone.
Oh, Jesus save me.

El Pollo Real said...

Jim Morrison's words in The Doors' When The Music's Over (1968) may qualify for the most sincere renunciation of Christ:

Cancel my subscription to the resurrection,
send my credentials to the house of detention


Patti Smith may have one upped him though on her version of Gloria (1975).

Ann Althouse said...

"American Pie" is a good suggestion. It's in the right time period, 1971. There are a couple issues:

1. The word "Jesus" doesn't appear in the song. The lyric is: "The 3 men I admire most: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/Took the last train for the coast." Also: "Do you have faith in God above?"

2. I think McLean was sincere in his religion. I think he's describing being genuinely heartbroken as a child delivering the newspaper that had the story about the Buddy Holly plane crash.

sydney said...

Are you drinking with me, Jesus?

Gary Rosen said...

"He said "you can tune a car, but you can't tune a banjo"."

No no no. You meant, "You can tune a fish, but you can't tune a banjo".

virgil xenophon said...

"...well I was flying back from Lubbock when I saw Jesus on the plane..

Or maybe it was Elvis, you know they kinda look the same..."

El Pollo Real said...

"Jesus rides beside me; he never buys any smokes" sounds whimsical and in character for Paul Westerberg in 1987. I doubt he was sincere.

phx said...

"I was there when Jesus Christ had his moments of doubt and pain."

Too sincere?

Mumpsimus said...

Also not "insincere," but I've always liked:

I go down to Speaker's Corner, I'm thunderstruck
they got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong
there's a protest singer singing a protest song . . .

--Dire Straits Industrial Disease

phx said...

The Cowsills were really underrated. I like their cover of Hair.

"My hair like Jesus wore it
Hallelujah I adore it"

Amexpat said...

It got terrible reviews when it came out and consequently I never bought it and to this day I have never listened to it.

I'm not now, nor have I ever been, a Christian, but you should listen to Meade and give "Slow Train Coming" a listen. Dylan does some of his best singing here. For the most part, he's one angry Christian.

guess I should listen to it. Dylan music is deeply interwove into my psyche, but ONLY the Dylan music up to "New Morning." "Blood On the Tracks" gets in too,

What about "Street Legal"? I believe you've praised that LP and "Senor" in particular here.

Kirk Parker said...

Mitch,

Indeed. Mark Twain is one outstanding example of this.

Broomhandle said...

REM's Voice of Harold. They sing the liner notes of a fictional gospel album. Maybe not exactly insincere but certainly too hipster-knowing to be heartfelt. Tremendous song regardless

betamax3000 said...

From the opening words -- "Yo, VIP, let's kick it!" we feel the Presence of Jesus in Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby": after all, is Jesus not the True and Only VIP?

"All right stop /Collaborate and listen" encourages the Listener to be a part of the Wisdom that this song of Inspiration will bring: we are in Good Hands.

"Something grabs a hold of me tightly / Then I flow that a harpoon daily and nightly": of course, it is the Spirit of Jesus that grabs hold of him tightly -- that much is obvious. However, Vanilla Ice increases the resilience of his Message by referencing the Religious Significance of Melville's "Mody Dick" with the incisive 'Harpoon' reference.

"Will it ever stop? Yo, I don't know"; here, Ice brings us the True Question of Faith. The answer: "Turn off the lights and I'll glow", with the Light of Jesus' Love. Furthermore, we should move to the Light without haste: "Bum rush the speaker that booms" advises us to Move Forth directly to God. As such, "Anything less that the best is a felony" teaches us to Not Waste Time or Honor False Prophets along Our Way.

"Love it or leave it / You better gain way / You better hit bull's eye /The kid don't play" explains that it is solely up to the Individual to accept the Message and the Path that comes from it.

"Quick to the point, to the point no faking / I'm cooking MC's like a pound of bacon" further illustrates the Futility of following False Prophets -- the sucker MCs who deny JC, obviously.

"I'm on a roll and it's time to go solo / Rollin in my 5.0" lets us know that Ice will follow the Path, even if no one Chooses to accompany him. Furthermore, he intends to get there Quickly.

"Gunshots ranged out like a bell / I grabbed my nine / All I heard were shells / Fallin' on the concrete real fast / Jumped in my car, slammed on the gas / Bumper to bumper the avenue's packed / I'm tryin' to get away before the jackers jack": now realize that not only will Some choose Not to Accompany him but they will Use Force to prevent him from reaching his Destination. Is it not easy to picture the 'jackers' as jackals serving at the behest of the Devil's Sucker MCs?

"Cause my style's like a chemical spill / Feasible rhymes that you can vision and feel / Conducted and formed / This is a hell of a concept / We make it hype and you want to step with this." Here, Ice explains that the Vision and Feel of the Message may not come in obvious Beauty: it may indeed flow like a Chemical Spill, spilling forth Purification: it is not to late to "step with this" and Accompany him on his Spiritual Journey.

And -- at the End of this Spiritual Journey -- we arrive at the pay-off:

"If there's a problem / Yo, I'll solve it!" The Love of Jesus will give Ice the Strength to solve any problem that comes forth from Man's Foibles.

Finally, Ice calls out Thanks to the Virgin Mary, to Whom the Lord was Born:

"Yo man, let's get out of here / Word to your mother."

jr565 said...

Actually Christian Life was originally sung by Gram Parsons in the Byrds. and I don't know if he was singing it ironically.
Due to contractual disputes between Parsons and his former label, many of Gram Parsons vocals were re sung by McGuinn and those were the versions released.

ricpic said...

Even Jesus couldn't fix the shape of Spiro Agnew's head.

Malesch Morocco said...

"Jesus was a Capricorn" by Kris Kristofferson circa 1973.

Jesus was a capricorn
He ate organic foods.
He believed in love and peace
And never wore no shoes.
Long hair, beard and sandals
And a funky bunch of friends
Reckon they'd just nail him up
If he came round again.


And then there is Phil Austin from Fireside Theatre fame with his "C'mon Jesus" from his 1974 Roller Maidens from Outer Space album. Though I doubt that one got much airplay on commercial radio.

creeley23 said...

Leonard explains the many Christian references in his songs -- "Suzanne," "Joan of Arc," "Sisters of Mercy," "Bernadette," "The Captain," -- by his Catholic nanny through whom he absorbed stories about Christ and the saints.

Cohen has been obsessed with spirituality his whole life. I wouldn't call his use of Christ insincere except in the sense that he is not and never has been a Christian. He is emphatically Jewish and has been ordained as a Zen monk.

Pianoman said...

The chorus of Steely Dan's "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again":

Oh Michael, Oh Jesus / You know I'm not to blame / You know my reputation / For playing a good clean game / Oh Michael, Oh Jesus / I'll keep my promise when / You turn that heartbeat over again

Their lyrics are usually confusing, and the subject of much debate among Fans Of The Dan ... so I'm not sure what the interpretation would be.

tiger said...

Professor:

I think the your first 2 examples *are* sincere.

You're right about the Brewer and Shipley - that was more a blasphemy that insincere AND about Dylan

And this: How about 'Kick Me Jesus Through The Goalposts Of Life'?

tiger said...

' Hammond X Gritzkofe said...
Tame, tame. How about a post on mocking Mohammad?-

AND the 'Flying Spaghetti Monster' - one of the tritest term you hear from extreme atheists.

William said...

Rock singers thank God for creating sex and drugs. Their quest is more often self serving, hypocritical, and pretentious than insincere......the guy who wrote Amazing Grace was a slave trader. He wrote that utterly sincere religious hymn after he found God. The sin that he most repented was not slaving but heavy drinking. God moves in strange ways.

creeley23 said...

Gillian Welch is a current old-timey country musician who has written such striking Gospel songs that many people, including her fans, assume she is a Christian. But it turns out she just enjoys writing gospel songs.

The incongruity caught up with her and she wrote a masterpiece, "Time is the Revelator," responding to the criticism. It begins

Darling, remember when you come to me
I'm the pretender, and I'm not what I'm supposed to be
But who could know if I'm a traitor?
Time's the revelator


There is an intense video of her and her partner performing the song in a bare room.

Æthelflæd said...

I can't believe no one has mentioned Janis Joplin:

"Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV ?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town ?
I'm counting on you, Lord, please don't let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town ? "

traditionalguy said...

The trouble with Jesus is that spoken acknowledgment of Him sort of ends the anger that religions usually start.

The only way around that is to pretend Jesus is non-existent or He is another thing than the Christian creeds say about Him.

Oh happy day is the day faith comes from hearing about Jesus. After that happens it is hard to be insincere about what he did.

ken in sc said...

“Drop kick Me Jesus, Through the Goal Posts of Life” I don't remember who sang that. I never did know what to think about it sincerely.

El Pollo Real said...

Althouse replied: I guess I should listen to it. Dylan music is deeply interwove into my psyche, but ONLY the Dylan music up to "New Morning." "Blood On the Tracks" gets in too, but that's really all that's part of me.

I own the vinyl LP version of "Slow Train Coming" but haven't listened to it in years. "Blood On The Tracks" is my favorite Dylan album. Thanks to your and Meade's proselytizing, I've come to like the earlier stuff more.

Darrell said...

There is no butter in Hell, but there are several zip codes filled with snarky rockers that just knew that religion was bullshit and they must enlighten everyone else of their great discovery.

Darrell said...

Those zips are adjacent to those that have started to fill with similar bloggers and commenters.

Ann Althouse said...

"Actually Christian Life was originally sung by Gram Parsons in the Byrds. and I don't know if he was singing it ironically. Due to contractual disputes between Parsons and his former label, many of Gram Parsons vocals were re sung by McGuinn and those were the versions released."

I'm listening to my copy of the song, and I find it hard to tell, but I don't think this is McGuinn. And I don't know if if it's sincere. I think it's a tribute to the people who've gone before, singing that song, and respecting that they were sincere. That's how it sounds to me.

Clyde said...

Bad Religion - American Jesus

"We've got the American Jesus, overwhelming millions every day..."

Clyde said...

Ann, if you have the version of the CD with bonus tracks, then you'd hear the Gram Parsons version on Track 15 (Rehearsal - take #11). Track 3 is Roger McGuinn.

Clyde said...

It should also be noted that "Christian Life" was originally a Louvin Brothers song. Parsons was the one who brought the country influences to the Byrds at a time when country and rock were two very separate genres that belonged to two very different groups of people (i.e., hippies vs. Haggard "Okie From Muskogee"-type squares).

Jay Vogt said...

Ry Cooder's "Jesus on the Mainline" on the album "Paridise and Lunch" from 1974. It's a traditional song though and Ry is not know for his ironic treatment of songs.

I think Aerosmith did a cover as well. Probably more ironic if you're looking for that.

creeley23 said...

Then there's Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis"

Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
And she said
"Tell me are you a Christian child?"
And I said "Ma'am I am tonight"


And that's the nut of it.

I know an Episcopal priest who occasionally attends Catholic mass and takes Communion, which is a violation of Catholic rules. She says, "They don't control It."

Christ is bigger than Christianity and even rock stars can call on him.

creeley23 said...

Ry Cooder's "Jesus on the Mainline" on the album "Paridise and Lunch" from 1974. It's a traditional song though and Ry is not know for his ironic treatment of songs.

Krishan Das does a marvelous version in his kirtan concerts. He introduces it with a spooky buildup about traveling in India late at night and encountering a group of the highest babas chanting before a fire. And they were singing:

Jesus is on the mainline
Tell Him what you want
Call Him up and tell him
What you want.

Jay Vogt said...

Creeley23 said. . .

I know an Episcopal priest who occasionally attends Catholic mass and takes Communion, which is a violation of Catholic rules. She says, "They don't control It."

Really? That's kinda wierdly pushy.

List-a-Beefy said...

Someone mentioned Ballad of John and Yoko, but that is clearly a case of "Christ" not being used as a name in vain but rather direct address.

And of course, Put Your Hand in the Hand, a #2 hit for Ocean back in the day.

(And do you think Kanye West's Jesus Walks is sincere?)

phx said...

Someone mentioned Ballad of John and Yoko, but that is clearly a case of "Christ" not being used as a name in vain but rather direct address.


I'm not sure I agree with that, particularly taking the lyric into account:

"Christ you know it ain't easy you know how hard it can be
The way things are going they're gonna crucify me."

It could be a prayer.

phx said...

I wouldn't call his use of Christ insincere except in the sense that he is not and never has been a Christian. He is emphatically Jewish and has been ordained as a Zen monk.

Well anyone who is Jewish and is an ordained Zen monk - how can you really be sure that he is not and never has been a Christian?

~~May Christ have mercy on your soul
For making such a joke~~

Michael Haz said...

Nobody writes songs about Mo.

creeley23 said...

Really? That's kinda wierdly pushy.

I take your point. I don't recommend intruding on others' sacred rites myself.

Nonetheless, for those to whom Christ is a reality and not a belief, it looks different. I can understand my friend's view.

Mick Havoc said...

"She Left Me For Jesus" by Hayes Carll seems pretty insincere.

creeley23 said...

Well anyone who is Jewish and is an ordained Zen monk - how can you really be sure that he is not and never has been a Christian?

Because I'm familiar with most of Cohen's work and I have read a fair amount about his life.

I'm far more certain that Cohen has never been a Christian than I am that Obama has never been a Muslim.

The great thing about Islam is that you can become a Muslim by a single sincere recitation of the shahada: "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God."

Obama lived for four years in a Muslim country with a Muslim stepfather and was listed as Muslim at the public school he attended. There is no way to know whether the young boy did not recite that handful of famous words once in all that time. And if he did, he became a Muslim then and forever by the standards of Islam.

I'm not a hard-core "Obama is a secret Muslim" guy. I don't think he's really a Christian either -- his conversion story was to Black Liberation Theology with not a single mention of God, Christ, love, salvation, forgiveness or redemption.

But the idea is that Obama might be a Muslim is not the ludicrous notion that liberals make it out to be. All he had to do, as a young impressionable boy in a Muslim country, was recite a simple formula once and mean it.

creeley23 said...

One of Warren Zevon's funniest little songs is "Gorilla, You're a Desperado," in which he imagines that a gorilla has switched places with him.

Big gorilla at the L.A. zoo
Snatched the glasses right off my face
Took the keys to my BMW
Left me here to take his place

I wish the ape a lot of success
I'm sorry my apartment's a mess
Most of all I'm sorry if I made you blue
I'm betting the gorilla will too

They say Jesus will find you wherever you go
But when He'll come looking for you, they don't know

In the mean time, keep your profile low
Gorilla, you're a desperado

He built a house on an acre of land
He called it Villa Gorilla
Now I hear he's getting divorced
Laying low at L'Ermitage, of course

Then the ape grew very depressed
Went through transactional analysis
He plays racquetball and runs in the rain
Still he's shackled to a platinum chain

Big gorilla at the L.A. zoo
Snatched the glasses right off my face
Took the keys to my BMW
Left me here to take his place

Rich Rostrom said...

Maybe it all started with the Paul Newman movie "Cool Hand Luke"

That was just a quotation. Ahem.

"Plastic Jesus" was written in 1957 by folksingers Ed Rush and George Cromarty. In 1962, on their album "Here They Are! The Goldcoast Singers", they expanded it with framing spoken script into a sketch parody of radio/TV evangelists. (Had to look this up on Wiki, but I've heard the routine: "The Pink and Pleasant Plastic Icon Company of Del Rio, Texas")

It was quite popular, and not just with the hipster-liberal set. In 1963, Dan Jenkins profiled some ardent Texas football fans for Sports Illustrated. He quoted them singing

"I don't care 'bout gas or oil,
Long as I got my Darrell Royal*
Glued to the dashboard of my car..."

* Royal coached the U. Texas Longhorns for 20 years and three national championships, including 1963.