33 of the Best (Mostly) Non-Traditional Jesus Songs Ever Recorded

I Speak of Ancient Prayers—And Orange Amplification

“When we speak of prayer or of the results of prayer we always imply only one kind of prayer—petition—or we think that petition can be united with all other kinds of prayers…

Most prayers have nothing in common with petitions.

I speak of ancient prayers…

These prayers are, so to speak, recapitulations—by repeating them aloud or to himself a man endeavors to experience what is in them, their whole content, with his mind and his feeling.” —G.I. Gurdjieff

And that quote just there, it’s not the quote I was looking for…

I was looking for the one where G talks about how it’s long been the case that the church has been devoid of any real substance in its rituals—the common prayer (if there be such a thing) is uttered by rote by priest and parishioner alike.

Mother tongue replaced by mutter tongue—lacking completely the vitality and rich & sustained emotional state necessary if one would see the sublime demonstrations and manifestations of their words come to pass, under grace in perfect ways.

But in doing my due diligence I happened upon the one you see above and if thine eye be singular as a cyclops I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty effin appropriate for the lead-in to this post.

Because, regarding those non-vital rituals that may define the church generic (in its same-as-it-ever-was, wanna-be-omnipresent state) I got to thinking a while ago…

And when I was finally able to stop, a truer thought surfaced:

So What?

So. Freaking. What…

…if the old ways have been lost betwixt pew & pulpit, escaped through bell tower or been hidden in the outermost corners of coolest catacombs?

I don’t necessarily believe they have been, but even so isn’t the Greater Idea to walk in Harmony with that Ageless and Timeless Way…

…anyway?

And who am I to say?

True I’ve always loved churches, but it doesn’t take long to count the number of sermons I’ve soaked up inside of hallowed halls official…

What I can say, with some certainty (based on available intel) is this:

Jesus loved the Church.

BUT The Nazarene’s definition was, it would seem, much broader than brick and mortar, clapboard and nail, even chapel and steeple—he spent plenty of time in deserts and hollers, on peaks, as well beaches…

So Jesus loved the Church, but the Church was never Jesus.

And who said, and why did we ever agree, that this or that particular organization or institution, be it housed in Mosque or Synagogue, Ashram or Cathedral should, or even could, hold exclusive title to that Consciousness called Christ?

( And Christ Be Love—and Love, the Greatest of These!)

Sure, it could have been and might still be in any of those places, just not only those places.

(Duh.)

By definition it is everywhere, and all-ways has been.

In the meantime, I believe it’s our job—our Sacred Charge—as Co-Creators to express that impulse towards the Source Holy Holy that comes a-rushing through known and unknown channels and from the Self-Same Source Wholly Holy as best we can, and by whatever means we have…

…known and unknown channels (and not wells) that WE ARE!

“I speak of ancient prayers…”

…that oft-times e’now bring stomp box & banjo, two turntables & a microphone, an Akai MPC & a mixing machine rendered in hi-def pixels to the place of ablution & supplication, the tabernacle where offerings of joy be made.

(Pipe Organs ain’t easy to come by for your average player prayer.)

So I got on this idea that it would be really fun to create a list containing some of the Best Non-Trad Jesus Songs Ever—celebratory, searching, reverent as a Reverend possessed of righteous rhythm (or even irreverent, as long as there’s no cynicism or mean stuff involved… that’s just boring)—as my own little way of endeavoring to elevate the collective vibration.

best jesus songs ever, probably

Then, as these things happen, the agreement came—the affirmation, the exclamation point, the nudge from on high that signals a thing be done…

Driving north into the tallest mountains in Vermont and the sun setting and the snow falling and lit up like an illuminated manuscript a song came riding ‘cross the radio waves…

You’ve most likely heard it. It goes:

“Spirit in the Sky, O, Spirit in the Sky

That’s where I’m gonna go when I die…

When I die and they lay me to rest

I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best…”

“Huh,” says I out loud and to no one in particular, “I guess I should start writing that list then…”

Note: I had plenty of help from friends and family, friend-family and Fuseletter readers (which is totally redundant—I know, I know)…

I thank all of you and truly.

P.S. If a song that was recommended didn’t make the list it’s not because I didn’t like it, subjective as this experience is…

Most likely it came down to one of two things—either it just didn’t have that je ne sais quoi that I was listening for, or I couldn’t find its flow on this particular list…

(There’ll be others. This has been a helluva lotta fun.)

Here they are, then—curated and offered up to mind and feeling, the body whole and bathed in light…

33 of the Best (Mostly) Modern Songs to, for, and about Jesus

1. Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum

Crunchy and psychedelic, galloping guitar chords and basslines straight out of the early 70s…
The happy admonition that is:

“Prepare yourself—you know it’s a must—gotta have a friend in Jesus…
So you know that when you die, he’s gonna recommend you to the Spirit in the Sky…”

Fearless, unapologetic and full of joy, this song has everything—and it’s the one I’m thinking of most often when I talk about Modern Devotionals.

Brother Norm only had one hit and Spirit in the Sky was it. But what a hit, and gift, it was (and continues to be)!

I seriously can’t hear this song and not be in a better mood when it’s over than when it began.

Best enjoyed by singing along—loudly.

Check out the video on YouTube here.

 

2. Personal Jesus by Johnny Cash

True, it was first recorded by Depeche Mode (I love that version) and Marilyn Manson’s done it, too.

But this take is my favorite because, as the Man in Black himself, there’s not the slightest hint of irony—just honesty, sincerity, and a faith that’s become full with the awareness of the passage of time.

Submitted by Celene DeLoach—Appalachian Granny Witch

 

3. Usher Me Down by Jennifer Knapp

This was a late-comer to the list and stopped me just short of hitting Publish—it was the cause of the complete re-working of the mixtape, as it were.

And like just about every song here, I’m tempted to just copy and paste the lyrics in their entirety…

But what fun would that be?

Not as much as a teaser for a tune livicated to the one who all-ways comes—even before we call…

“Sacrifice and offering, You do not desire of me
I say Here I am You come, as if I ever had to call…

Why wait, why wait, why wait for You… to Usher Me Down?

Many O, many O, Lord, my God, the wonders that I have found
When You Usher Me Down…”

This song started to haunt me before I got even halfway through the first listening. (I love it when that happens…)

Submitted by Andréa Balt—Writer, Creative Troublemaker, Life Alchemist

 

4. I Don’t Know How to Love Him by Sinead O’Conner

Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Jesus Christ Superstar original, in which Mary Magdalene laments and bemoans, reasons with, agonizes over and finally accepts her love for the man, Jesus, has been heard by most and done by many.

Every version I listened to in creating this list is great.

But no one belts this song out the way Sister Sinead does, and her famous pipes are only part of that.

Sure she’s still hitting those notes that somehow summon (involuntarily, if not expectedly) the misty eyes and damn-she’s-good smile…

But myself I can’t help hearing her own troubled past and struggles survived on her twisting and turning path when I hear her rendering of it.

And who better to sing this song than the Irie One from Ireland who was abused as a child, rose to stardom, shaved her head to look less pretty (in an attempt to keep record execs from propositioning her), ripped up a picture of the Pope and later became a priest?!

It’s like this song was written just for her.

She might not know how to love Him, but no one can say she isn’t trying.

Sinead fucking owns this song because she inhabits it so fully.

Check it out on YouTube right here.

 

5. Jesus Walking on the Water by Violent Femmes

This is one of my favorite songs ever by one of my favorite bands ever—and it’s one of the three songs that inspired the creation of this list in the first place.

Truth: ‘twas a mixtape given me by a friend at the tender young age of 12 that included on it the entire self-titled album by Violent Femmes, released in 1983, that opened up (and catapulted me into) the world of Punk Rock.

I am forever grateful.

This song, however, which is in no way Punk but straight-up Bluegrass, was released a year later on the album Hallowed Ground

For some reason, I didn’t hear it til much later than that.

In the meantime, though, I took bass lessons with a “Christian Rocker”.

I asked him one day, whilst learning how to play Blister in the Sun, what the difference was between my music and his.

He said, “Well, my music is for God. Yours, or this, whatever it is, is for the Devil.”

And that was the last bass lesson I ever had.

[Face palm: “Stoopid, Stoopid, Stooo-pid!!”]

But all these years later when I hear this song I think about him and wonder, What if I’d played him this one, instead?…

You can watch an amazing live recording right here that lovingly incorporates a Weber Grill.

 

6. La Saeta by Joan Manuel Serrat

Apparently in Spain Joan Manuel Serrat is a household name (or used to be).

But, my Spanish lacking as it is, when I first listened to this amazing piece of music (even being carried away by its incredible depth of emotion) I was missing most of the lyrics.

My dear friend, Lidia—a native of Spain and the woman who recommended this song—was kind enough to translate:

“A voice from the people said ‘Who will lend a ladder to climb the log and pull out Jesus the Nazarene’s nails?’

O, the Saeta—the song to Christ of the Gypsies… Always blood on the hands, always yet to be un-nailed.

Song of the Andalusian people which every spring runs around
Asking for ladders to climb up the Cross.

Song of my land which throws flowers to the Jesus of agony—
It is the faith of my elders.

Oh you are not my song.

I neither can nor want to sing to that Jesus of the log,
But to the one who walked on the sea.”

(Did you just get the chills, too?)

Submitted by Lidia Pines—Quadrilingual Superhero

 

7. Jesus by The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground - 45th Anniversary [LP]

Man, when I first heard this song on The Velvet Underground’s self-titled third album it just floored me, and not because it’s a rollicker (it’s not) but because it totally went against the grain of everything I thought I knew about the iconic heroin art rockers from NYC who, arguably, primed us all for Punk Rock.

A sincere song that makes a sweet demand and carries with it a fair amount of melancholy—on this list, indeed, it finds a proper place.

 

8. The Mercy Seat by Johnny Cash

Mercy Seat

As always Nick Cave’s lyrics border on (or just straight-up spill over into) genius, and I do like his original (on certain days, and in certain moods).

But once again it’s John Boy’s version that holds my attention. There’s not a bone in my body that registers anything but absolute belief when I hear him sing:

“And in a way I’m yearning to be done with all this weighing of the truth—
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…
And anyway I told the truth, and I’m not afraid to die.”

Chills again… and o, most verily.

 

9. I Told Jesus by Roberta Flack

I Told Jesus

“It takes a Heart at the moment of its surrender.” —Jason Stutz

Think about that for a minute, find some deep quiet and listen to the song a few more times—if you’re like me you’ll probably realize how right Mr. S is about Roberta’s taking-no-flack Soul-full lullaby and lullaby to the Soul.

(And what a beautiful way to say it, too.)

Submitted by Jason Stutz—Hand’s Eye View, Clairvoyant Massage Therapist

 

10. Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Singers

Oh Happy Day

The first time I can remember hearing this song it was… not this song. It was Deanna by Nick Cave—but not even his original, in which he puts his own words to the centuries-old tune—it was the acoustic version, which incorporates the Oh Happy Day lyrics and that he released on B-Sides & Rarities in March of 2005.

But this Gospel arrangement of the over-200-year-old hymn, recorded in Hawkins’ own church in Berkeley, CA brings with it a joy-full noise that I can’t resist.

Ya gotta love late-60s Soul…

Here’s a really grainy YouTube vid of Ed & Lynette & Co. for your flashback, squinty-eyed listening enjoyment…

And HOLY CHARLIE MOLY! Just found this one of Ray Charles’ version.

Jesus. This might be the most covered tune on the list…

Submitted by Ceara “Easily One of My Favorite People in Asheville or Anywhere” Foley—Appalachian Herbalist, Holistic Healing Mama

 

11. Jesus Was Way Cool by King Missile III

Jesus Was Way Cool (Millennium Edition)

John S. Hall’s quirky and frequently understated talk-style vocals just have a way of cutting through the crud and hittin’ ya right in the grin—way cool, no matter what your relation to The Carpenter may be.

 

12. Shine on Sweet Jesus by The Flaming Lips

Shine On Sweet Jesus

Is there such a thing as Haunted Garage Punk Barbershop?

And does this genre have its very own heroes…

…who recorded an eerie yet fist-pumping anthem—both declaration and demand—for our man (yea, more than a man) of the timeless hour, the “clockless nowever”?

You tell me.

But in the meantime Ima go ‘head and give it a whole-hearted “HELL YES!”

(And their lips be ever-flaming. Amen.)

Sweet Jesus…

This song makes me want strap on sandals and pulpit-dive straight into the center of a mosh-crazy congregation.

(brb…)

 

13. Plastic Jesus by Billy Idol

Plastic Jesus

Huh, so this is what Billy Idol’s been up to?

…making Soulful crunchy caterwauls layered with sound out of simple silly songs of days gone by?

Awesome.

And now I want a bobble head on my dashboard.

Submitted by Garrett Beeman—the dood who gave me my start as a professional writer (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU)—and one of my favorite human creatures ever. (Probably.)

 

14. Little Drummer Boy (Live) by for KING & COUNTRY

Little Drummer Boy (Live)

Who can explain how a certain piece of writing, a work of art or a song can capture the Imagination, find its way so deeply into the Heart that it feels like it’s always been there?

I can’t…

And, if you’ve read any of my Fuseletters or if we’ve talked for at least three seconds, you know I’ve tried.

But since the first time I heard it as a little boy this has been one of those songs to me.

Why is he poor? Doesn’t he know that a song is a gift? His song is the best gift!

Funny, though… When I went a-looking for something close to the 1942 original I couldn’t find anything, at least not on Spotify…

I did find a whole slew of decent covers, including one from Bob Seeger (who knew?) but what I found lacking in each case was a pronounced drum track!

That just didn’t seem right…

And then I stumbled across this version by for KING & COUNTRY—a band I’d never heard of—and fell in love.

It’s big, bold and in charge but, most important, it’s a reverent re-working of what is, in my (humble but accurate) opinion, one of the best Jesus songs ever written and recorded.

 

15. Jesus Was an Only Son—the Song by Bruce Springsteen

Jesus Was an Only Son

Of The Boss, The Boss sings:

“Well Jesus kissed His Mother’s Hands, whispered, ‘Mother, still your tears,
For remember the Soul of the Universe, willed a World, and It appeared…”

…like Holy Notes…

…or a Poem resurrected…

…or righteous tears…

…or the Faith that moves mountains, but doesn’t—moving fingers o’er guitar strings instead…

Thank You, Bruce.

P.S. Please come to Vermont!

 

16. Down to the River to Pray by Alison Krauss

Down To The River To Pray (From “O Brother, Where Art Thou” Soundtrack)

From das Wiki, unedited:

“Down in the River to Pray” (also known as “Down to the River to Pray,” “Down in the Valley to Pray,” “The Good Old Way,” and “Come, Let Us All Go Down”) is a traditional American song variously described as a Christian folk hymn, an African-American spiritual, an Appalachian song, and a gospel song. The exact origin of the song is unknown. Research suggests that it was composed by an African-American slave.”

The earliest known version was published in 1867—not exactly “modern” but not ancient, either. And since Alison Krauss made it popular again in 2000 (via the O, Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack) it makes the list.

Also, I used to sing it to my oldest daughter at bedtime (up until she was about four) and it always did the trick—i.e., shut her up and conked her out.

 

17. Christ for President by Billy Bragg & Wilco

Christ For President

Woody Guthrie’s found lyrics. Billy Boy’s socio-political sympathies. Jeff Tweedy’s I-am-trying-to break-your-heart vocals and Wilco’s true country swing.

There’s a lot to love about this song. Including this:

“The only way, we could ever beat
These crooked politician men…
Is to cast the moneychangers, out of the temple
Put the carpenter in…”

And, to wax tru-etic: As Within so Without.

Both this song and its sentiment have got my vote.

 

18. Wooden Jesus by Temple of the Dog

Wooden Jesus

Chris Cornell lived with depression his whole life, until he didn’t.

And that notwithstanding, being honest, I don’t believe that this is the best song he ever sung—not by a damn sight.

But I love it.

Because beyond its grunge posturing and too-cool affectations, beyond its implied existential crises and (feigned?) religious angst, there is an element of genuine searching in this song.

And now that he’s gone that’s what I hear when I listen to it—an attempt to ask the question that mattered most by a man who struggled his whole life against the demons of his lesser nature and his foggy waking dreams—his doubts and his fears—and by the by helped plenty of us, myself not the least, with our own parallel struggles.

Rest in Peace, Chris. And THANK YOU.

P.S. If my hunch is right, you never had to cut him in—He saw your bet and raised it, even before your hand was dealt.

Submitted by Michael Gann—he used to let me smoke Bidis in his VW bus.

 

19. Jesus Children of America by Stevie Wonder

Jesus Children Of America (Album Version)

If there was ever a time when you really just didn’t get why you should be into Stevie Wonder—there was for me (young, so young)—listen to this song. It’s from 1973’s Innervisions and is about as far as you can get from I Just Called to Say I Love You (great song, jus’ sayin’)…

Submitted by Jackie Stanton—Fervent & Funky Activist, J-Town, Vermont

20. Jesus Just Left Chicago by ZZ Top

Jesus Just Left Chicago (2006 Remastered Version)

You know what? I really can’t say that I’ve ever even heard Phish’s version of this song, and that’s okay.

To each their own, but sometimes it’s just fine to let a thing be—especially when that thing is this song and it was done perfectly by the long-bearded bluesmen of the Lone Star State the first time.

This á-la-Chi-town blues shaker and names-taker comes by the good word, again, of Lady DeLoach.

21. Jesus, The Missing Years by John Prine.

Jesus, The Missing Years

Your guess is as good as mine is as good as John Prine’s when it comes to what ole J.C. was up to during those non-documented years.

But no one tells a story the way Mr. Prine does and, as far as I know, no one’s really bothered to take a gander at the missing years besides him (at least in song).

Go on and get your (not impossible) history lesson—it comes with an acoustic guitar and a wry smile.

22. Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Weber, sung by Zubin Varla—original 1996 London cast, Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar (20th Anniversary London Cast Recording (1992))

Songs of searching rarely get funkier or Broadway-ier than this…

And while a simple reading of the lyrics might lead a one to believe it leans towards the irreverent—

“Tell me what you think about your friends at the top.
Who’d you think besides your self’s the pick of the crop?
Buddha, was he where it’s at? Is he where you are?
Could Mohammed move a mountain, or was that just PR?
Did you mean to die like that? Was that a mistake, or
Did you know your messy death would be a record breaker?
Don’t you get me wrong.
I only want to know.”

—even a cursory listen to this tune’s Soul-full orchestrals is proof-positive that, in fact, quite the opposite is closer to the truth.

23. Jesus Christ by Brand New

Jesus Christ

Another one I hadn’t heard before and, well… it wasn’t what I was expecting—but I love it.

This is a gem of a song rich with melancholy melody, peaks & valleys and lyrical about-faces, like:

“And I, will die, all alone
And when I, arrive, I won’t know anyone…
Well Jesus Christ I’m alone again
So what did you do those three days you were dead?
‘Cuz this problem’s gonna last more than the weekend.”

Submitted by Jeremy Goldberg—Lobber of Long Distance Love Bombs since the Year of Our Lord, 2010

24. These Thousand Hills by Third Day

These Thousand Hills

{…if Eddie Vedder were a Christ-ian…} {…is he?}

And it’s not just the voice, it’s the earnest emotion—melancholy, searching, and bordering on the sublime.

There is such a thing as nostalgia for a time that we never (as far as we know by measurable means) lived in, a nostalgia deep and reverent—capable of transporting us into no-time time, capable of turning us into (or reminding us that we are) time travelers—by its sheer sincerity.

This song is possessed of such sincerity, and continues to grow on me with every listen.

Submitted by Andréa Balt—Warrior Woman Rising

25. The Cross by Prince

The Cross

His name was Prince, and he was funky.

Once described as looking like, “A purple dwarf who’s fallen into a vat of pubic hair,” by Boy George—yes, that Boy George—his music was sexually charged, celebratory, and full-up with raw emotion.

He was also deeply religious, unapologetic and outspoken about his commitment to Christ.

I always admired the hell out of that (seeming) contradiction.

And, when this song was released, at a time when angry only begins to describe the feelings I had towards religion in general, Christianity in particular, I couldn’t get to the end of it with dry eyes.

The Cross remains one of my all-time favorite songs about Jesus.

“We all have our own problems,
Some big, some are small…
Soon all of our problems
Will be taken by the Cross.”

Rest in Peace, Prince—I wish yours hadn’t been taken quite so soon.

26. The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash

American IV: The Man Comes Around

The Magnum Opus of the man who appears on this list more than any other but, unlike Personal Jesus and The Mercy Seat, this is a Cash original, written by the man who came around himself and inspired by a dream he had in which Queen Elizabeth II compared him to a “Thorn tree in a whirlwind.”

The dream haunted him—he began scouring the Bible, convinced he would find the Queen’s quote there, and eventually found a similar turn of phrase in the Book of Job.

This song is just so down-to-earth and epic all at the same time—infused with dream and with mighty references to the Book of Revelations as might be interpreted by a hellfire & brimstone southern preacher.

Both sins and good deeds matter in this tune, which was updated for American IV: The Man Comes Around, and was one of the last originals he released before his death in 2003.

27. Jesus Gonna Be Here by Tom Waits

Jesus Gonna Be Here

There aren’t too many songwriters out there who can hold a candle—or even find a match to light it—to the Ole Tom Cat when it comes to lyrics, and this one’s great even measured against everything else he’s done.

It’s just. So. Good.

And, by way of call and response, I gotta say:

Being covered up with leaves with a blanket from the moon sounds crazy awesome.

I can’t wait to hear what the promise and the vow and the lullaby for my brow is all about.

When he gets himself unfurled from this mortal coiled up world Ima try an’ set up a Skype call.

I, too, would like a brand new Ford, Lord. (Or an old Toyota Land Cruiser?)

Of all your Holy Names, I did not know that ‘Hollywood’ was one of them.

I’ve also been good, even at drinking. (Gotcha there, eh, Tommy Boy?)

It’d be hard to leave this place worse than the way I found that it was—Nixon was president and the Watergate scandal was at the fore, the war in Vietnam was two years from “ending” and disco was quickly becoming mainstream…

(On the other hand, Hilly Krystal opened CBGB that year, too—in the exact month that I was born…

We’ll call it a draw.)

But the point is well-taken and this song well-deserving of its place on this list, even if it does nothing but wait here…

Submitted by Jennifer Knight—Writer, (Note-perfect) Actor, Award-winning Director (Power! Stokely Carmichael)

28. The Great Atomic Power by Southern Culture on the Skids

The Great Atomic Power

The Great Atomic Power is a powerhouse of a song that, like the band who brings it on home to Jesus via the most raucous southern surf rock you’ve ever (or maybe never) heard, somehow manages to come across as simultaneously reverent and irreverent—always deftly walking that line between satire and sympathy and kicking a whole lotta ass along the way.

Also, there’s free chicken. (If you know then you know.)

29. Jesus Is Just Alright by The Byrds

Jesus Is Just Alright (Album Version)

Of course The Byrds did this song—and of course they did it better than anyone else (sorry, Doobie fans, but in my humble but (still) accurate opinion, it’s true).

There was a time when just about every band out there (including The Beatles) was inspired by and blatantly trying to imitate the surreal and ethereal, psychedelic folk-rock that was The Byrds great contribution to American Music—hell, music as a whole.

Listening to this song, it’s not hard to understand why.

Submitted in round-about fashion by Celene DeLoach—Super Soul Sister, Bio-regional Animist

30. Property of Jesus by Sinead O’Connor

Property Of Jesus

Bob Dylan wrote it and, not unlike It’s Alright, Ma, it leaves no fang unbloodied in its biting critique of the nay-sayers and the haters—those who scorned the bard’s conversion to Christianity (almost) as vehemently as others did his electric guitar and amplifiers at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

What I don’t like about this song: Everything I just said.

What I do like about this song: Everything I just said.

Because while it may ultimately be misdirected to focus on the non-lovers, it can also, at least temporarily, act as a kind of catharsis to just vent (also known as the “Holy Affirming ‘Fuck You'” in certain circles)…

And it may even remind us of that from which we first endeavored to free ourselves, thus strengthening our Why.

Oh, and yeah, hardly a surprise… Sinead just completely owns it.

Watch the YouTube vid here.

31. Airline to Heaven by Billy Bragg & Wilco

Airline To Heaven

God, I LOVE this song.

And, I dare you, try not to sing it out loud every damn time you hear it, even if it has been stuck in your cd player for a month because you feel like iPods are kinda overrated (or you don’t have an iPod). Whatever.

It was written by Woody and is here performed by Billy Bragg & Wilco.

Also, where Spirit in the Sky was the song that affirmed the creation of this list, Jesus Walking on the Water and this one are the songs that inspired it.

“Them’s got ears, let them hear
Them’s got eyes, let them see
Turn your eyes to the lord of the skies…
Take this airline plane
It’ll take you home again
To your home behind the skies…”

Some songs make you feel like you’re already there…

32. Why Me, Lord? by Kris Kristofferson

Why Me

I generally love 70s country, even if it does veer towards the cheesy (or cheese-food product?) by today’s standards from time to time—it’s just so freakin’ earnest.

And, specifically, I love Kris Kristofferson, in any decade.

This tune, written and sung by that same Highwayman who penned Me & Bobby McGee, definitely starts off a bit Velveeta, but so help me, Jesus, somewhere between the first almost gospel-like chorus and the end it becomes a kind of floating thing—like magic carpets, like clouds, like honest devotionals devoid of any motive save those of thanks and praise.

Submitted by John Wilson—Musician, Writer, Actor, Former Mountain Ear Comrade. (Click here to hear John singing his own little version of Why Me…? with a bit of help from a be-diaper’d background singer.)

33. I Bid You Goodnight by Soweto Gospel Choir

I Bid You Goodnight

This song has a long history and, while researching it was truly interesting to me, it’s not what I want to talk about. (You can read about it here at your leisure.)

I Bid You Goodnight will forever, to me, be associated with The Mud City Ramblers, a Northern Vermont Outlaw Bluegrass Band.

This used to be the last song they played at pretty much every show.

They don’t really play anymore because, in 2016, ‘they’ changed forever when Neil, their incredibly talented mandolin player, took his own life.

We all know that 2016 wasn’t a great year for musicians in terms of staying alive, but this one was especially tough for those of us who knew and loved Neil, even if only through his music and the Soul that he brought to it.

That said, whenever I hear this song I think about him and all the people I’ve known who’ve ended their own lives and the pain that is accompanied by those thoughts is transformed in the listening to it, made better inasmuch as it opens a space for surrender and acceptance, forgiveness and fond memory—a space where peace may enter…

And modern or not, isn’t that what devotionals are for?

I speak of ancient prayers…

“Lay down my dear brother, lay down and take your rest
I want to lay your head upon your Savior’s breast
I love you, but Jesus loves you best
I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight
I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight…”

(Watch the Soweto Gospel Choir sing this song here.)


And goodnight…

Happy Christmas.

Matias

PS. You can also listen to this playlist on Spotify

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2 Responses

  1. Victor Van De Moortel says:

    Hi, I clicked on spotify and got only the first song of your list. Back to your fuse(?), clicking on the Johnny Cash song, no.2, gave me the option to buy, giving only about 30 sec of music. So, I’m wondering if someone buys the song do you get a commission… I have a login with spotify but don’t subscribe.

    Meanwhile, nicely done. I’ve shared it and will hear the ones I haven’t yet.

    -V

    • Matias O'Din says:

      Thanks for sharing it!

      I don’t know why you’re only getting the first song on Spotify — this hasn’t been reported by anyone else. Perhaps you need to be logged in? You shouldn’t have to be a paying subscriber to hear it…

      …which is why I included it, for those who don’t want to buy all the songs or put their own list together, they can just listen to mine.

      And yes, if someone buys through my links, I will get a small commission from Amazon (and I’ll be psyched!). The price for the buyer remains the same.

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