As with the central figure in these gospel songs, Elvis acquired a great multitude of followers over whom he exercised great influence. It therefore seems inevitable that these disciples of the King of Rock-and-Roll cross, on occasion, the musical road of the King of Kings.
Some JC r-‘n’-r tunes are respectful. Others watch intently and ask cosmic questions. Still others resonate with the kind of spiritualism that comes after a chemical conversion. We gather now to properly worship 13 awesome rock-and-roll noises made to the Lord.
“Jesus Is Fine” – Doobie Brothers (1972)
Sound writing: “Jesus, he’s my friend, Jesus, he’s my friend/He took me by the hand, led me away from this earth/Jesus, he’s my friend/Jesus is fine with me, Jesus I’m fine, oh yeah!”
Rock of Ages: The Doobie Brothers’ funky jazz-tinged boogie “Jesus Is Just Alright” is actually a cover of a version recorded by the Byrds in 1969 for the Easy Rider soundtrack, which, in turn, was adapted from the 1966 gospel original by the Art Reynolds Singers.
stripperThe 2013 version of “Jesus Is Just Alright” is exactly the divine praise one hopes to hear from the world’s most famous and proudest Christian heavy metal band.
“The Spirit in the Sky” – Norman Greenbaum
Sound writing: “Get ready, you know it’s a must / Gotta have a friend in Jesus / So you know when you die / He’ll commend you / Spirit in heaven”
Rock of Ages: Long-haired singer-songwriter Norman Greenbaum (who, interestingly, was raised in Orthodox Jewry and remains observant) became a one-time hit wonder in 1969-70 thanks to the “Spirit in the Sky” sold two million copies – and what a hit it is!
Combining irresistible handclaps, fuzz guitar and hippie-trippy lyrics about fellowship with JC and his pop off that deadly reel, “Spirit in the Sky” is a psychedelic masterpiece. Who knows how many chemically-enhanced cosmic awakenings he’s sparked? Ah, yes: the Spirit in Heaven knows who it is!
In 1986, act of the new wave doctor and doctors scored a hit with a neo-psych version of “Spirit in the Sky”, even going to No. 1 in the UK. As with Norman Greenbaum, this was the band’s one-time visit to the pop charts.
“Sympathy for the Devil” – Rolling Stones (1968)
Sound writing: “And I was there when Jesus Christ / Had his moment of doubt and pain / Made sure that Pilate / Washed his hands and sealed his fate.”
Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stones’ Satanic Samba forever burns as one of rock’s most hellish anthems, with Mick Jagger taking on the role of the aristocratic title character and arrogantly boasting of his cursed and damning deeds throughout human history. .
Racking up atrocities from the Russian Revolution to World War II to the Kennedy assassinations, Lucifer (who turns out to be the name the singer keeps asking us to guess) naturally begins by bragging about how he has made him sweat and worry about Christ in the Desert, then convinced the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (who signed J.C.’s execution) to condemn himself to eternal despair.
“Sympathy for the Devil” is dark, it’s grim, and, damn it, can you ever dance to it.
“The Ballad of John and Yoko” – Beatles (1969)
Sound writing: “God, you know it ain’t easy/you know how hard it can be/and the way things go/they’ll crucify me.”
Rock of Ages: John Lennon recounts his immediate post-wedding woes in the up-tempo Beatles hit “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” which he composed while on his honeymoon with new bride Yoko Ono. The couple have traveled first class across Europe, encountered hassles crossing borders, been harassed by paparazzi and the press, and staged their “Lie Down for Peace” to cheers and boos from around the world in all expected circles.
For John Lennon, all this brouhaha felt like putting a cross to his own inevitable persecution and doom. Rock star ego or weird prophecy? Anyway, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” is a great track.
“Jesus Just Left Chicago” – ZZ Top (1973)
Sound writing: “Jesus just left Chicago and he’s bound for New Orleans/Well now/Jesus just left Chicago and he’s bound for New Orleans/Working end to end and all the dots in between/He jumped across the Mississippi, well, muddy water turned to wine”
Rock of Ages: As an all-time great classic rock one-two punchZZ Top’s “Waiting for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago” sets the savior on a slow-burning cross-country journey that follows the road of the blues itself.
Jesus begins in Chicago, performs miracles in Mississippi en route to New Orleans, then continues to transform the landscape all the way to California.
“You might see him in person, but he’ll still see you,” sings Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top’s front beard. “You don’t have to worry, because taking care of business is his game.”
“Jesus Christ Pose” – Soundgarden (1991)
Sound writing: “Arms outstretched / In your pose of Jesus Christ / Thorns and shroud / As if it were the coming of the Lord / And I swear to you / That I will never make you suffer / But you look at me / As if I sink the nails / In your pose of Jesus Christ »
In the year that grunge broke out, Soundgarden came out with “Jesus Christ Pose”, the lead single from their breakthrough 1991 album. badmotorfinger.
Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell said the song attacked the notion of people in very good positions by using religious symbols, particularly Jesus Christ, to forge the idea that they were some kind of oppressed heroes. In an interview, Cornell even named Jane’s Addiction leader Perry Farrell a self-proclaimed martyr.
“You often see it with really beautiful people or famous people, exploiting that symbol to imply that they are either a deity or are persecuted in some way by their audience,” Cornell said.
One can only wonder what Cornell might have thought of “The Ballad of John and Yoko”.
“Personal Jesus” – Depeche Mode (1989)
Sound writing: “Your personal Jesus/Someone to hear your prayers/Someone who cares/Your own personal Jesus/Someone to hear your prayers/Someone who’s there”
Rock of Ages: The best-known bum trip of England’s supreme doom-and-gloomsters Depeche Mode features an atypical (for them) bluesy guitar riff and was oddly inspired by Elvis and mea tell-all 1985 book by the King’s ex-Queen, Priscilla Presley.
Depeche Mode songwriter Martin Gore explains: “It’s a song about being a Jesus to someone else, someone who gives you hope and Warning. It’s about how Elvis Presley was his man and mentor and how often that happens in romantic relationships; how everyone’s heart looks like a god in some way, and that’s not a very balanced view of someone, is it? »
“Jesus was an only son” – Bruce Springsteen (2005)
Sound writing: Well, Jesus was an only son / As he climbed the hill of Calvary / His mother Mary walked by his side / On the path where his blood flowed
Rock of Ages: The New Jersey boss bluntly recounts the passion of Christ in ‘Jesus Was an Only Son’, a moving song from his 2005 collection, Devils and Dust. Springsteen focuses on the human element of the Savior’s self-sacrifice on the cross emphasizing Christ’s loving relationship with his mother Mary. Bruce’s tender words and heartfelt performance really hammer all of those points home (no pun intended, we swear to… nevermind).
“Superstar” – Murray Head (1970)
Sound writing: “Tell me what you think of your friends at the top/Now who do you think was the best of the harvest?/Was Buddha where he is?/Is he where you are?/Mohammed could he move a mountain/ Or was it just PR?”
Rock of Ages: Before it hit Broadway or became a musical, Jesus Christ Superstar was born in 1970 as a concept album on which Ian Gillan of Deep Purple sang the title role. In turn, the English performer Murray Head interprets Judas, the anti-hero of radical rock opera.
The production’s semi-titled showstopper, “Superstar” opens with a fifteen-bar orchestral outburst that instantly became a cultural touchstone on par with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
From there, “Superstar” erupts into a soulful, funkadelic, wah-wah guitar boogie in which Judas blasts JC with hard-hitting theological questions, the most familiar of which is contained in the chorus: “Jesus Christ Superstar/Who are you what have you sacrificed?/Jesus Christ Superstar/Will you become what they say you are?” The show, ostensibly, offers no definitive answer.
“Jesus” – Queen (1973)
Sound writing: “Then a man came before his feet, he fell / Unclean said the leper and rang his bell / Felt the palm of a hand touch his head / Go now go now you’re a new man instead / All come down to see the Lord Jesus”
Rock of Ages: “Jesus” is a very Queen anthem on a somewhat surprising subject for the group. Singer Freddy Mercury, who was raised as a Zoroastrian and adhered to no religion that limited notions of life’s pleasures, sings a full-throated salute to the Prince of Peace.
The “Jesus” of the Queen’s Jesus heals the sick, comforts the poor and was born in Bethlehem to be a leader of men. Courtesy of the band, he also rocks hard.
Mike “McBeardo” McPadden is the author of Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Heartbreaking Big Scream Movies for Ears and Eyes! (Bazillion points).