Church attendance figures in the United States can seem quite staggering to us, largely secular, limeys. Around 45% attend on a regular basis compared to just 7% in the UK. In addition, many other Americans strongly identify with Christianity, even if they are not regular church-goers. Furthermore, the South, from where much of the music we champion comes from, accounts for 11 of the top 12 states for highest level of active worship (the exception is Utah), each being higher than the national average.
The reason for highlighting these figures is to underline that writing, recording or performing a song that portrays Jesus in a lighthearted or frivolous way can be viewed by very many in the USA as blasphemous; even an act of defiance or sedition. So, for all you AUK non-believers out there, here are my ten selections of Jesus songs to cause Presbyterian palpitations. As ever, please add your own suggestions in the comments box at the foot of the page.
John Prine – ‘Jesus The Missing Years’
The final track on Prine’s 1991 ‘comeback’ album ‘The Missing Years’ in which Prine fills in Jesus’s movements in that period unaccounted for by the Bible.
Drive-By Truckers – ‘Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)’
From their 1999 sophomore album ‘Pizza Deliverance’ comes Patterson Hood’s savage attack on salvation-for-sale preachers.
Jim White – ‘If Jesus Drove a Motor Home’
Taken from his 2004 album ‘Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See’, White quite reasonably reflects on how much better a place the world would be if the Son of God was mobile.
Chuck Prophet – ‘Jesus Was a Social Drinker’
The ever-dependable ex-Green on Red guitarist concludes that for a variety of reasons, Jesus was actually a decent sort of chap. From the 2017 album ‘Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins’.
Tom Waits – ‘Chocolate Jesus’
Waits introduces this song live as being about an “immaculate confection”. In the wider sense it’s about the commercialisation of religion in America. From the equally immaculate 1999 ‘Mule Variations’ album.
Hayes Carll – ‘She Left Me For Jesus’
The closing track on Carll’s 2008 album ‘Trouble in Mind’ is possibly the funniest Jesus song on the planet. Sadly, the last time I saw him live, he said that it was becoming increasingly difficult to play it back home, and that he felt far more comfortable playing it in Europe.
Kris Kristofferson – ‘Jesus Was A Capricorn’
The title track to Kristofferson’s 1972 LP casts Jesus as a hippie and concludes that “Reckon we’d just nail him up, if he came down again”
The Beat Farmers – ‘Are You Drinking With Me Jesus?’
Taken from their 1994 album ‘Viking Lullabys’ Country Dick Montana’s California Cowpunks implore Jesus to “buy a friend a beer”.
Kinky Friedman – ‘They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore’
Kinky Friedman calls out racism and rejects the instruction to “turn the other cheek”. Taken from the 1994 ‘Kinky Friedman’ album
Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band- ‘Gimme A Ride To Heaven’
Finally, my personal favourite, as Terry Allen comes face-to-face with the son of God whilst out on the highway. From the 1983 album ‘Bloodlines’.