O come all Ye’s faithful! Such have been the messianic pronouncements of Kanye West in the past that you might have expect Jesus himself to be asked: ‘Do you have a Kanye complex?’ But now, since the beginning of the year, he’s affirmed his commitment to his religion by hosting regular ‘Sunday Service’ events in the US performing gospel versions of his hits backed by a choir and has composed an album of Christian music entitled ‘Jesus Is King’. To celebrate, here are 10 god-centric tracks that prove the devil doesn’t always posses the best tunes.
Kanye West, ‘Jesus Walks’
What’s the good word? Taken from his debut album ‘The College Dropout’, released 15 years ago, ‘Jesus Walks’ drew praise for addressing Kanye’s religion in hip-hop, silencing doubters who advised him that rapping about his faith would prove a barrier to chart success.
Most godly bit: ‘So here go my single, dog, radio needs this/They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus/That means guns, sex, lies, videotape/But if I talk about god my record won’t get played, huh?’
The Beach Boys, ‘God Only Knows’
Mostly godly bit: It was one of the first pop songs to include ‘God’ in its title; and the band fretted it wouldn’t receive airplay – and be viewed as “square” – because of this.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, ‘Into My Arms’
What’s the good word? Written in the wake of the break-up of his long term relationship with Viviane Carneiro and his brief one with PJ Harvey, this aching, haunting love song opens Cave’s 1997 album ‘The Boatman’s Call’. A paean to loss and sorrow, he played it at the funeral of his friend Michael Hutchence.
Most godly bit: The powerful opening: ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God / But I know, darling, that you do / But if I did I would kneel down and ask him / Not to intervene when it came to you.’
Morrissey, ‘I Have Forgiven Jesus’
What’s the good word? Taken from his 2004 ‘You Are The Quarry’ album, notorious grudge-hoarder Morrissey turns the other cheek – while keeping his tongue firmly in it. Channelling his Irish Catholic upbringing, it tells the story of repressed lust – as Mozza forgives Jesus for filling him with desire but shackling him to celibacy. Mind you, while he may have absolved God Jr of his sins, given Morrissey’s increasingly problematic views, it wouldn’t be a surprise if even Jesus (holy) ghosted him.
Most godly bit: The video – released in the run-up to Christmas for maximum piss-taking points – where Morrissey dresses as a priest, replete with clerical collar and rosary beads.
The Source ft. Candi Staton, ‘You Got the Love’
What’s the good word? Known as the disco diva behind ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, Candi Staton’s best days were considered behind her when she originally agreed to record ‘You Got The Love’ for a 1980s documentary about a morbidly obese man trying to lose weight. Fast-forward to 1991 and the track became an unexpected UK Top Five hit and has remained a ubiquitous rave anthem. Her gospel-tinged vocals – coupled with the fact she re-discovered God in 1982 and has released religious albums in parallel to a career in secular music – makes it sound like she’s appealing to a higher power. Florence and the Machine covered it in 2009, going all Grammarly on its ass by tweaking the title to ‘You’ve Got the Love’.
Most godly bit: The euphoric, spiritual lyrics: “Sometimes I feel like saying Lord I just don’t care/ But you’ve got the love I need to see me through’. Even Richard Dawkins would be helplessly throwing his hands up in the air.
Kiss, ‘God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II’
What’s the good word? One of the persistent (but debunked rumours) about Kiss was that their name was an acronym for ‘Kids in Satan’s Service’. This blustery power ballad – which soundtracked the 1991 film Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – was a cover of 1973 song by Argent. Out of greasepaint, Gene Simmons and co genuflect at the alter of rock: ‘God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you/put it in the soul of everyone!’. Famously, you can purchase Kiss koffins, to aid that journey to meeting your rock ‘n’ roll-bestowing maker.
Most godly bit: Paul Stanley’s bonkers sermon at the denouement raises the ludicrousness to Biblical proportions. ‘I know life sometimes can get tough!,” he hollers. ‘And I know life sometimes can be a drag! But people, we have been given a gift, we have been given a road and that road’s name is… rock and roll!” Lighters in the air!
The Byrds, ‘Jesus Is Just Alright’
What’s the good word? One of The Byrds’ best known songs, 1965’s ‘Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)’ contains lyrics taken from the chapter three of the Book of Ecclesiastes. In 1969 they ramped up the Ned Flanders-isms by covering this 1966 ode to the son of God, originally by The Art Reynolds Singers.
Most godly bit: ‘Jesus is just all right with me/Jesus is just all right, oh yeah’ repeated.
Ministry, ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’
What’s the good word? Appearing on Ministry’s 1992 album ‘Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs’, ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’ sounds like the Crazy Frog gone speed-metal – with nonsensical lyrics like ‘ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long’.
Most godly bit: The beginning: ‘Soon I discovered that this rock thing was true/Jerry Lee Lewis was the devil/Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet’, which sounds like a spam email you’d receive before the charming African Prince asks you to transfer £500 into his account.
John Lennon, ‘God’
What’s the good word? The man who once proclaimed that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus declared ‘the dream is over’ in ‘God’, the penultimate track on 1970’s ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ album. Written while he was undergoing primal scream therapy, it’s a kiss-off to the optimism of the decade before and a sour sayonara to The Beatles, as he offers up a Christmas card list of things he doesn’t believe in, including magic, the Bible, Hitler, Jesus, Buddha, Elvis and Zimmerman – adding: ‘I was the Walrus but now I’m John’.
Most godly bit: The title. And the curtain-raising line ‘God is a concept/By which we measure/Our pain’ certainly sets the tone.
Johnny Cash, ‘Personal Jesus’
What’s the good word? Johnny Cash hailed his 2002 cover of the Depeche Mode classic as “probably the most evangelical gospel song I ever recorded”, stripping it of its synth-pop sheen and transforming it into an evangelical turning it into a quest for spiritual fulfilment. You might assume the only Bible that ‘Mode singer Dave Gahan owned was a hollowed out one for passing through customs, but the Man In Black sells it as devotional.
Most godly bit: “Lift up the receiver/I’ll make you a believer”, sounding like he should be commanding a cult of sackcloth-and-ashes disciples.