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Good modern songs aboot God.
October 17, 2005 6:08 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the most overtly religious modern pop/rock/mainstream songs that sound great, and more importantly believable, in their devotion rather than jusy cringeworthy or preachy? Preachy titles also welcomed for comparison.
posted by fire&wings to Media & Arts (70 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Gloria" by U2. Listening to it almost makes me a believer again... almost. Great, great song.
posted by scody at 6:20 PM on October 17, 2005


Todd Snider "Somebody's Coming" and also "Alot More." (Windows Media links to the snippets from Amazon--which was not worth the bother, actually.)

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee "Big Wind (Is A' Commin')," "Jesus Gonna Make It Alright," and "God And Man" all from this album.
posted by LarryC at 6:25 PM on October 17, 2005


Scody already mentioned U2, but how about "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" and "When Love Comes to Town?"
posted by MiG at 6:26 PM on October 17, 2005


Holy crap that's an amazing album, LarryC.

How recent do you mean by "modern"? Like, on the Top 40 charts this year? Or can we go back a few decades? It's a bit obvious, but I'd nominate Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," in the latter case.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:28 PM on October 17, 2005


" I Still Haven't Found what I'm Looking For," by U2 (if only for the "I believe in kingdom come..." verse).

"Every Grain Of Sand," by Bob Dylan

"If I Give My Heart To Jesus," by Billy Joe Shaver, simply for it's realistic, humble portrait of what a religious awakening or conversion often is like from what I'm told.

"Redemption Song," and "Get Up Stand Up" by Bob marley & the Wailers
posted by jonmc at 6:28 PM on October 17, 2005


Time has Come Today - the Chambers Brothers
posted by seawallrunner at 6:28 PM on October 17, 2005


Post 1940
posted by fire&wings at 6:30 PM on October 17, 2005


"People Get Ready," Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions (and countless cover versions, none of which ruin it, it's that good of a song).
posted by jonmc at 6:32 PM on October 17, 2005


"There's A Higher Power" Louvin Brothers

(and everything I've offered thus far is post-1940, just so ya know)
posted by jonmc at 6:33 PM on October 17, 2005


Was answering "How recent do you mean by "modern"?"

Keep em coming, any genre will do.
posted by fire&wings at 6:34 PM on October 17, 2005


On a non-christian theme:
Shambala - Three Dog Night
Babaji - Supertramp
Christian theme:
Jesus is just alright with me - Doobie Brothers
posted by alteredcarbon at 6:35 PM on October 17, 2005


Savatage's Believe just almost makes me.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:39 PM on October 17, 2005


"My Jesus Told Me So," Marshall Tucker Band
"Trials, Troubles, Tribulations," Maria Muldaur & John Fahey
"Yeild Not To Temptation," "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray" Womack Brothers
"Touch The Hem Of His Garment" Soul Stirrers
"I Saw The Light," Hank Williams
"Jesus Is A Soul Man" Lawrence Reynolds
"Wade In The Water" " Uncloudy Day" Staple Singers
posted by jonmc at 6:42 PM on October 17, 2005


Oh, and "40" by U2 as well. It's actually a version of Psalm 40.
posted by MiG at 6:43 PM on October 17, 2005


"Didn't It Rain" Mahalia Jackson
"Jesus On The Mainline," Dorothy Love Coates & the Original Gospel Harmonettes
posted by jonmc at 6:44 PM on October 17, 2005


"Jesus Christ," Woody Guthrie and U2's cover
posted by jonmc at 6:48 PM on October 17, 2005


"Bless His Ever-Loving Heart" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

"New Morning" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
posted by bunglin jones at 6:49 PM on October 17, 2005


The Housemartins do great a capella versions of "People Get Ready," "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," and "Caravan of Love."

I was never a big fan of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," but I love the live version with a gospel choir that U2 did in Rattle and Hum.

Dubiously-Christian theme: ZZ Top, "Jesus Just Left Chicago"

Would Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" be cringeworthy or preachy? Just trying to define one end of the scale.

The faithful stylings of Senator Orrin Hatch.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:51 PM on October 17, 2005


Bruce Cockburn: Wondering Where the Lions Are (interview re: his leftist Christianity)
XTC: Dear God (a "breaking up with God" song, but nonethless expresses the passion of devotion ...)
Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah (also perhaps ambiguous in terms of devotion, but worth it for the "remember when I moved in you/the holy dark was moving too/and every breath we drew/ was hallelujah" bit -- real Christianity, not the church kind, and from a Jew to boot)
posted by Rumple at 6:54 PM on October 17, 2005


Is seven swans what you're looking for?
posted by kickingtheground at 6:56 PM on October 17, 2005


The Violent Femmes have a few good gospel songs. You might try Jesus Walking on the Water off their Hallowed Ground CD
posted by Staggering Jack at 6:58 PM on October 17, 2005


Remember when the Violent Femmes found God? Their version of "Jesus Walking on the Water" is poppy yet sincere. I seem to recall that Palace Brothers/Will Oldham/Palace Music/Bonny Prince Billy went through a more religious phase but I can't track down any one in specific. Lessons From What's Poor always struck me that way though.
posted by jessamyn at 6:59 PM on October 17, 2005


Kanye West, "Jesus Walks". This may not be 'mainstream' enough, but Sufjan Stevens' Seven Swans is full of religious references; he's loosely affiliated with the Danielson Famile, who form the core of a whole indie-Christian gang (see their record label at http://www.soundsfamilyre.com/soundsfamilyre/). And the Byrd's Sweetheart of the Rodeo (the album they did with Graham Parsons) has some solid Christianity-based songs including a cover of the aforementioned Louvin Brothers' "The Christian Life".
posted by Gortuk at 7:07 PM on October 17, 2005


Everything by Bruce Cockburn. Well, maybe not that song about the IMF.

"Wondering Where the Lions Are," sure, and "Isn't That What Friends are For" is fantastic.
posted by Jeanne at 7:13 PM on October 17, 2005


"My Sweet Lord" - George Harrison
posted by contessa at 7:18 PM on October 17, 2005


Soul Stirrers in general, though I think they're best known for their pre-solo-Sam Cooke work. Also, Five Blind Boys of Alabama (they cut an album just last year that's a bit hit or miss but when they hit--wow). Off that album there's a cover of "Spirit in the Sky," which is better in the original. Spiritualized is largely about Christianity too, though of course they're not averse to crises of faith (e.g. the excellent but thoroughly depressing "Lord, Can You Hear Me?")
posted by Tuwa at 7:28 PM on October 17, 2005


Bury My Body by The Animals. Almost makes you cry.
posted by klangklangston at 7:40 PM on October 17, 2005


Um, before there was U2 there was one Van Morrison. Far too many songs but one of my favorites is his soulful take on the old hymn "Be Thou My Vision" and his sublime duet with Cliff Richard "Whenever Gods Shines His Light".
posted by Ber at 7:46 PM on October 17, 2005


Not very mainstream, but anything by Matisyahu is my reccomendation.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:47 PM on October 17, 2005


sufjan stevens or mae?
posted by chuckforthought.com at 7:47 PM on October 17, 2005


"Man in the Corner Shop" The Jam
"Colors and the Kids" Cat Power
posted by bardic at 8:10 PM on October 17, 2005


Bob Dylan went thru a whole phase of born-again Xianity, and of course the quality of his songcraft suffered. That said, You Gotta Serve Somebody, from Slow Train Coming, is a fantastic song.
posted by ashbury at 8:10 PM on October 17, 2005


The Clash's Sound of the Sinners. It's really just an attempt to get another genre into Sandinista!, but it works. Well.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:13 PM on October 17, 2005


Cat Stevens, who of course turned to Islam, was very spiritual in much of his early work. Peace Train, On the Road to Find Out, and one my favorites (altho it has no mention of God, Allah, Jesus and etc) Trouble, just to name a few.
posted by ashbury at 8:19 PM on October 17, 2005


"Spirit in the Sky" -- Norman Greenbaum
"All You Zombies" -- Hooters
posted by forrest at 8:23 PM on October 17, 2005


Not very mainstream, but anything by Matisyahu is my reccomendation.

Every time someone mentions him, I'm kind of mad at myself for not seeing him (for free!) when I had the chance.

I want to say Vielleicht, by Söhne Mannheims, but it is unfortunately in German. It doesn't mention anyone by name, but it's kind of obvious. Actually, most of their songs are overtly religious. At least, the ones I've heard.
posted by oaf at 8:39 PM on October 17, 2005


"Jerusalem Tomorrow," by Emmylou Harris.
posted by booth at 8:45 PM on October 17, 2005


"Carry On My Wayward Son" by Kansas.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:07 PM on October 17, 2005


judee sill and laura nyro both referenced various religious concepts in their records ... although it's kind of hard to figure some of it out

but laura's "timer", "save the country" and "time and love" certainly have something to say ... although she also did "captain st lucifer" ... much later, she sang about the goddess

lots of early bruce cockburn ... and "oh, happy day" by the edward hawkins singers ... i also have a fondness for pacific gas and electric's "are you ready", because of the guitar solo ...

in the seventies there was a explicitly christian group called rez that did a couple of decent, thoughtful and fairly hard rocking albums

there's a popular christian artist named carman that i find very preachy and musically vapid

also, norman greenbaum's "spirit in the sky" album is not really gospel ... and worth listening to ... it's not all fuzz rock
posted by pyramid termite at 9:19 PM on October 17, 2005


and how could i forget to mention "amazing grace" by aretha franklin? ... recorded live in church ... and yes, it's everything you'd expect it to be
posted by pyramid termite at 9:22 PM on October 17, 2005


Down in the Hole - Tom Waits
seconding Gotta Serve Somebody - Dylan
Run to Jesus for Refuge - Charles Burnett
some of Pedro the Lion's early stuff (Hymn in particular)
I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord - Peerless Four

I seem to recall that Palace Brothers/Will Oldham/Palace Music/Bonny Prince Billy went through a more religious phase but I can't track down any one in specific.

Not that I recall, though he did write some "religiousy" lyrics ("God is what I make of him" and "Idle hands are the devil's playthings" both come to mind immediately. "I was Drunk at the Pulpit" is another but I don't think what the poster is looking for)
posted by dobbs at 9:23 PM on October 17, 2005


Nobody's mentioned Live yet? I was pretty surprised when Top 100 Clearchannel stations played songs with lyrics like these:

Selling the Drama: "and to love a god / and to fear a flame".

Heaven: "I don't need no one to tell me about heaven / I look at my daughter, and I believe. / I don't need no proof when it comes to God and truth / I can see the sunset and I perceive"
posted by exhilaration at 9:25 PM on October 17, 2005


Leonard Cohen - If It Be Your Will
posted by Hildago at 9:38 PM on October 17, 2005


I like Lifehouse's "Breathing" and "Hanging By a Moment".
posted by roaring beast at 9:49 PM on October 17, 2005


Did I Tell You Lately that I Love You? By Van Morrison. Just about anything by the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Stairway to Heaven come to mind.
posted by faceonmars at 10:43 PM on October 17, 2005


Personal Jesus, too. I like Johnny's version.
posted by faceonmars at 10:44 PM on October 17, 2005


Al Green - Belle. Don't know if that counts as modern, or pop, but there you go.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:05 AM on October 18, 2005


Jesus is Just Alright - Doobie Brothers.
posted by sic at 1:06 AM on October 18, 2005


Peter Gabriel's Passion is not overtly religious, although it was the soundtrack to Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ, and listening to it is akin to a religious experience.
posted by sic at 1:07 AM on October 18, 2005


Donnie McClurkin - We Fall Down

Railroad Earth - Lordy Lordy

Robert Randolph and the Family Band - Going in the Right Direction

Common - Geto Heaven (remix feat Macy Gray)

They're all songs of redemption.
posted by euphorb at 1:18 AM on October 18, 2005


Joan Osborne has a trio of religious songs on her Relish album. "Dracula Moon" is actually about drug addiction and contains the refrain "I'm just falling from grace," so maybe not what you're looking for, but to me, it's just as God-centered as any hymn you care to name. Conversely, I personally don't care for "One of Us," though it was rather popular there for a while. But "Ladder" is about the baddest ass love song to God that you're ever likely to hear from a Christian.

There's also Emmylou Harris's "A Ways to Go."

The Indigo Girls have several overtly religious songs, including "Prince of Darkness" and "Center Stage," but my favorite is "Secure Yourself to Heaven."
posted by Clay201 at 1:27 AM on October 18, 2005


Pedro the Lion did a great cover of Be Thou My Vision. In the words of a friend, "Painful, like he's a hollowed-out man, and all he has left to hold onto is Jesus."

Although I like the U2 songs mentioned upthread, I think I like Yahweh off of HTDAAB (their latest) the most.

Johnny Cash has a wonderful song on one of the last albums he did, called (I'm pretty sure) The Lord Comes Around. Riffs off of Revelation heavily. And Isaiah. But then, so did Revelation itself.

The Innocence Mission does a great cover of John Denver's Follow Me, which, although really a love song, can be easily interpreted (knowing their background) as a song of faith.

There are some good punk bands that have Christian (if that's what you're looking for) foundations, my favorites being MxPx and Brandtson. Brandtson's Things Look Brighter is very good and sing-along-able.
posted by Alt F4 at 4:39 AM on October 18, 2005


Apparently, Ben Harper did a gospel album, too.
posted by Alt F4 at 4:41 AM on October 18, 2005


Alt F4 - the Johnny Cash song is actually "The Man Comes Around", from the album "American IV: The Man Comes Around" - but the Man in question is definitely "the Lord".
posted by Gortuk at 5:25 AM on October 18, 2005


"Towards Babylon" by Behemoth. Very poppy and fun.
posted by baphomet at 6:39 AM on October 18, 2005


Well, if you don't mind a bit of housed-up gospel try Gloworm and Carry me Home.

By the way everyone, what a great thread.
posted by fingerbang at 7:42 AM on October 18, 2005


Gortuk already suggested Kanye West's Jesus Walks, but here's a link to the video for it.
posted by yankeefog at 7:47 AM on October 18, 2005


Solsbury Hill -Peter Gabriel
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet -Gavin Bryars
just about anything by The Waterboys
posted by bricoleur at 7:54 AM on October 18, 2005


Oops--the webpage I linked to now seems to have a broken link for the Kanye West video. Try this one (goes straight to a WMV link.)
posted by yankeefog at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2005


Oops, Gavin Bryars isn't exactly mainstream. OK, how about Van Morrison, Full Force Gale.
posted by bricoleur at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2005


Sufjan Steven's Casimir Pulaski Day, from Illinois, is a brilliant meditation on how sometimes the Lord just takes away, and it's an unsolvable mystery. One of the highlights from a fantastic album.
posted by jokeefe at 10:37 AM on October 18, 2005


Catchy and yet touching: Dwight Yoakum and Maria McKee's version of "Bury Me".

Much of Iron & Wine's music seems spiritual to me; one obvious example would be "On Your Wings" from the "Endless Numbered Days" album.

The Shins song "Young Pilgrims" is a meditation on what the world feels like without belief in G_d (from the other side of the fence but now without a little wistfulness).

I'm on a Peter Paul and Mary kick right now and really love their version of "A'Soalin'" which is almost a christmas carol.
posted by macinchik at 11:19 AM on October 18, 2005


Paula Cole, "Amen."
posted by ottereroticist at 11:54 AM on October 18, 2005


Alt F4 - the Johnny Cash song is actually "The Man Comes Around", from the album "American IV: The Man Comes Around" - but the Man in question is definitely "the Lord".

Oops.

My wife: "are you sure it's called that?" Me: "Yes, yes; let me post. Rar."

Thanks for correcting me, and for vindicating my wife.
posted by Alt F4 at 12:05 PM on October 18, 2005


Thanks to everyone who posted, there is about a months work here! FWIW I posted this after listening to Jesus Walks by Kanye West, postulating that most credible music about any relationship with god comes from hip hop/rap.
posted by fire&wings at 3:46 PM on October 18, 2005


Randy Travis has a reasonably new song called "Three Wooden Crosses" (they're not quite the crosses you think they are).
posted by jlkr at 6:44 PM on October 18, 2005


"
Not very mainstream, but anything by Matisyahu is my reccomendation.

Every time someone mentions him, I'm kind of mad at myself for not seeing him (for free!) when I had the chance."

You should be, he kills live.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:20 PM on October 18, 2005


Oh. Also, "Sorrow," by Bad Religion.
posted by Alt F4 at 2:53 PM on October 19, 2005


Creed - My Own Prison (and probably other stuff, although I don't currently have any other Creed handy to verify)

U2 - Yahweh & All Because of You

Jewel - Hands, Innocence Maintained

Anything from P.O.D or tobyMac, at least IMHO

Also, although not mainstream, check out Waterdeep
posted by kdavies at 9:51 AM on October 26, 2005


"Hallelujah", written by Leonard Cohen and performed by numerous others... Also, the song "Beautiful Day" by U2 is extremely spiritual, in an "accept your present circumstances and see the beauty in life" kind of way.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 3:44 AM on November 9, 2005


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