Songs about redemption *other* than "Redemption Song?"
December 8, 2009 4:37 PM   Subscribe

I'd love suggestions for a song about redemption that isn't Marley's "Redemption Song."

I was just asked to sing at a benefit dinner my friend is organizing this Saturday... it's for a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides housing and reentry support to women who were formally incarcerated. She requested that I sing a song about "redemption" and I immediately thought of "Redemption Song," but realized while practicing that the opening lyrics make it a potentially problematic song for a white guy to sing. (Specifically: Old pirates, yes, they rob I/Sold I to the merchant ships/Minutes after they took I/From the bottomless pit.) Even though I think it works on a metaphorical level I'm worried that my singing those lyrics would come off as insensitive and douchey. Plus, I don't want people to give the friend who asked me to sing any grief over it.

So, my question is twofold:

1. Am I overthinking this? My main objective here is to be sensitive, but I wouldn't mind being convinced that singing Marley's song is fine (mostly because it's fucking gorgeous and fits my voice ridiculously well).

2. Assuming that I go with my instinct and find another song, any ideas? It can be religious or not, although I'd prefer that songs with religious/spiritual overtones be appropriate for an interfaith sort of event. I'll be accompanying myself on either guitar or piano so it ideally wouldn't be something too difficult to play. It can be vocally challenging though. Range doesn't really matter; I'm a tenor with a wide range and an excellent falsetto, and would transpose whatever song I pick into a suitable range anyway. (To give you idea of range: I was practicing "Redemption Song" up a step, in A, and it worked nicely.) An "outside the box" suggestion would be ideal.

posted by the_bone to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Amazing Grace. It is the biggie in English.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:40 PM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Sam Cooke's 'A Change is Gonna Come'?
posted by Abiezer at 4:45 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Johnny Cash made an album called Redemption Songs, and off that album I think the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" would be both lovely and appropriate for the event. (It's an old song - youtube has some other versions you can check out).
posted by bonsai forest at 4:48 PM on December 8, 2009

"Starting A New Life," by Van Morrison, might work for your purposes. (Wonderful thing you and your friend are doing for these women, btw. Kudos to you both!)
posted by arachnid at 4:50 PM on December 8, 2009

"Transit" by Richard Shindell may be too long for your purposes, but it's a fantastic song and (I think) "outside the box". Good luck finding something!
posted by epj at 4:52 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

And it's about a men's choir in a prison! Not as perfect as if it were women in prison (or if I had added this detail in my first comment), but fitting all the same.
posted by epj at 4:53 PM on December 8, 2009

Joe Strummer sang 'Redemption Song' and received no grief, as far as I know. Then again, it's Joe Strummer.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 4:55 PM on December 8, 2009

Johnny Cash - I'm Free Form The Chaingang Now

Bob Dylan - I Shall Be Released

Alternatively, it's not really about redemption, but I think Bridge Over Troubled Waters might be good if you interpret it as being sung from the point of view of the non-profit:

"Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way "


"I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down "
posted by Midnight Rambler at 5:56 PM on December 8, 2009

I think you can't go wrong with "Amazing Grace."
posted by fantine at 6:42 PM on December 8, 2009

Bob Dylan, "I Shall Be Released"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:50 PM on December 8, 2009

One more Johnny Cash recommendation - Like A Soldier
posted by IanMorr at 7:22 PM on December 8, 2009

Feeling Good by Nina Simone. Lyrics here. Not specifically about redemption, but "It's a new dawn, It's a new day, It's a new life for me" seems appropriate.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:57 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Free at Last by Jeff Black off the Tin Lilly Album
posted by captainsohler at 8:28 PM on December 8, 2009

Amazing Grace was my first thought as well.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:38 PM on December 8, 2009

Not to dump on Amazing Grace, which is a pretty song and has its place, but I'm not sure formerly-incarcerated women looking for housing want to be told they're wretches who need saving.
posted by threeants at 4:01 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's a vote for "you're overthinking it." Redemption Song works perfectly metaphorically, and I can't imagine anyone being bothered by it.

Failing that, tho, how about "Forgiveness" by Patty Griffin?
posted by jbickers at 4:18 AM on December 9, 2009

Would the Beatles "Blackbird" fit your needs?
posted by drlith at 6:14 AM on December 9, 2009

Presence of the Lord?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:38 AM on December 9, 2009

Stairway to Heaven is about redemption, though it's a little subtle and a lot long.
posted by Dasein at 9:35 AM on December 9, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, fantastic answers!

It ended up being kind of a coin toss between "I Shall Be Released" and "You'll Never Walk Alone." I think I'm gonna go with the latter song because I know it better, and it's surprisingly lovely as a ballad with acoustic guitar as it turns out.

But seriously, these are all great answers. I kind of want to co-opt the event and do all of these as a set.
posted by the_bone at 7:28 PM on December 9, 2009

Richard Thompson does a nice cover of "You'll Never Walk Alone," if you didn't know that already.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:23 AM on December 10, 2009

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