A groovier Sabbath

I home teach some young single guys, and for Christmas I put together a CD of interesting covers of the Christmas songs from our hymnbook. Last month, they said it would be great to have a rockin’ Sabbath album for the rest of the year. As I thought about it, it seemed to me there were a fair number of songs on my iPod with religious themes. Despite stories about Mick Jagger on an airplane or witnessing demonic possessions at concerts, rock and R&B musicians have explored Christian and more generally religious themes in a way that is inspiring and thoughtful. I decided to put together a playlist from my own collection, and I set up some rules:

  • the artist must be known for secular music generally, so no Christian rock or gospel choirs, as groovy as they might be.
  • the song had to be devotional, however vaguely, and with a minimum of irony. ‘Say a Little Prayer’ doesn’t qualify, nor does ‘Jesus, Etc.’ or ‘Dear God.’

Here’s what I came up with:

It Was Jesus / The Man Comes Around — Johnny Cash: There’s a lot of choice here, but I grew up singing ‘It Was Jesus’ with my sister, she doing the backup and me hitting the low bits. And ‘The Man Comes Around,’ well, enough said.

Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen: Admittedly this stretches the outer limits of the second rule, but in there is  a religious position I can identify and relate to.

Ring Them Bells — Bob Dylan: Again, the devotional aspect is fairly general, but still a song of praise.

God Is Love — Marvin Gaye. He recorded a fair amount of religious music, but this is by far my favorite.

I Can’t Wait To Meetchu — Macy Gray. I had this album and then heard a young woman quote the lyrics in a sacrament meeting talk, which made me listen a little more carefully.

Blessed to Be a Witness / Picture of Jesus — Ben Harper. Even if the lyrics use phrases and images that are not from my own tradition, the songs are great.

Amazing Grace/Nearer My God to Thee — Ladysmith Black Mambazo. There are many, many covers of Amazing Grace, but I’m a fan of LBM, and the ‘Nearer My God’ is a great addition.

You Are The Light — Lone Justice. They were an LA based alt-country band from the early 80s, and the lead singer Maria McKee had a solo career as well.

How Great Thou Art — Elvis Presley. This is, I think, the only song in our hymnbook covered by Elvis.

Jesus — Queen. This at the top of my list of songs MoTab ought to do.

Jesus was an Only Son — Bruce Springsteen. I’ve had the lyrics running through my head during the sacrament more than once.

Morning Has Broken — Cat Stevens. Well, yeah.

40 — U2: Lots, maybe too much, has been said about U2 and religion, but this was a revelation for the teenage me, and reminds me of that youthful discovery that religion could be approached from another angle.

Jesus Walking on the Water — Violent Femmes.

Jesus Gonna Be Here –Tom Waits. In these last two, both personal favorites, is a great range of religious expression fairly normal in the Christian world but not embraced by Mormonism. Our loss, really.

There are a few obvious songs I didn’t include out of personal taste, like ‘Jesus is Just Alright’ and ‘Spirit in the Sky,’ and I am not very familiar with contemporary country music which seems a likely source of devotional music. Considering the rules, any recommendations?


  1. Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment” is what first comes to mind.

    Sam Cooke began as a gospel singer and then went secular. So maybe that’s considered breaking rule #1.

  2. Norbert says:

    Very nice, danithew.

  3. Country music is full of songs that fit your criteria. The first one that comes to my mind is George Strait’s “I Saw God Today.”

  4. “Clean” by Depeche Mode has always been one of my favorites. Not explicitly religious, but could certainly be interpreted that way (and it is by me).

  5. You already covered Johnny Cash, but I love his version of “Were You There.” Haunting, spiritual, and beautiful.

    Twitter: @aljlmac

  6. (Oops, Twitter: @aljmac).

  7. Highway 61, Bob Dylan

  8. Sara Bay says:

    Van Morrison, or as he’s known in my house, Brother Morrison. Did You Get Healed, Whenever God Shines His Light on Me.

  9. How about Styx Come sail away ?

    I love Ladysmith Black mambazo

  10. I think Elvis also recorded “Rock of Ages” and “Nearer My God to Thee,” both in our hymnbook.

    Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand” must be on the list.

  11. Neko Case–John Saw That Number…absolutely fantastic.

  12. Low – The Lamb (About Joseph Smith)

    Alison Krauss & Union Station – A Living Prayer

    The Alarm – We Are the Light

    The Waterboys – Bring ‘Em All In

    The Who – Bargain (This song is about God, not a love interest.)

    Gillian Welch – By the Mark

    See also Rock of Ages and Orphan Girl

    I could suggest more but that’s good for now. :)

  13. Antonio Parr says:

    1. Virtually every song written by the great Bruce Cockburn;
    2. “Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan

  14. Antonio Parr says:

    (Bruce Cockburn’s “All the Diamonds”):

    All the diamonds in this world
    That mean anything to me
    Are conjured up by wind and sunlight
    Sparkling on the sea

    I ran aground in a harbour town
    Lost the taste for being free
    Thank God He sent some gull-chased ship
    To carry me to sea

    Two thousand years and half a world away
    Dying trees still grow greener when you pray

    Silver scales flash bright and fade
    In reeds along the shore
    Like a pearl in sea of liquid jade
    His ship comes shining
    Like a crystal swan in a sky of suns
    His ship comes shining.

  15. Naismith says:

    Prefer the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah.

    Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel.

    There Can Be Miracles from Disney’s Prince of Egypt has been covered by a zillion artists. Gotta be one rockin’ version.

    I don’t know if FRIENDS ARE FRIENDS FOREVER by Michael W. Smith counts as Christian–my local mainstream station plays it.

    Something from the O BROTHER WHERE OUT THOU? movie soundtrack–Alyson Krause, etc.

    I think FALLING SLOWLY from the Once soundtrack is very contemplative, and could be heard as a description of a conversion story.

  16. I put together a CD a while back with a bunch of “groovy” Sabbath songs. Going from memory, I think I had the following:

    “Jesus Is Just Alright With Me” by the Doobie Bros.

    “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 (that last stanza is the heart of the gospel as far as I’m concerned)

    “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum

    “To Every Season (Turn, Turn, Turn)” by the Byrds

    “Kyrie” by Mr Mister, though that one is a bit of a stretch, in spite of its title

    As to Johnny Cash, I’d recommend “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord,” which was a collaboration with the Carter Sisters. Cash is typically good on it, the Carter Sister who sings high soprano really makes this one worth listening to. She’s haunting.

  17. Norbert says:

    I can’t believe I forgot ‘Every Grain of Sand’ and The Waterboys!

    Susan M, I was hoping you’d contribute. I’ll go through those at my leisure.

    Antonio, I don’t know much from Cockburn, but that is lovely.

    Bryan, the Neko Case is great.

  18. Sheldon says:

    Just about anything from Joseph Spence’s “Glory” album. My favorite is his version of the THE OLD RUGGED CROSS.

  19. Norbert says:

    Prefer the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah.

    Hmm. I was about to declare heresy, but then I prefer the Aretha Franklin version of ‘Bridge.’ It’s not quite devotional enough for my list, though.

  20. “The 11th Commandment” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okeRuvG5inM)


    “What If Jesus Comes Back Like That” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOeugaIz2Mc&feature=related)

  21. Sorry, both of the songs in #20 are sung by Collin Raye.

  22. Somebody beat me to the Doobie Bros. cover of the Byrds “Jesus is Just Alright with Me”.

    I would also include a couple of songs off the Poco Legacy album, a reunion of the original band members. First is “Look Within”, a bluesy/gospel tune about prayer written and sung by Jim Messina, and “If it wasn’t for You” by Richie Furay, that at first appears to be a love song about a girl, but has much deeper spiritual roots.

  23. Antonio Parr says:

    Cockburn’s “All the Diamonds”:

    One of the great songs every written.

  24. Norbert, I can’t believe you’ve heard of the Waterboys!

    A few more I thought of (I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist more):

    Patty Griffin – Mary

    Jackson Browne – Looking East

    Bad Brains – House of Suffering

    In this house of suffering
    I gotta let some joy in
    I hear that freedom will win

    Oh where oh where can Jah love be now
    My dear, it’s here in the underground
    Inside the hearts of your own children

    In this house of suffering
    I spiritualogic grin, in
    One way grace is my friend
    To conquer doom and sin

    And all the nations lying
    While all our people crying
    And they stop at nothing

    In this house of suffering
    Don’t want but just one thing
    Got to have my origin
    In this house of suffering.

  25. lanfearl says:

    Get Me Right by Dashboard Confessional

  26. lanfearl says:

    Get Me Right by Dashboard Confessional

    But, Jesus I’ve fallen
    I don’t mind the rain if
    I meet my maker
    I’ll meet my maker clean

    But, Jesus the truth is
    I’ve struggled so hard to believe
    I’ll meet my maker
    I’ll need my maker

    To cure of my doubting blood
    And drain me of the sins I love
    And take from me my disbelief
    I know it should come easily
    But it remains inside of me
    It battles and devours me
    It cuddles up the side of me
    And whispers it convinces me I’m right..”

  27. Another comment in moderation. :)

  28. Would the cover of A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief by David Johansen count?

  29. Antonio Parr says:

    (I’ll stop, but need to include the following from cockburn):

    Cry of a Tiny Babe:

    Mary grows a child without the help of a man
    Joseph get upset because he doesn’t understand
    Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
    Says “God did this and you’re part of his scheme”
    Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
    Says “forgive me I thought you’d been with some other man”
    She says “what if I had been – but I wasn’t anyway and guess what
    I felt the baby kick today”

    Like a stone on the surface of a still river
    Driving the ripples on forever
    Redemption rips through the surface of time
    In the cry of a tiny babe

    The child is born in the fullness of time
    Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
    Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
    Get pretty close to wrecking everything
    ‘Cause the governing body of the whole [Holy] land
    Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
    Who when he hears there’s a baby born King of the Jews
    Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
    But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
    And they head out for the border and get away clean

    Like a stone on the surface of a still river
    Driving the ripples on forever
    Redemption rips through the surface of time
    In the cry of a tiny babe

    There are others who know about this miracle birth
    The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
    For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
    But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
    And the message is clear if you’ve got [you have] ears to hear
    That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
    It’s a Christmas gift [that] you don’t have to buy
    There’s a future shining in a baby’s eyes

    Like a stone on the surface of a still river
    Driving the ripples on forever
    Redemption rips through the surface of time
    In the cry of a tiny babe

    (T-Bone Burnett produced this one . . . )

  30. I’m so excited to listen to all of these!

  31. Antonio Parr says:

    He Reached Down
    by Iris Dement

    (Verse 1)
    A certain man one day did go down to Jericho
    Fallin’ among thieves along the way
    Well they stripped him then they fled
    Leaving him for dead
    Lying on the side of the road

    And then the priest came passing by
    He crossed over to the other side
    Then the Levite came and he did just the same
    When the Samaritan heard his cry
    He just could not pass on by
    He dressed his wounds and he carried to the nearest inn

    Well he reached down, he reached down
    He got right there on the ground
    He reached down, he reached down
    And he touched the pain

    He paid the keeper the amount that was due
    If you need more he said I’m good for that too
    He reached down, he reached down
    And he touched the pain

    (Verse 2)
    And then the Scribes in the Pharisees
    Brought the adultress in for Jesus to see
    Lord, she’s sinned, now the law says she must be stoned
    If there’s a one of you that’s without sin
    Said you can cast the first stone in
    One by one they left, leaving Jesus and the woman alone

    Well no accusers are left that I see
    And Woman, neither do I condemn thee
    He reached down, he reached down
    And he touched the pain

    (Verse 3)
    In the Book a little story is told
    About a traveler at the end of life’s road
    He’s at the gates of the Kingdom and the Master says “Come on in”
    For I was hungry and you gave me meat
    I was cold you put shoes on my feet
    When I was in prison there was you who come to see about me

    (Chorus – Modified)
    Well you reached down, you reached down
    You got right there on the ground
    You reached down, you reached down
    And you touched my pain

    When you’ve done it to the least of these
    He said you were doin’ it unto me
    You reached down, you reached down
    And you touched my pain

    Well he reached down, he reached down
    And he touched the pain

  32. Jesus Take The Wheel by Carrie Underwood

  33. Antonio Parr says:

    Last one (I promise . . . well, at least for now . . . ). By Julie Miller:

    “All My Tears”

    When I go don’t cry for me
    In my fathers arms I’ll be
    The wounds this world left on my soul
    Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

    Sun and moon will be replaced
    With the light of Jesus’ face
    And I will not be ashamed
    For my savior knows my name

    It don’t matter where you bury me
    I’ll be home and I’ll be free
    It don’t matter where I lay
    All my tears be washed away

    Gold and silver blind the eye
    Temporary riches lie
    Come and eat from heaven’s store
    Come and drink and thirst no more

    So weep not for me my friend
    When my time below does end
    For my life belongs to him
    Who will raise the dead again

    (This song was written for the late Mark Heard, perhaps the most underrated of all songwriters. Covered by Julie Miller and Emmylou Harris and others.)

  34. Oh! Oh! I have the BEST song. It’s my favourite song in the world.

    Foy Vance. Anyone heard of him? He’s so passionate and so talented. Irish. Great voice, great lyrics, great acoustic music that builds to a crescendo.

    Gabriel and the Vagabond. It’s poetic. (Lyrics not all accurate there.) It’s about (I think) the angel Gabriel visiting people who are down and out and bringing hope to them. It’s the most Christian song I’ve ever heard and it doesn’t even sound mawkish.

    My favourite part is when he says,

    “There was a young girl on the ground
    I knew she was finding it hard to cope
    She never was a fighter until he laid beside her
    And gently whispered hope”

    And when I hear that, I weep inside. It’s the way he quietly almost whispers the word “hope”. There’s just so much humanity and passion in this song.

    You can listen to it here. But I think the album version is better.

  35. Also, what about Son of a Preacher Man?


  36. Oops. Another HTML fail of mine. You can listen to Gabriel and the Vagabond here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4cjCuUQUwI

  37. Antonio Parr says:

    I lied: 2 more:

    Pierce Pettis is an absolutely brillian singer/songwriter.

    ©2001, Cal IV Songs / Slapfight Songs (ASCAP)
    All rights reserved, International copyright secured.

    Man is born to trouble
    All the days of his life
    As the sparks fly upward
    From bonfires at night
    They fill up the heavens
    With pinpoints of light
    And I’ve got a hope
    That is not in this world

    Time, it is turning
    Like a plow in the field
    It roots up the earth
    And what’s hidden is revealed
    Sewing the future
    While the past, it is sealed
    I’ve got a hope
    That is not in this world

    Half of the battle
    Is only with myself
    While the other half
    Is something I can’t help

    Lest I should stumble
    I try not to forget
    That every hair is numbered
    Every footstep, every breath
    And this life that I’m living
    It will not end in death
    I’ve got a hope
    That is not in this world
    I’ve got a hope
    That is not in this world

  38. “God?” by the Dodos … 


    No one to hold, no place to lie
    I know we’re all alone and still
    You come to brush this gray aside
    I know, I know, it’s fate I feel
    You answer to our hungry eyes
    I hope, I hope this must be real
    We need you now, we need to heal
    Oh no, oh no, oh God, where’d you go?

    You give us love, we have to hide
    I know, I know, it’s shades of gray
    You give us hope and give us strife
    I know, I know, this price we pay
    You tell me no, I ask you why
    I know, I know, your patient ways
    You wait until we see the light
    Oh no, oh no, oh God, where’d you go?

    Oh, God

    And tell us how to feel inside
    No lies, no lies, no lies
    And let me look upon that sign
    With eyes, with eyes, with eyes
    And tell me how you wear that crown
    Of right, of right, of right
    You lift us up then let us down
    We die, we die, we die

    You answer to the wrong and wide
    I know, I know, their faith you fill
    You give us strength and make us fight
    I know, I know, we’re supposed to kill
    You pit us up on different sides
    I know, I know, that’s just your will
    I wonder if you’ll wait until
    Oh no, oh no, this place will explode

    You live above this great big sky
    I hear it’s nice, it’s always spring
    I’ve come to ask you for advice
    I know you’re busy for a king
    You tell me once, I ask you twice
    How long, how long, before they sing?
    We did the things you said, alright
    Oh no, oh no, oh God, where’d you go?

    Oh, God

    And tell us how to feel inside
    No lies, no lies, no lies
    And let us look upon that sign
    With eyes, with eyes, with eyes
    And tell me how you wear that crown
    Of right, of right, of right
    You lift us up then let us down
    We die, we die, we die
    We die, we die, we die

  39. Lyrics to “Look Within”, by Jim Messina, Poco

    When you’re down, feeling low,
    And your faith won’t cut, and you’ve nowhere to go.
    Don’t be afraid, you’ve got a friend, look within, look within.

    So many times, we go astray,
    And we need somebody, to show us the way.
    Don’t be sad, you’ve got a friend, look within, look within.
    Within every soul, was born the seeds of need,
    As in the soil of the earth they lie concealed.
    Prayer is the rain, to make them all grow.
    Water them well, and they shall yield.

    Don’t be sad, don’t be blue,
    There’s somebody, waiting on you.
    Don’t be afraid, you’ve got a friend,
    Look within, look within.

  40. Antonio Parr says:

    Back to Bruce C (and sorry for taking so much bandwith!)

    Southland of the Heart:

    When the wild-eyed dogs of day to day
    Come snapping at your heels
    And there’s so much coming at you
    That you don’t know how to feel
    When they’ve taken all your money
    And then come back for your clothes
    When your hands are full of thorns
    But you can’t quit groping for the rose

    In the southland of the heart
    Where night blooms perfume the breeze
    Lie down
    Take your rest with me

    When thoughts you’ve tried to leave behind
    Keep sniping from the dark
    When the fire burns inside you but
    You jump from every spark
    When your heart’s beset by memories
    You wish you’d never made
    When the sun comes up an enemy
    And nothing gives you shade

    In the southland of the heart
    Where the saints go lazily
    Lie down
    Take your rest with me

    When the preacher lays his insight down
    And claims to lead the blind
    When those you trust just get you hooked
    And trifle with your mind
    When the nightmare’s creeping closer
    And your wheels are in the mud
    When everything’s ambiguous
    Except the taste of blood

    In the southland of the heart
    There’s no question of degree
    Lie down
    Take your rest with me

    In the southland of the heart
    Everyone was always free
    Lie down
    Take your rest with me

  41. Melanie2 says:

    Light in Your Eyes, by Sheryl Crow

  42. Color Me Badd – God is Love (not a cover of the Marvin Gaye song)

    (I hope I don’t get banninated for this one)

  43. Don’t forget “Jesus Christ” by Big Star.

    (video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPLsJI3gPDg).

  44. Molly_MW says:

    How many years have I been WAITING for MoTab to do an all Queen program…..

    What about I. Ron Butterfly’s classic In the Garden of Eden?

  45. Almost the entire Welcome Wagon would fit into your criteria.

    Here’s a favorite:

  46. You already mentioned Ben Harper’s “Picture of Jesus,” which is great, but I’d also recommend more generally his whole album with the Blind Boys of Alabama–“Take My Hand,” “Wicked Man,” “There Will Be A Light,” all good.

    Sufjan Steven’s version of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is a personal favorite, and you might as well throw in “Amazing Grace.”

    And while it may not be devotional in a traditional sense, you should definitely check out “Jesus, Are You Real?” by Mason Jennings.

    Thanks for all the suggestions!

  47. Sufjan Stevens was influenced by another indie artist with a religious bent called Danielson, aka the Danielson Family. Danielson is basically unlistenable, but his focus on God is really rather amazing. If you’re into Sufjan and haven’t seen the documentary about Danielson called A Danielson Family Movie, I suggest you see it. Sufjan made a lot more sense to me after watching it. And Danielson became listenable for me as well.

    It’s worth it just to see Steve Albini talking about religion in rock music.

  48. Antonio Parr says:

    Not groovy, but oh so beautiful . . . The Innocene Mission is a critically acclaimed, Lancaster PA-based group that writes music of haunting beauty

    “Look for Me as you Go By”:

    Hang my head low, so low.
    Don’t see me only as I am but
    see me how I long to be,
    how I long to be
    Shining like a flowering tree
    under the gray Pennsylvania sky.
    Look for me as you go by.

    Hang my head low, so low.
    Every burden shall be lifted.
    Every stone upon your back slide into the sea.
    It’s me for you, and you for me.

  49. Trailer for the documentary:

  50. Mommie Dearest says:

    @28 “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” is the first thing I thought of too, but I know that guy as Buster Poindexter, and former member of the punk band New York Dolls. It’s the, uh, closing song for the 2005 documentary “New York Doll.”

  51. Jennifer in GA says:

    I love Ben Kweller’s cover of “Rock of Ages”.

  52. These songs have been mentioned in previous comments but they can be linked at YouTube.

    David Johansen – Come, Come Ye Saints

    David Johansen –“A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”

    Personally, on “Come, Come Ye Saints” – I find the acoustic guitar and harmonica, along with David Johansen’s voice, to be very moving. It’s one of the best renditions of this pioneer hymn that I’ve heard. I just wish he did more than that part of the verse.

  53. Bruce Cockburn and Van Morrison, over the last 30 years, have moved me more than any church meeting. A perfect Sacrament meeting would be a prayer, bread and water and a few of these songs:

    Van Morrison
    -When will I ever Learn
    -Dweller on the Threshold
    -By His Grace
    -How Can a Poor Boy
    -Behind the Ritual
    -Master’s Eyes
    -Be Thou My Vision
    -By His Grace
    -When ever God Shines His Light

    Bruce Cockburn
    -Bright Sky
    -Lord of the Starfields
    -Rose Above the Sky
    -Lament for the Last Days
    Shipwrecked at the Stable Door

  54. Natalie Merchant’s Life is Sweet is not religious but I would say definitely spiritual.

    JJ Heller’s Your Hands is pretty. Horrible video here, though.

  55. Savatage: “Believe.”
    Some of you may be more familiar with what started out as Savatage’s side project–Trans-Siberian Orchestra, famous for their Christmas music. TSO’s latest album also has a version of “Believe.” A very intense, emotional, spiritual song.

    I also like Jackson Browne’s “The Rebel Jesus,” a good tribute even if it comes from a “heathen and a pagan.”

  56. The Frames – Red Chord

    Live – Heaven

    Bob Marley – Redemption Song

    Eva Cassidy – People Get Ready

    Lyle Lovett – Church

    Magnolia Electric Co – I Can Not Have Seen the Light

    Simple Minds – Sanctify Yourself

    Talk Talk – Happiness is Easy

  57. A little indie rock for you:

    Jesus, by Page Francis

    (I don’t know what’s going on in the video, but you can hear the song there.)

  58. NOFX-Happy Guy

    Frenzel Rhomb- Jesus

    The Vandals Here I am Lord (Cover of the Catholic Hymn)

    The Drop Kick Murphies Amazing Grace (Greatest Song ever, basically)

  59. I’ll second “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 but from the Rattle and Hum album since they’re backed by a gospel choir. But their song “Grace” from the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind is easily one of the most religious songs they’ve done and a better fit than 40.

    But I’ve got to say that if you’re including the Violent Femmes, you might as well put in the Depeche Mode song “Personal Jesus” as ruined/sung by Marilyn Manson because they don’t embody anything religious and meant the song as satire.

  60. Love this cover by Frente! also

    Let the Sunshine in

  61. Die Toten Hosen –Drummer Boy Cover

  62. I can’t believe no one’s mentioned “Yahweh” by U2 (U2 has been mentioned, which is good).

    I almost suggested My Sweet Lord by George Harrison, which might work if we took the “Hare Krishna” part out.

  63. sarah a says:

    I think I’ll be making my own CD this weekend- I’m always looking for good Sunday music.

    My suggestion would be to add “Beatitudes” by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

  64. SLO Sapo says:

    “Bright Morning Stars” covered by the Wailin’ Jennys.

  65. Last Lemming says:

    Jesus is on the Mainline by Ry Cooder (stay far, far away from the Aerosmith version).

    Other versions of songs already mentioned–
    People Get Ready by the Chambers Brothers (yes, the same guys who did Time Has Come Today, but you’d never know it)
    Amazing Grace by the Blind Boys of Alabama (I know they are strictly Gospel, but this is sung to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, so it should count.)

  66. Mark Brown says:

    Exodus, by Bob Marley and The Wailers

    Open your eyes and look within:
    Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?
    We know where we’re going;
    We know where we’re from.
    We’re leaving Babylon, y’all!
    We’re going to our Father’s land.

    Exodus, all right! Movement of Jah people!
    Exodus: movement of Jah people!
    Movement of Jah people!
    Movement of Jah people!
    Movement of Jah people!
    Movement of Jah people!

    Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move!

    Jah come to break down ‘pression,
    Rule equality,
    Wipe away transgression,
    Set the captives free.

  67. Norbert says:

    Wow there’s a lot of good music here. Not all of it is devotional enough to meet the definitions, but a lot of it is. Thanks. More is welcome, of course.

  68. These are some of my favorite vaguely devotional songs, all generally folksy:
    “Laughing With” by Regina Spektor
    “Heaven” by Brett Dennen (featuring Natalie Merchant)
    “Land of the Living Skies” by Nathan Rogers
    “Canaan’s Land” by Kate Rusby
    “Awake My Soul” by Mumford and Sons
    “I’ll Fly Away” by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch
    “Why Shouldn’t We” by Mary Chapin Carpenter
    “The Sire of Sorrow (Job’s Sad Song)” by Joni Mitchell
    “Did Galileo Pray?” by Ellis Paul
    “Save Us All” by Tracy Chapman

  69. Parvardigar- Pete Townshend
    God Speaks of Marty Robbins- The Who (Endless Wire)
    Faith in Something Bigger- The Who (Odds & Sods)
    I’m Free- The Who (Tommy)

    Also, several songs from the musicals “Godspell” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”

  70. Aaron R. says:

    Aitch, Mumford & Sons are just one of the most amazing bands. You have to love them. If you ever get the chance to see them live, assuming you have not already, then you simply must.

    Jewel – Face of love

    and then…

    Kanye West – Jesus Walks


    Scroobius Pip – Letter from God to Man

  71. JamesBC says:

    Can’t believe no one said “Misisonary Man” by Annie Lennox… Just kidding
    In all seriousness:

    “John the Revelator” by Son House (or any other version)
    “I hear them all” performed by Dave Rawlings Machine (Feat. Gillian Welch), Old Crow Medicine Show version is also god, though the Dave Rawlings Machine version with the boys from Old Crow lends itself more to a Sunday music.
    And speaking of Old Crow Medicine Show, any of these by them:
    God’s got it
    Gospel Plow
    Take ’em away
    We’re all in this together (Maybe the most appropriate one)
    My bones gonna rise again
    That evening sun

  72. Put Your Hand In The Hand

    Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water
    Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea
    Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently
    By puttin your hand in the hand of the man from Gallalee.

    Everytime I look into the Holy Book I wanna tremble
    When I read about the part where a carpenter cleared the temple
    For the buyers and the sellers were no different fella’s than what I
    professed to be
    And it causes me shame to know I’m not the gal that I should be

    Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water
    Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea
    Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently
    By puttin your hand in the hand of the man from Gallalee.

    Mama taught me how to pray before I reached the age of seven
    And when I’m down on my knees, that’s when I’m close to heaven
    Daddy lived his life for two kids and a wife, but you do what you must do
    But he showed me enough of what it takes to get me through

    Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water
    Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea
    Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently
    By puttin your hand in the hand of the man from Gallalee.

    Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water
    Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea
    Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently
    By puttin your hand in the hand of the man from Gallalee.

    Many great versions of this song are on Youtube. My personal favorite is the one sung by Ocean. I have to say the King sings a great version.

  73. I’ve been waiting, long forgotten
    Shipwrecked on a distant shore
    Am I drifting, no more wanted
    Floating outward evermore

    All the dreams that I’ve harbored
    In the labyrinths of my soul
    Gone forever, not discarded
    Only sleeping, till they’re whole

    In the graveyard of my heart now
    Sleep the years that I’ve long sold
    For their markers is there nothing
    Only ghost I can not hold

    Father hear me
    I am tired
    Shall I waken
    In thy home?
    Hold me closer
    I am trying
    Sweet Lord Jesus
    Heal my soul

    “Hear my soul”

  74. The song “Strays,” by the group Hem, is my favorite Christian song by a non-religious band. Subtle Old and New Testament allusions, and a beautiful expression of the sinner’s/bride’s longing for Christ/bridegroom and Christ’s/bridegroom’s longing for the sinners/bride. The first person voice switches from Christ to the Church and back again.

    In the summer of my wedding
    As the corn burned in the field
    Oh I lay down for my Baby
    And let the sweet smoke stain my heels

    Well I lay there til the midnight
    When the dogs, they run through town
    And I rose up just to listen
    And I never lay back down

    Then the morning, it came upon me
    And I set my soul to search
    From the tall grass down the main road
    To the stained glass at the church

    Lord my shepard help me pray
    Though I left my heart to stray
    Though I left my heart untrue
    I can follow
    I do
    I do

    And I can name them in my dreaming
    I can set my soul to rest
    I can chain them to my body
    Let them settle at my breast

    Now see them coming to my wedding
    Where I will teach them not to stray
    Oh they’ll carry my salvation
    Oh they’ll carry me away

  75. Thomas Parkin says:

    This song by TOOL has some religious undertones

    Some say the end is near.
    Some say we’ll see armageddon soon.
    I certainly hope we will.
    I sure could use a vacation from this

    b%$@#t, three ring, circus sideshow of

    Here in this hopeless ##@%$ hole we call LA
    The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.
    Any &*#@! time. Any &^%$# day.
    Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona bay.

    Fret for your figure and
    Fret for your latte and
    Fret for your hairpiece and
    Fret for your lawsuit and
    Fret for your prozac and
    Fret for your pilot and
    Fret for your contract and
    Fret for your car.

    It’s a
    %&##$@ three ring circus sideshow of

    Here in this hopeless *+%$# hole we call LA
    The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.
    Any ##@%$! time. Any *&%$# day.
    Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona bay.

    Some say a comet will fall from the sky.
    Followed by meteor showers and tidal waves.
    Followed by faultlines that cannot sit still.
    Followed by millions of dumbfounded dipsh%#s.

    And some say the end is near.
    Some say we’ll see armageddon soon.
    I certainly hope we will cuz
    I sure could use a vacation from this

    Silly %$#@, stupid !@%$..

    One great big festering neon distraction,
    I’ve a suggestion to keep you all occupied.

    Learn to swim.
    Learn to swim.

    #%$@ L Ron Hubbard and
    ^^%$# all his clones.
    #&*@ all those gun-toting
    Hip gangster wannabes.

    Learn to swim.

    #$%@ retro anything.
    #%@! your tattoos.
    @!%$ all you junkies and
    &&%$ your short memory.

    Learn to swim.

    #&#@ smiley glad-hands
    With hidden agendas.
    &%#$ these dysfunctional,
    Insecure actresses.

    Learn to swim.

    Cuz I’m praying for rain
    And I’m praying for tidal waves
    I wanna see the ground give way.
    I wanna watch it all go down.
    Mom please flush it all away.
    I wanna watch it go right in and down.
    I wanna watch it go right in.
    Watch you flush it all away.

    I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t
    Welcome any change, my friend.

    I wanna see it all come down.

  76. oh dear…way old, but I meant Show me the way by STYX

  77. The Wrong Man Was Convicted by Barenaked Ladies. They have others, too, that I think could fit on the playlist, but this is my favourite.

  78. Gary Hoey has some really great heavy-metal-guitar instrumental covers of Christmas tunes. He has an album called “Ho-ho-hoey” Great stuff!

  79. Gilgamesh says:

    If There’s a Heaven Above – Love and Rockets
    Moving On Up – Primal Scream

  80. berrett says:

    JP Hayne: For A While
    The Welcome Wagon: Up On A Mountain
    Pedro The Lion: Letter from a concerned follower
    Sufjan Stevens: The Transfiguration
    Low: If you were born today

    Great stuff – Thanks.

  81. Abbie Normal says:

    Aaron Neville’s version of Dylan’s I Shall Be Released
    Al Green – God is Standing By and Nearer My God to Thee
    Aretha Franklin – What a Friend We Have in Jesus
    Commodores – Jesus is Love
    The Isley Brothers – He Has the Whole World in His Hands
    Jonny Lange – I Believe
    Kris Kristofferson – Why Me Lord
    Louis Armstrong – When the Saints Go Marching In and This
    Lyle Lovett – I’m Going to Wait and I’m Going to the Place
    Otis Clay – Sending up the Timber and Amen/This Little Light
    Patti Page – God Be With You Till We Meet Again
    Stevie Wonder – Have a Talk With God
    Edgar Winter Group – Free Ride

  82. Antonio Parr says:

    I love music, and have a pretty extensive collection of songs/artists that would fit well on this thread. I will post later today/tomorrow with some further recommendations.

    Before doing so, 2 come to mind:

    1 . Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”, because it contains the following line:

    And Jesus was a sailor
    When he walked upon the water
    And he spent a long time watching
    From his lonely wooden tower
    And when he knew for certain
    Only drowning men could see him
    He said “All men will be sailors then
    Until the sea shall free them”
    But he himself was broken
    Long before the sky would open
    Forsaken, almost human
    He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
    And you want to travel with him
    And you want to travel blind
    And you think maybe you’ll trust him
    For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind

    (Suzanne has been covered by many, including Judy Collins, Peter Gabriel and Roberta Flack.)

    2. Although not a Christian, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) has released two albums of songs that rival his best Cat Stevens releases. These albums include songs of great spiritual longing, that make them perfect for a Sunday listen.

  83. Antonio Parr says:

    This one performed by David Wilcox, and co-written with the great, great Pierce Pettis:

    “If it Wasn’t for the Night”

    If it wasn?t for the night
    So cold this time of year
    The stars would never shine so bright
    So beautiful and clear

    I have walked this road alone
    My thin coat against the chill
    When the light in me was gone
    And my winter house was stilled

    When I grieved for all I’d made
    Out of all I had to give
    On the eve of Christmas day
    With no reason left to live

    Even then somehow in the bitter wind and cold
    Impossibly strong I know
    Even then a bloom as tender as a rose
    Was breaking through the snow
    In the dark night of the soul
    In the dark night of the soul

    If it wasn’t for the babe
    Lying helpless on the straw
    There would be no Christmas day
    And the night would just go on

    When it seem that death has won
    Buried deep beneath the snow
    Where the summer leaves have gone
    The seed of hope will grow

  84. Interesting that David Wilcox’s name comes up. Wilcox also has a soft acoustic song called Kindness. It’s a love song, not really a religious song. But it’s a tender and quiet song expresses some good values – could be Sabbath appropriate because of the tone it carries. The lyrics are:

    I love your sense of humor
    I love to see you smile
    I love your sense of balance
    I love your sense of time

    I love your music in the morning
    Your rhythm in the night
    But it’s your kindness
    That shines so bright

    Yes I love your beauty
    I love your sexy moves
    But more I love your honesty
    You always tell the truth

    I love your vision of the future
    Your hope that never dies
    But it’s your kindness that clears my skies

    Yes I love your wisdom
    Your knowledge of the past
    Your willingness to listen
    And taste for what will last

    Your compassion for the suffering
    And your solid happiness
    But it’s your kindness that I love best

    I love…
    I love…
    I love…

  85. Alan Jackson – Are You Washed In The Blood / I’ll Fly Away

    Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
    Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
    Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
    Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

    Are you washed in the blood,
    In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
    Are your garments spotless are they white as snow?
    Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

    Lay aside your garments that are stained with sin
    And be washed in the blood of the Lamb.
    There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean.
    O, be washed in the blood of the Lamb!

    Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
    I’ll fly away;
    To a home on God’s celestial shore,
    I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

    I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
    I’ll fly away;
    When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
    I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

    Just a few more weary days and then,
    I’ll fly away;
    To a land where joy shall never end,
    I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)


  86. Drop Kick Me, Jesus (Through the Goal Posts of Life)

    Drop kick me, Jesus through the goal posts of life
    End over end, neither left nor to right
    Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
    Drop kick me, Jesus through the goal posts of life

    Make me, oh make me, Lord more than I am
    Make me a piece in your master game plan
    Free from the earthly temptations below
    I’ve got the will, Lord if you’ve got the toe


    Bring on the brothers who’ve gone on before
    And all of the sisters who’ve knocked on your door
    All the departed dear loved ones of mine
    Stick them up front in the offensive line

    (Chorus 2x)

    Oh, drop kick me, Jesus through the goal posts of life

  87. Land of Hope and Dreams, by Bruce Springsteen
    Jesus was an Only Son, by Bruce Springsteen

  88. Elvis also did a song called “In the Garden” which, although not currently in the English hymnbook, is featured in the French hymnbook. I heard that it was originally in the English version, but was removed around the same time “Come thou Fount” was omitted.

  89. esodhiambo says:

    What about some of the Billy Bragg & Wilco Woody Guthrie songs?

    or, of course, Christ our President

    Lauryn Hill’s “Forgive them Father”
    What about Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”?

  90. There are some great word of wisdom songs out there:

    Adam Ant – Goody TwoShows – Dont drink, dont smoke, what do you do?

    And from the 70s – who sang “Momma Told Me not to Come” (or better yet – Bishop Told Me Not to Come.)

    Did anyone mention Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin.

  91. Frozen Okie says:

    Lots of good things mentioned already, though I’d add the song Spiritual by Spain

  92. Antonio Parr says:

    90. Wilco is arguably the greatest active band around. “Airline to Heaven”, a Wilco/Bragg/Guthrie collaboration, is ~fabulous~.

  93. Don’t know if this qualifies as secular, as the artist is clearly hasidic, but is definitely mainstream.

    Matisyahu – King Without A Crown.

  94. Low has been consistent in religious themes and even devotional songs: Their “Secret Name” album, “Laser Beam,” “Silver Rider,” “Little Argument With Myself,” “That’s How You Sing Amazing Grace,” and one to make you think, “Murderer.”

  95. ByTheRules says:

    Osmonds, He ain’t Heavy.

    (Disclaimer: My sister was the fan)

  96. John Legend- Show Me

  97. Chaille says:

    Brad Paisley always has a religious song on his albums. “When I Get Where I’m Going” is one of my favorites!

  98. I’ll throw out another by Mason Jennings–How Deep is That River.

  99. Antonio Parr says:

    I am placing a bushel over my light with this topic. I am an ardent musical fan, and have a valued library of music that would fit quite well with this topic. I have already mentioned the great Canadian mystic/activist Bruce Cockburn, whose spiritual musings are powerful, and whose compositional skills and musicianship are out of this world. Check him out.

    The greatest living songwriter, Bob Dylan, offers a treasure trove, as well. “Every Grain of Sand” has already been mentioned, but here are the lyrics:


    Every Grain Of Sand
    In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
    When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
    There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
    Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

    Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
    Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
    In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
    In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

    Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
    Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
    The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
    To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

    I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
    And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
    Then onward in my journey I come to understand
    That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

    I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
    In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
    In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
    In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

    I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
    Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
    I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
    Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

    Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music


    I second the motion regarding Van Morrison, although his spiritual phase has a pretty clear beginning and end (although when he spiritualized, he was transcendent).

    Most of you have never heard of Pierce Pettis, although you should have. His songwriting and sense of detail and poignency are sublime. Check out, as well, his inkling counterparts, David Wilcox, Tom Prasada-Rao, Brooks Williams and Christopher Williams.

    I know that overtly Christian/CCM artists are excluded from this list, but people like Bob Bennett, Rich Mullins, Sara Groves (well, 2 of her albums), and others are more poets than propagandists, and have created some extraordinary art.

    Mark Heard (R.I.P.) is patron saint for all of the above. He was a friend of T-Bone Burnett (who wrote the great songs “River of Love” and “Power of Love”, both of which are great spiritual anthems. His ex-wife Sam Phillips (formerly Leslie Phillips) has some great songs, as well.

    This from Mark Heard, “Strong Hand of Love”:

    Strong Hand Of Love

    Down peppers the rain from a clear blue sky
    Down trickles a tear on a youthful face
    Feeling in haste and wondering why
    Up struggles the sun from a wounded night
    Out venture our hearts from their silent shrouds
    Trying to ignite but wondering how

    We can laugh and we can cry
    And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
    We can dance and we can sigh
    And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows

    Young dreamers explode like popped balloons
    Some kind of emotional rodeo
    Learning too slow and acting too soon
    Time marches away like a lost platoon
    We gracefully age as we feel the weight
    Of loving too late and leaving too soon

    We can laugh and we can cry
    And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
    We can dance and we can sigh
    And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows

    Written by Mark Heard © 1990 Ideola Music


    Buddy and Julie Miller are great southern singer songwriters. Buddy is Emmylou Harris’ guitarist, and they appear on each others’ albums. Fantastic.

    On a heavier side, there is the great 1980’s group The Call, headed by Michael Been, whose work includes “Let the Day Begin”, “I Still Believe”, and “Uncovered”. They were U.S.’ worthy response to U2.

    Finally, there is the criminally underrated Bill Mallonee of Vigilantes of Love, an Athen-based group that produced some absolutely extraodinary songs of faith and doubt and spiritual longing. Mallonee is a prolific songwriter, and his music is worth checking out. (His song “Solar System” — a live version of which can be found on Youtube — has the great line “Put all your love where it hurts the most, and expect a little visit from the Holy Ghost”, which deserves its place in your next testimony meeting.) One of Mallonee’s more overt songs is “Double Cure”:

    Double Cure Run Time: 5:09
    Written by Bill Mallonee for Fingerprint Records and CyBrenJoJosh (BMI) ©1996

    yeah today i’m sick of all i am
    today is my setback
    first i swear i love you
    then i stab you in the back

    i wanna drink out of that fountain
    on a hill called double cure
    i wanna show you my allegiance Lord
    yes i wanna be a son of Yours

    so tired of all my toys
    they never last for long
    they keep beaming dreams and wishes
    to a big dish on my front lawn

    bet you all have got a story
    you’re just aching to tell
    haven’t we thrown our coinage
    down the wishing well

    so go and call your neighbor
    proceed with all due haste
    go grab your wife and sweet family
    see there is no time to waste

    we’re gonna drink out of that fountain
    on a hill called double cure
    i wanna show you my allegiance Lord
    yes i wanna be a son of Yours

    ask me why i love Him
    He gave riches to this poor
    yes and i will one day see that face
    over yonder shore

    and this Christmas Song, “On to Bethelehem””

    On to Bethlehem Run Time: 5:10
    Written by Bill Mallonee for CyBrenJoJosh (BMI) ©1998

    so i’m at this wheel it’s three am
    waiting for the caffeine to come around
    and life rears it’s ugly head again
    they say your radio’s cool and retail’s way down

    and i’d like to say i’m faithful
    to the task at hand
    speaking gospel to a handful
    and others with their list of demands

    it’s cold this year and i’m late on my dues
    it’s cold in here ah but that’s nothing new
    my heart’s electric with your love again
    so it’s on to bethlehem

    you might surmise that i ran there
    but i really only crept
    lead me to the place where love runs wild
    and then it dogs your every step

    you know how fickle my heart is
    prone to wonder my Lord
    yeah we talk but it’s at arms length
    always got one eye on the door

    God wraps Himself up in human skin
    for those who want to touch
    and God let them drive the nails in
    for those of us who know way too much

    You come bearing all our burdens
    and take Your lovers for a ride
    but we stay holed up in our cages
    fashioned by our own design

    so tell me what is your secret
    what’s on your blister soul
    what is that one little secret
    you know the one that has taken its toll

    ’cause daddy’s banging on your gate again
    yeah he won’t leave you alone
    got a whole lot of dry warm rooms
    and the finest of homes


    Check out his artistic soul mates Over the Rhine and Innocnence Mission, as well.

    (This is a long post, I know, but the artists listed above are the real deal. Check them out.)

  100. Antonio Parr says:

    Here is a cover of Mark Heard’s “Strong Hand of Love”: Just beautiful.

    Norbert: I hope all of the above helps!

  101. Melinda Thomas says:

    I feel the Spirit when listening to these songs:

    Along the Road–Dan Fogelberg
    Angel–Sarah McLachlan
    Bless The Beasts and the Children–The Carpenters
    Bridge Over Troubled Water–Simon & Garfunkel
    I Will Be Here For You–Michael W. Smith
    Love is the Answer–England Dan and John Ford Coley
    Nexus–Dan Fogelberg
    Place in this World–Michael W. Smith
    Prayer for the Dying–Seal
    Rainbow Connection–Kenny Loggins
    Remember–Harry Nilsson
    See Me Feel Me–The Who
    There’s a Rugged Road–Shawn Colvin
    What the World Needs Now–Dionne Warwick
    Whenever I Say Your Name–Sting
    Won’t Back Down–Tom Petty
    Wrapped Around Your Finger–The Police
    You Get What You Give–New Radicals

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