This Jesus Must Die
"This Jesus Must Die" is a song from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, which also appears in the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, and on the album of the musical. In the film, it is sung primarily by Bob Bingham as Caiaphas and Kurt Yaghjian as Annas; and on the album, by Victor Brox as Caiaphas and Brian Keith as Annas.
According to the official Jesus Christ Superstar website, in the song:
Caiaphas and the Priests discuss the problems caused by the mob following Jesus. They don't understand how he has managed to inspire people and believe that Jesus poses a very serious threat to their authority and the fragile relationship they have with the occupying force from Rome.
The song is noted for, after a slow beginning, launching into more of a "rock and roll" feel than many other songs in the musical, and being sung by a "growling bass-voiced Caiaphas and his screechy tenor minions". The song has also been described as "a throwback to pre-Second World War depictions" of "threatening Jews", although "their evil is somewhat modified".
Rather than the self-interested, conspiratorial priests of the Gospel of Mark or DeMille's The King of Kings, Superstar's priests decide that "this Jesus must die ...for the sake of the nation". Their intention to avert a murderous crackdown on the Jewish people reflects the representation of the high priest in the last canonical gospel—John.
Indeed, the song begins with the Jewish priests fretting over the influence of the "rabble-rousing" Jesus, but merely plotting to have him arrested. It is Caiaphas who insists that the threat posed by a Roman crackdown, "our elimination, because of one man", can only be averted by the death of Jesus, which would deliver a demoralizing blow to the mob of mindless followers. The appearance of the song in the musical and in the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar is highlighted by an "emphasis on style". The film uses "low camera angles which give a distorted view of the priests", and "gives the priests extraordinary costumes", which includes "enormous, bizarrely shaped hats", black flowing robes, and "bare chests crossed by leather straps and chains".
- Jessica Sternfeld, The Megamusical (2006), p. 48.
- Pamela Grace, The Religious Film: Christianity and the Hagiopic (2009), p. 95.
- Joseph Peter Swain, The Broadway Musical: A Critical and Musical Survey (2002), p. 320.
- Frank Northen Magill, Stephen L. Hanson, Patricia King Hanson, Magill's American Film Guide (1983), Vol. 3, p. 1690.