In the liner notes to Something/Anything?, Rundgren states that he intended the song to be the hit of the album, and copied the Motown tradition of putting hit songs at the beginning of albums. The song peaked at #15 in Canada, #16 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and at #12 on the Easy Listening chart.Billboard ranked it as the No. 88 song for 1972. On the U.S. Cash Box Top 100, it reached number 11.
Overseas, it went to #36 on the UK Singles Chart. However, in the US at least, Something/Anything? actually contained a bigger hit than "I Saw the Light", as the album's third single "Hello It's Me" climbed to #5.
Lori Carson covered the song on her 1997 album Everything I Touch Runs Wild.
A cover version of "I Saw the Light" was released in 1998 by country music singer Hal Ketchum from his album I Saw the Light. It reached #36 on the US country charts, and #50 on the Canadian country charts.
The Japanese Group ja:Reggae Disco Rockers made a cover of the song, later used by Dimitri From Paris in his compilations (in a slightly remixed version).
Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fan Club recorded their own version of this song, which is available on "Scotland On Sunday" EP released in 2005.