Jesus Christ (Woody Guthrie song)

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Jesus Christ is a song written in 1940 by Woody Guthrie.

The song argues that Jesus would have been shunned and possibly killed by modern capitalist society much as he was in his own time.[1] The song was partially sung and played on the piano by the Guthrie character in the biographical film Bound For Glory, set to the same tune as the folk ballad "Jesse James".

"I wrote this song looking out of a rooming house window in New York City in the winter of Nineteen and Forty. I thought I had to put down on paper how I felt about the rich folks and the poor ones."[2] "If it wasn’t for the Library of Congress and small record labels like Folkways, it’s doubtful that Woody Guthrie’s “Jesus Christ” would’ve ever been recorded. Guthrie’s portrait depicts Jesus as in opposition to the wealthy and the powerful; the song's Christ, in commanding the rich to sell their goods and give to the poor, echoing Jesus's words to, "go, sell your possessions and give to the poor." [3] He carries his political statement one step further, however, by noting that if Christ preached the same message today, he’d be crucified once again (presumably by many people who profess the Christian message). Guthrie wrote of the song: “…If He [Jesus] was to walk into New York City and preach like he use to. … they’d lock Him up back in Jail as sure as you’re reading this.” The lyrics are hard hitting and graphic, with lines blaming cops, bankers, soldiers, landlords, and preachers as being the ones who “nailed Him in the sky.” Guthrie first recorded the song for Alan Lomax at the Library of Congress in 1940 and recorded it again for Moses Asch at Folkways where it was released on Woody Guthrie in 1944. In 1947 Guthrie added four verses to the song."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Woody Guthrie Lyrics
  2. ^ Woody Guthrie, quoted by Millard Lampell, liner notes for "Bound For Glory: The Songs and Story of Woody Guthrie," FOLKWAYS FA 2481, 1956, p. 8.
  3. ^ Matthew 19:21 (NIV)
  4. ^ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.;