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Jesus Is Just Alright by The Doobie Brothers

Album: Toulouse StreetReleased: 1972Charted:
  • This song has a long history with many incarnations. It was first recorded by the gospel group The Art Reynolds Singers on their 1966 album, Tellin' It Like It Is. The Byrds covered it in 1969 and released as a single on their album Ballad of Easy Rider, where it charted at #97. They turned the song into a rocker, with a faster tempo and prominent electric guitar (the original version was piano-based and acoustic).

    The Underground Sunshine - a psychedelic band - released their version one year later, but this one didn't reach the charts. In 1972 The Doobie Brothers recorded it for their album Toulouse Street; the single was released in February 1973 and reached #35, becoming the most popular version of the song. Their arrangement was based on The Byrds recording.
  • Arthur Reid Reynolds, who also wrote The Byrds 1971 song "Glory, Glory," wrote "Jesus Is Just Alright." It's one of the few Doobie Brothers songs the band didn't write.
  • The Doobie Brothers version of this song distinguished itself with a breakdown in the middle, where guitarist Pat Simmons, who sang lead on their hit "Black Water," preaches the vocals ("Jesus, he's my friend...").

    Tom Johnston, who is the group's lead singer, credits keyboard player Bill Payne for helping come up with the breakdown. Payne was Little Feat's pianist, but also recorded with the Doobies and many other bands. In a Songfacts interview Johnston, he said: "I think Bill Payne was involved, because it involved a B3 Hammond, and the 'da da la da, da da la da.' We had a song that we did by Randy Newman on the very first album called 'Beehive State,' it had a similar lick, and possibly it came out of that."
  • This is a very spiritual song with a pretty clear message about loving Jesus. Very few mainstream hits are so unambiguously in praise of Jesus, and it was a very odd message coming from The Doobie Brothers. Johnston told Songfacts: "The funny thing about that, we weren't anti-religious. We weren't anything. We were just musicians out playing a gig. We didn't think about that kind of stuff very often. We would be out playing that song when that came out as a single, and all these One Wayers, which was a big movement at that time, would be at the show, and they would run up to the stage with their fingers pointed straight up. At first we didn't get it, and we finally said, 'Oh, I know what's going on.' So when we would play that song, they would go nuts. They would throw scriptures on the stage, that sort of thing. Little did they know they were trying to enlist the support of the wrong guys."
  • The Christian group DC Talk recorded this in 1992, complete with a rap section.
  • The Christian metal band Stryper covered this for their 2013 No More Hell To Pay album. Guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet told Metal Exiles why they decided to record their own version of this gospel classic: "It was just a song we had thought about covering for a number of years, and I thought after doing an arrangement of that song, man this would really be perfect on this new album," he said. "And I think it is, I think it fits right in. It's got a powerful message, it says so much lyrically, and I love the breakdown... it's like a roller coaster ride where its: (hums a bar) with that up-tempo, and then it has that 'Sabbath' slow-down in the middle, I love that. The dynamics are incredible."
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Comments: 3

And of course The Doobie Brothers version is the one that inspired Millie's version on the piano, at the party on Freaks and Geeks!Bill - Us
On December 10th 1972 "Jesus Is Just Alright"* by the Doobie Brothers entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #97; and 11 weeks later on February 18th, 1973 it peaked at #35 {for 1 week} and that would also be its last week on the Top 100...
Their next release, "Long Train Running'", would be their first of five Top 10 records, it would reach #8...
* During the year of 1972 two other records with 'Jesus' in their title would make the Top 100; "Me and Jesus" by Tom T. Hall would peak at #98 and "Jesus Was A Capricorn" by Kris Kristofferson would reached #91.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I wonder if the song was in response to John Lennon saying "Jesus is alright" in the interview where he said the Beatles were popular than Jesus.Robert - Kc, Ks
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