In this song, the Texas singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver tells a story of transformation, using the coal to diamond metaphor to represent his faith in Jesus, and the change he anticipates when he makes his transition. In our 2010 interview with Billy Joe Shaver
, he explained: "that's when I got born again, when I wrote that song. It's just so long, it would take me forever to tell you, but I wound up on top of this mountain-like thing in Kingston Springs outside of Nashville. And I was about to die because I'd been doing so much dope and just everything in the world you could think of, and drinking, and I was just about to drive everybody crazy. And there was this place outside of Nashville that's called the Narrows of the Harpeth River. And there's a peak-like thing out there, and it's a real sheer drop-off cliff, and you had to go up a real treacherous path to get to it. Not many people knew about it, but my son had showed it to me. He was with a bunch of these guys called spelunkers that go into caves.
And this river, you could see the chisel marks, one of the slaves had actually cut a hole in this big ol' thing so that the water would run over this mammoth plantation. And it was at the top of this thing that I arrived one night when I was about to die. There was an altar up there, it looked like the wind, rain or something had hewn that altar out, and it looked like a giant mushroom. It was just a small place there between the altar and the sheer drop-off on the cliff. I could have swore I jumped off that cliff, because I was just so ashamed of myself for what I had done. And I asked God to help me. But I thought for sure I had jumped off, because I thought, I'm just a worthless old good-for-nothing dragging everybody down, but I found myself on my knees turned the other way on that altar on my knees and with my hands and arms and elbows on top of the altar, and I was asking God to help me. And that's when He gave me that song."