The Eddie Marrs version of this song was made popular by the movie Cool Hand Luke. The song is often credited to him but was actually written by Ed Rush and George Cromarty. Ed Rush traced the song back to an African-American camp-meeting song with the lyrics, "I don't care if it rains or freezes, leaning on the arms of my Jesus," which was the theme song of a religious radio program broadcast from Baton Rouge in the 1940s.
Some people are offended by the lyrics and fail to realize that the song is not meant to be sacrilegious but is actually aimed at those who cheapen the image of Jesus by selling plastic gee-gaws, cheap little trinkets in His image and other religious kitsch.
It seems that the original version was recorded by Cromarty and Rush as The Goldcoast Singers, but in the context of a fake spiritual radio broadcast, including only two verses and no chorus. Marrs developed it into a much more complete song, and apparently took credit. There are many alternate verses that have been added over the years.
Suggestion credit: Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for all above
The Flaming Lips covered this on their 1993 album Transmissions From the Satellite Heart. It is track #9, although the title does not appear anywhere on the album cover. This is the album that also featured "She Don't Use Jelly."
Jan from Port Townsend, WaEddy Mars is a character in the movie THE BIG SLEEP, and other sources do seem to back up Nat, of Atlanta GA, in his statement that the singer's name is ERNIE Marrs. And a round of applause for IceCherry, of Kingston, PA, for the joke about that famous writing team of TRAD and ANON, who have been turning out a lot of great work for quite a while, bless 'em. Jan, Port Townsend, WA
Nat from Atlanta, GaAnd I never recall him ever claiming to have written Plastic Jesus. Ernie's claim to fame was that he could recall every lyric to any folk song you could name, including all the dirty lyrics. I never saw the man anything but completely drunk. He was some piece of work.
Nat from Atlanta, GaActually, his name was "Ernie". That's my father and sister you hear singing with him.
Icecherry from Kingston, PaI have yet to hear any other version of this song. I have seen "cool hand luke", but it's been awhile since I cannot remember this song as performed in the movie. I would like to get the best version of the song, to me, a version that is easy to listen to, as billy Idol's version or the "jackass" version I probably would not like. I printed out the lyrics to the song, and listed at the top under "artist" is TRAD AND ANON. I have yet to come across anything done by them, however as I am writing this, I am still looking. Anybody have any info on Trad and Anon's version?
The Last Dj from Hell.a., CaPaul Newman rocked this song in "Cool Hand Luke" and all he had was a banjo. Plus the propeller from the fan was going which made for great distortion as well as distraction. You feel his pain when he sings his melancholy tribute to his departed mother. And while it is not flawless, the imperfection most notable when he stops to take a breath or to hold back tears adds a distinctive character to the song.
Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesI don't know just what to do now that I've got that plastic Cthulhu crouchin' on the dashboard of my car -- I don't need no cross nor pentacles now that I've got that thing with tentacles crouchin' on the dashboard of my car.
Mike from Mountlake Terrace, WaLuke sings this as - "Well, I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I got my plastic Jesus, sittin' on the dashboard of my car. Comes in colors, pink and pleasant, glows in the dark cause it's irridescent Take it with you when you travel far. Get yourself a sweet Madonna, dressed in rhinestones sittin' on a pedestal of abalone shell Goin' ninety, I ain't scary [sic - 'wary'], 'cause I've got the Virgin Mary, assurin' me that I won't go to Hell. Get yourself a sweet Madonna, dressed in rhinestones sittin' on a pedestal of abalone shell Goin' ninety, I ain't scary, 'cause I've got the Virgin Mary, assurin' me that I won't go to Hell." In the film Cool Hand Luke
Jamie from Chicago, IlThis was also covered by Jello Biafra (with Mojo Nixon) on their album "Prairie Home Invasion."
Sam from Philippi, WvBilly Idol also did a cover of the song "Plastic Jesus" on his 2005 album "Devil's PLayground." It's by far one of the most incumbusing versions as it includes the classic Goldcoast Singers verses as well as some generally accepted add-ins.