One Of Us

Album: Relish (1996)
Charted: 6 4
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  • This was written by Eric Bazilian, who was working on the album with Rob Hyman and Rick Chertoff. He told Songfacts: "For me, the song was more about what happens to you when you look at something that has completely changed your world view, which could be meeting God, it could be meeting an alien, it could be a near-death experience, it could be anything like that. Just how everything you know is wrong, or everything you know is right, and you didn't know it."
  • Hyman and Bazilian were members of The Hooters and along with Chertoff, collaborated on Cyndi Lauper's first album, She's So Unusual. They usually take a while to craft their songs, but occasionally one will come out quickly. One of these songs was "All You Zombies," which was The Hooters' first single and also contains lots of biblical imagery. Says Bazilian, "I've written a decent number of 'God' songs, and I wrote a bunch of them after 'One Of Us,' except you'll never hear them because they're not as good. It's a strange thing. I could, and I often have, pointed to another hand guiding."
  • Eric Bazilian explained how "One Of Us" came together in his Songfacts interview: "It was January, 1994. My now-wife had just moved over from Sweden. We were watching The Making of Sgt. Pepper on TV, and when it ended, she expressed interest in the 4-track recording process - that documentary is mostly George Martin sitting at the Abbey Road 4-track console. I pointed at the mass of wires sitting on my dining room table, which was my porta-studio, and said, 'There you go, that's 4-track recording technology for you.' She asked me to record something, and that's when it happened. I had been playing the guitar riff all day and put a little track together.

    She said, 'Sing it,' and I said, 'You can't just sing, you have to write the song, you have to discuss the concept, you have to re-write then decide you were better in the first place.' Something snapped - I just put the thing in record and started singing and that's what came out. The verses came out in the first pass, the chorus came out in the second pass. The next day I went in. We took a break later in the afternoon and I decided to play it for everybody. I had no agenda, I just said, 'Hey, check out this weird song I wrote last night.' I played the recording I'd done, and Rick Chertoff looked up and said, 'Joan, do you think you could sing that?' She said, 'Yeah,' so I wrote the words out and played on the guitar as she sang it, and that was it. That was our first rough demo of it."
  • Joan Osborne got her record deal after Rob Hyman saw her perform and brought her to the attention of Rick Chertoff, who by then was a producer at Polygram Records. She released one previous album on her own before working with Chertoff, Hyman and Bazilian on Relish.
  • Osborne, Bazilian, Hyman and Chertoff were right in the middle of writing other songs for the album, like "Right Hand Man," "St. Teresa," and "Ladder" when Bazilian got the idea for "One Of Us." Says Eric, "My girlfriend, now wife, had picked me up at a session at Rob's house that day. When she walked in, I was playing that guitar riff. Part of writing that song was a reaction to being deep in this four-way songwriting collaboration, which can get very draining."
  • Eric Bazilian wasn't trying to advocate any specific religious belief when he wrote this song. "In my case, it's not a religious thing - I'm not a religious person," he told Songfacts. "My relationship with the absolute is very private and personal. I'm not trying to bring anybody around to any way of thinking. You don't write songs like that, they write you. When I write songs, I don't have any agenda. I often learn a lot about what I'm thinking about any given issue from the songs I write about it. There was no conscious decision to write a song with the 'G' word in it, but it ended up sort of summing up my world view inadvertently, just by the words that happened to pour out of me at the time."
  • This was the theme song to the CBS TV show Joan Of Arcadia, which starred Amber Tamblyn and ran from 2003-2005. The show was about a young girl who encounters God in the form of everyday people. The producers thought this song fit perfectly.
  • This earned Grammy nominations for Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal. Osborne was also nominated for Best New Artist and Relish for album of the year. None of them won, with Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" beating it for Song and Record Of The Year, Alanis Morissette winning Best Album and Hootie & the Blowfish winning Best New Artist.
  • This has been used in several movies, including Austin Powers, Vanilla Sky and Bruce Almighty.
  • On the album, before the song begins, a snippet of the gospel song "Heaven's Airplane" is played. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Patrick - Tallapoosa, GA
  • Prince covered this on his 1996 3-disc Emancipation album, changing the line "Just a SLOB like one of us" to "Just a SLAVE like one of us" in reference to him not owning the rights to his music when with Warner Brothers, which he viewed as "Artistic Slavery." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Paul - London, England
  • Bob Rivers did a popular parody of this song called "What If God Smoked Cannabis," which imagines the Almighty sparking one up with the common folks. "How can you be more like one of us than toking up a joint?" Rivers told Songfacts. "At the very end of that song, the lyrics wrote themselves, because Joan Osborne keeps going on with these tag phrases. I felt like I wasn't writing that song, like God was telling me, 'You should try this line - 'And when the saints go marching in.'' Sometimes when you're writing you get in the flow."

Comments: 16

  • AnonymousThere are clearly pics of the Seattle Space needle. Hummm?
  • Peter from North Attleborough, MaThe bit of gospel song that plays at the beginning (of some versions, anyway) is "The Heavenly Airplane" (possibly also called "The Aeroplane Ride") which was recorded by Alan Lomax in 1937 as part of his famous Depression-era collection of folk songs. It was sung by Nell Hampton. The complete recording is available on the Library of Congress website via the Internet Archive at
  • Phil from Neenah, , WiThe music video for this was filmed at Coney Island's Astroland located in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Michael from Eureka Springs, ArThe gospel song at the beginning is previously identified as "Heaven's Airplane." That song is listed by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress as "The Aeroplane Ride", written by Nell Hampton of Salyersville, KY and performed by Mrs. Hampton on a recording made on October 27, 1937. Go to the following link for the 45 seconds of Nell Hampton and scroll down the page Enjoy!
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiGood song by Joan osbourne and good theme song to Joan of Arcadia,great show!
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesMick in Los Angeles: According to Wikipedia, the singer is Nell Hampton. "[Folklorist Alan] Lomax recorded Nell Hampton singing that song sometime between the 1950s to 1970s. It is much older, however, and originally credited to J. S. McConnell. See" The complete lyrics will be found on that page.
  • Eric from Bend, OrI think someone should do another parody of this song with the line "What if God made fun of us?"
  • Mel from Riverbank, CaNo, this is so not one of her best songs. Yes, it's the one that drew me to the album but I discovered a treasure. So many great songs.. Crazy Baby, Spider Web, Ladder... Dracula Moon is my favorite. Her songs are so sexy.
  • Ben from Gosford, AustraliaI remember the first time I saw this song was on Rage in 1995, that video clip with the clowns on the beach with the furo wigs lol. I love the guitar riff to this song, it's so sexy!
  • Raymond from Sydney , AustraliaI think this song is about me maybe -- who knows.
    I've been a stranger on a bus for over two decades. And God inspired me along the way. God is an ordinary person, with no great credentials or lofty status in society: the pope. Just a person seeking to find and share the truth -- whatever the truth turns out to be. Did I find the truth? See my andjesus if inquisitive.
  • Bob from Comox, B.c., Canada"Joan Of Arcadia" ran from Sept.26, 2003 to Apr.22,2005. The song and series were great!
  • Mjn Seifer from Not Listed For Personal Reason, EnglandI've liked this song for years, and I heard it last night and for the first time ever, I actually cried when the line "Back up to Heaven all alone
    Nobody callin' on the phone" came on. I dunno why -It's never affected me before...
  • David from Indianapolis, InThis song is one of Joan Osbourne's best ever! I think she killed em' all with this one!!!
  • Stacey from Nowra, Australiai can't believe how few comments this song has. i luv this song and the parody "what if god smoked cannibus" also i used to watch joan of acadia all the time but they cut it after one season bummer eh
  • Mick from Los Angeles, CaCould some one please tell me who it is singing that bit at the beginning of the song?? I know the name of it, and its lyrics, but WHO SINGS IT??
    It cant be Joan herself....(well, I dont think so, anyway). But it's a hoot!
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesDid Joan release any other albums apart from Relish?
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