This song is based lyrically on a song that is sung in Brazilian Protestant churches. It was influenced by Nick Cave's relationship with the Brazilian stylist, Viviene Carniero.
Cave sings this in its original Portuguese. The words can be translated as follows:
Foi na Cruz, foi na cruz/ It was on the cross, on the cross
Que um dia/ That one day,
Meus pecados castigados em/ Jesus My sins were punished in Jesus.
Foi na cruz, que um dia/, It was on the cross, that one day,
Foi na cruz.../ It was on the cross…
The hymn previously featured in the 1981 Brazilian film Pixote, which was directed by Hector Babenco. In the movie, the central character, a young boy called Pixote from the slums of Sao Paulo, sings the song with a small crowd in Rio. Cave saw this movie before he met Viviene Carniero, and he has said that it is one of his favorite films. The sleeve notes for Nick Cave and The Bad Seed's 1988 album Tender Prey state: "This album is dedicated to Ferdinand Ramos, better known as 'PIXOTE'. Remembered for his brilliant performance in the film of the same name. Killed by Sao Paulo police in November 1987, age 19."
The Good Son was recorded in Sao Paulo, where Cave was living with Carniero.