Jesus Is Just Alright

Album: Toulouse Street (1972)
Charted: 35

Songfacts®:

  • 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. "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."

Comments: 6

  • Linda from West VirginiaI love the beat on this song, although I always thought it was Carlos Santana who played the guitar for it!
  • Robin from MontanaI always thought whoever sang this MEANT it. Imagine my shock. Just kidding. I was very young, I had just graduated from high school in 72, so I was a free bird. I also was very spiritual and considered, as I do now, Jesus IS my friend and Savior. Not sorry. I have memorized almost every Doobie brothers song. Today I drove around town with it blaring from my car.
  • Thomas from Finger Lakes New YorkI always thought this song was about having a lukewarm feeling for Jesus....you know, he's just alright. And the "Jesus, he's my friend" part was meant as sarcasm. But researching it a little bit leads me to believe I could've been completely wrong all this time..... I'm so ashamed.
  • Bill from UsAnd of course The Doobie Brothers version is the one that inspired Millie's version on the piano, at the party on Freaks and Geeks!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn 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.
  • Robert from Kc, KsI 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.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

A Monster Ate My Red Two: Sesame Street's Greatest Song SpoofsSong Writing

When singers started spoofing their own songs on Sesame Street, the results were both educational and hilarious - here are the best of them.

Best Band LogosSong Writing

Queen, Phish and The Stones are among our picks for the best band logos. Here are their histories and a design analysis from an expert.

Billy Steinberg - "Like A Virgin"They're Playing My Song

The first of Billy's five #1 hits was the song that propelled Madonna to stardom. You'd think that would get you a backstage pass, wouldn't you?

Chris Frantz - "Genius of Love"They're Playing My Song

Chris and his wife Tina were the rhythm section for Talking Heads when they formed The Tom Tom Club. "Genius of Love" was their blockbuster, but David Byrne only mentioned it once.

Mike CampbellSongwriter Interviews

Mike is lead guitarist with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and co-writer of classic songs like "Boys Of Summer," "Refugee" and "The Heart Of The Matter."

Wedding Bell BluesSong Writing

When a song describes a wedding, it's rarely something to celebrate - with one big exception.