Happy Easter Everyone! And to celebrate here are ten songs/pieces of music that sort of tell the story of Jesus at Easter, although to be fair my grasp of the story is a) a little bit scratchy and b) a bit, okay a lot, tongue in cheek. But here goes!
In the gospels Jesus is sent into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and 40 nights and the end of which Jesus is set three temptations by Satan himself. This theme of temptation is woven into many a Blues song, indeed the selling of souls for greatness is supposedly to have even happened to the Blues pioneer Robert Johnson. One of the great blues bands to come out of the deep south of Texas was ZZ Top who on their Tres Hombres album told a kind of story of Jesus leaving home in Chicago, bound for New Orleans. And though there is a very loose connection to Jesus’s actual time in the wilderness the band do find time to refer to one of Jesus’s miracles when singing ‘took a jump through Mississippi, well, muddy water turned to wine.’
The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday in the Christian calendar and marks the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The great composer, George Fredric Handel, created his messiah, part two of which deals with the time from his entry into Jerusalem until his cruxifiction, with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, with ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’
In the week build up to Christ’s crucifixion a number of events happen on the build up to Good Friday when Jesus’s was put to death on the cross. The culmination of this, following Jesus’s anointing, his betrayal and the Last Supper and Eucharist, is Jesus’s agony and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemene which gives the title to a song off Richard Thompson’s album The Old Kit Bag.
Following Christ’s arrest he was subsequently tried and found guilty by the Roman governor he was sentenced to death by crucifixion. On Good Friday Christ was made to carry his cross to Calvary during which journey 14 stations were visited before his eventual last station. The Station to Station album by David Bowie is when he introduced the world to the Thin White Duke, a character ravaged by Bowies years of drug addiction, and perhaps both the antithesis of Christ and also as close a character as Bowie came to the physical representation of Jesus.
In 1970 Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice produced their first rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, which told the Easter story from the perspective of Judas Iscariot who, in their version, was disillusioned with the direction that Jesus was taking the apostles. From the 1973 film here is their version of the crucifixion.
Probably the most famous crucifixion scene in movie history isn’t one portraying the death of Christ, but that one that shows the death of Brian in the Monty Python film, The Life of Brian. With Brian, Graham Chapman, on his cross dejected and miserable with his lot, one of his fellow crucified prisoners, played by Eric Idle, suggests he ‘shouldn’t grumble, but give a whistle.’
The Saturday of the Easter weekend, in the Jewish calendar, is observed as the Sabbath, their day of rest. After his death Jesus’ was hurriedly buried in a cave until the devout could embalm him on the Sunday. Taking a slightly different view to the Sabbath, in 1970, heavy rock band Black Widow, heavily influenced by the Occult, dropped the H and invoked Satan on Come to the Sabbat.
Easter Sunday is the day on which Jesus rises from the dead, discovered when his tomb his visited only to find the rock has been rolled away, which is as good a reason to post Mott the Hoople’s 1973 hit, Roll Away The Stone.
Possibly the most famous song to make reference to Easter Sunday, although obliquelyis U2’s Sunday, Bloody Sunday. A political protest song that is overtly about the shooting of protesters by the parachute regiment in Londonderry in 1972, reference is made in the song ‘to claim a victory that Jesus won… on a Sunday, Bloody Sunday,’ that being Jesus giving his own life for the salvation of others; to end the sectarian violence from both sides in the Irish troubles.
Finally the Easter story finishes 40 days after Christ rises from the dead with the Day of Pentecost or Christ’s Ascension to Heaven. In view of his devout disciples Jesus takes his place on the right hand of God, with the glory and devotion being shown by his apostles. And what better song to portray that than Fat Boy Slim’s crescendo building quasi-religious dance tune Praise You.