Plastic Jesus (song)
"Plastic Jesus" is an American folk song written by Ed Rush and George Cromarty in 1957. They recorded it as a humorous ad spoof in 1962 as The Goldcoast Singers on World Pacific Records' Here They Are! The Goldcoast Singers (wp-1806).
The authorship of the song has historically been incorrectly attributed to Ernie Marrs, who recorded a version in 1965, despite Rush and Cromarty being listed as the authors by ASCAP and by the song's publisher, EMI Music Publishing. Ernie Marrs is sometimes credited as the songwriter because of the folk music magazine Sing Out! (Volume 14, issue number 2, page 40) crediting a version of the lyrics and music to him.
Religious basis for parodyEdit
Ed Rush has stated that the inspiration for the song came from a religious radio station from Del Rio, Texas in the mid-1950s. The station was allegedly run by a dentist and religious fanatic who "sold the most outrageous stuff imaginable, all with magical healing properties." One summer broadcast in particular contained the line "...leaning on the arms of Jesus, wrapped in the bosom of the Lord..."
Recordings, performances, and coversEdit
- 1965 Ernie Marrs, along with the "Marrs Family" (friends Kay Cothran and Bud Foote) recorded a version of "Plastic Jesus".
- 1967 Paul Newman, in the role of the title character in the motion picture Cool Hand Luke, sings the song while playing a banjo in a distinctly melancholy scene after Luke learns of his mother's death. The 1965 Marrs Family version is also heard elsewhere in the film.
- 1971 Tia Blake on the album Folksongs & Ballads
- 1988 Naked Prey on their album Kill the Messenger
- 1993 The Flaming Lips on their album Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, though on the album the track is titled "★★★★★★★"
- 1994 Mojo Nixon and Jello Biafra on the album Prairie Home Invasion
- 1999 Sallymacs on their album Faves, Raves, and Songs from the Grave
- 2001 The Blackeyed Susans on their album Dedicated to the Ones We Love
- 2001 Jack Johnson on the album Live at Boulder
- 2005 Billy Idol on the album Devil's Playground
- 2011 Snow Patrol on the album Fallen Empires. This was a B-Side to a single "This Isn't Everything You Are" released in Germany, but was not included on the final album.
- The Levellers on their Fifteen Years EP
- Jack Johnson at some of his gigs and on some bootlegs
- Rocky Votolato on his album A Brief History
- A version of the song was used as the introduction to the "Billy Sol Hargis" skits on the Imus in the Morning radio program for many years.
Over the years, the folk tradition of this song has grown.
Folk singer Joe Bethancourt has parodies of "Plastic Jesus" on his website, including "Plastic Vishnu," "Plastic Cthulhu," and an ecumenical version containing verses referencing several religions (Buddhism, Judaism, etc.).