Friday, 26 March 2010

Jesus' blood never failed me yet.

This article tells of the history of the simple song/hymn :'Jesus' blood never failed me yet.'It is a 'rigged' duet, sung by an unnamed homeless person and the popular Tom Waits. As described below the homeless man was not a drunk, a stark reminder that people can be made homeless for a variety of reasons not just alcohol abuse! For instance many have been made homeless as a result of a breakdown or lost their money in a business venture-even though they often end up so low that they hit the drink in order to numb the pain.

Whatever the reason,he remembered this song from somewhere or perhaps even made it up.He might also have been an angel in disquise(Heb.13.1-2) or even an ev-angel-ist, there on the street sharing the message of hope and salvation to those without hope.The simple words of the song are powerful, and for every Christian, and for those who put their trust in Christ a confession of spiritual strength in the midst of trouble, feelings of rejection, alienation and distress.

'The man upon the tree' swallowed 'all the poison' that Satan offered him on the cross and came through it victorious.Through his shed blood,forgiveness and the power to conquer sin and Satan is now available to all who call on his name. Even after 2000 years his blood is still as fresh, and as powerful as it was all those years ago, and will,as the song makes clear, never fail you.AK

In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism.

The piece was originally recorded on Brian Eno's Obscure label in 1975 and a substantially revised and extended version for Point Records in 1993. The version which is played by my ensemble was specially created in 1993 to coincided with this last recording.

Gavin Bryars.

1 comment:

Anne Boydell said...

Does anybody know the origins of the hymn and what the rest of the words are?