Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

The Velvet Underground’s Jesus

Andy Warhol was the original manager and producer for The Velvet Underground and used them heavily in his Exploding Plastic Inevitable events, which often included various music, Warhol films and other artistic performances. Andy Warhol and his “Factory” pushed a lifestyle of experimentation in aspects beyond arts. They were seen by the rest of world as morally corrupt as they emphasized sexual freedom and heavy drug experimentation. The Velvet Underground sang about this sort of life style with no shame in many of their songs. For example, “Venus In Furs” is about sado-masochism, “I’m Waiting for The Man” is about Lou Reed waiting for his drug dealer, and perhaps their most bizarre song, “Sister Ray”, is about a man getting killed, and while waiting for the police, drag queens taking sailors home, shooting up heroin, and having an orgy. To the world, The Velvet Underground was a band that had no moral boundaries and lived an almost “evil” lifestyle. They had no care for religion, and definitely did not associate themselves with any organized religion such as Christianity.

However, in 1969, they released a self titled album which contains a track simply named “Jesus”. At first, one would expect it to be a satire of sorts, a song against Jesus and religion. Turns out, it is just a song that confuses Velvet listeners. The song is slow, sweet, beautiful, and seemingly sincere. The lyrics are simple and are repeated for the duration for the whole song (3:24)

Jesus, help me find my proper place
Jesus, help me find my proper place
Help me in my weakness
‘Cos I’m falling out of grace
Jesus
Jesus

Lou Reed sounds fragile, weak, and honest. Perhaps this song is really about what the lyrics say. Everyone at some point feels lost, weak, and in despair. Reed seems to be in such a place and is reaching up for someone to pull him up. He might be literally asking Jesus for help, or perhaps Jesus to Reed is just a symbol of that helping hand above that pulls him up, the person or force outside of his life that helps him. Symbol or not, Jesus, or the idea of Jesus, still means something to Reed. Jesus still represents a helper and reviver. Even though The Velvet Underground lived the opposite lifestyle of a “Christian life”, they did not totally reject or bash the idea of it. There is still a sense of respect and adoration towards the name, if not the man, Jesus.

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2 responses

  1. ler884

    Music tends to be the most sincere and honest artform out there and with that in mind, I would agree that the song “Jesus” could be taken at face value. While it is possible that the band was falling into pressure from society at the time or from common ideologies of religion and wanted to test a facet of the idea that they had not before, it seems more probable that when finding themselves in a dark place they wanted to turn to something that seemed more out of this world and good rather than worldly and sinful.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:58 am

  2. I’ve always wondered what the significance of this song is in relation to the rest of the Velvet Underground’s work. Your analysis is definitely solid. I like the idea that Lou Reed sees Jesus not as a religious figure but as a model for something good. I think that falls in line with the rest of his writing for the band, he often tends to find great value in unexpected places.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm

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