Popular songs based on the Bible

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Handel's Messiah consists exclusively of Bible quotations, such as, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

The Lord's Prayer has been set to music by a number of artists and composers. A 1935 setting by Albert Hay Malotte is a familiar and popular staple of the church choir repertoire. It has been recorded in a pop music context by Siouxsie and the Banshees.[1]

"Turn, Turn, Turn" - Pete Seeger (popularized by The Byrds, for whom it was their second #1 hit, was adapted from Ecclesiastes) [1].

"Hallelujah" - Leonard Cohen (refers to King David)[2]

"Hair" - PJ Harvey (relates the story of Samson and Delilah) [3]

"Dead" - The Pixies (tells of King David's love for Bathsheba and murder of Uriah the Hittite) [4]

"The Unicorn" - (words: Shel Silverstein) tells the story of the Great Flood and explains the absence of unicorns from the Ark see: http://www.unicorncollector.com/music.htm

"Deck of Cards" - (T. Texas Tyler) sung by Tex Ritter (1948).[2] This tells the (supposedly true) story of a soldier using a deck of cards, which he claims helps him to remember the bible. [3]

"It Ain't Necessarily So," from Porgy and Bess, by George and Ira Gershwin, is a perennial hit and has had numerous recordings. In the opera, it is sung by the villain, Sportin' Life, a character patterned after Cab Calloway's stage persona. The song is sung with sly insinuation: Sportin' Life opines that "The things that you're li'ble to read in the Bible, it ain't necessarily so," and says that he "just takes that gospel whenever it's poss'ble—but with a grain of salt."

"All you Zombies" by The Hooters. The first lines say it all: "Holy Moses met the Pharaoh / Yeah, he tried to set him straight / Looked him in the eye / Let my people go"


  1. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:09fixqu5ld6e
  2. See http://www.albertarose.org/Remember/deck_of_cards.htm. The 1959 Wink Martindale version was probably one of the worst songs ever to appear in the charts in the early 60's
  3. The following website: http://www.snopes.com/glurge/cards.asp cites this as an example of an Urban Legend, which occurs any time the US is at war; particular examples relate to WWII, and the current Afghanistan Conflict; however, the website claims that references to this have been around since 1788