I don't care if it rains or freezes 'Long as I got my Plastic Jesus Riding on the dashboard of my car. Through my trials and tribulations And my travels through the nations With my Plastic Jesus I'll go far.

{Chorus} Plastic Jesus! Plastic Jesus, Riding on the dashboard of my car ... I'm afraid He'll have to go. His magnets ruin my radio And if I have a wreck He'll leave a scar.
Riding down a thoroughfare With His nose up in the air, A wreck may be ahead, but He don't mind. Trouble coming He don't see, He just keeps His eye on me And any other thing that lies behind.
{Chorus} Plastic Jesus! Plastic Jesus, Riding on the dashboard of my car ... Though the sunshine on His back Make Him peel, chip and crack, A little patching keeps Him up to par.
When I'm in a traffic jam He don't care if I say "damn" I can let all my curses roll Plastic Jesus doesn't hear 'Cause he has a plastic ear The man who invented plastic saved my soul.
{Chorus} Plastic Jesus! Plastic Jesus, Riding on the dashboard of my car ... Once His robe was snowy white, Now it isn't quite so bright - Stained by the smoke of my cigar.
If I weave around at night, And policemen think I'm tight, They never find my bottle - though they ask. Plastic Jesus shelters me, For His head comes off, you see He's hollow, and I use Him for a flask.
{Chorus} Plastic Jesus! Plastic Jesus, Riding on the dashboard of my car ... Ride with me and have a dram Of the blood of the Lamb - Plastic Jesus is a holy bar.
-- Attributed to Ernie Marrs

The wonderful southern songwriter Ernie Marrs denied ever writing the song Plastic Jesus. It is true that the above lyrics are the first published version of this song and they were penned by Marrs in the 1964 April/May issue (Vol. 14 #2) of Sing Out! magazine and soon after in Broadside Magazine. However, later that year in the November issue of the magazine an article appeared called "Plastic Jesus Investigated" (pg. 51). In this article Marrs says he merely "collected" the lyrics that were in existence for a number of years.

On disk 4, track 19 of "Best of Broadside Magazine" is a recording of "Plastic Jesus" by Ernie Marrs and the Marrs Family (not his real family - it was really Kay Cothran and Bud Foote). In the liner notes to the CD set it says it was recorded in 1965 in Ernie's garage apartment on 10th Street in Atlanta.

Folk singer Pete Seeger also discusses the song in Sing Out! January 1965 ( pg. 93). Seeger had planned on recording a version, but decided against it after discussing the issue with religious Catholics who he thought would be offended by it.

In 1964 a version by The Goldcoast Singers (Ed Rush and George Cromarty) appeared. Rush said that the song originated as a parody of an African-American camp meeting song with the line: "I don't care if it rains or freezes, leaning on the arms of my Jesus". This reportedly was the theme song of a religious radio program in Baton Rouge in the 1940s.

The Goldcoast Singers version is a parody of the many late night radio preachers that sold all sorts of religious icons over the air on the powerful radio station in Mexico near Del Rio, Texas. The sales of these items are reputed to have been worth millions of dollars. The "song" alternates between a spoken word sermon broken up by the ad jingle Plastic Jesus. Dr. Demento has given this version considerable national airplay on his radio show starting in 1974. Dr. Demento's website says it was last played on 4-29-2001 November 14, 2004. The following are the words and lyrics:




{spoken}


This song is based on an incident, a recent incident; maybe you've had the same experience. Driving along a very busy street, in the afternoon traffic, with honking and screaming and scraping of fenders and sweating and swearing and dust and noise and heat, and you're just glued to the wheel, and it's horrible, and the honking, and somebody's bumping into your bumper. And then you look at the car next to you, and the guy that's driving along next to you is all cool and calm, and he has an expression of Buddha-like serenity plastered all over his face. And you wonder why he is so serene. And then, possibly, you look to his dashboard, and there you see, glowing in the afternoon sunlight, about a four-inch high plastic icon that is apparently supplying this serenity to him. Maybe this is how he heard about it and achieved this kind of satori.

*CLICK!* {spoken} Good morning, friends, this is the Hour of Reckoning.
{sung} Hello, friends and neighbors, How do you do? We're here to pick and sing And we hope we bring Some happiness to you.

{spoken} Hallelujah, friends and neighbors, here we are from Del Rio, Texas, every morning at five-thirty AM, brought to you by... by... the Pink and Pleasant Plastic Icon Company of Del Rio, Texas, every morning at five-thirty AM in the morning (hallelujah). Friends, now we have word for you from our sponsor, the Pink and Pleasant Plastic Icon Company of Del Rio, Texas (hallelujah)...
{sung} I don't care if it rains or freezes 's long as I've got my Plastic Jesus Glued to the dashboard of my car. You can buy Him phosphorescent Glows in the dark, He's Pink and Pleasant, Take Him with you when you're travelling far.
{spoken} (Hallelujah) friends, yes you too can own one, for only a dollar and ninety-eight cents (no COD's, please), Del Rio, Texas. (Hallelujah) And friends, if you send in this week two dollars and ninety-eight cents, you'll get, in addition to your Pink and Pleasant Plastic Icon, you'll get a gen-u-ine, stimulated, Pink, Plastic Baby Jesus Television Light for your television set, with a halo that glows and rotates, easing eye-strain, and bringing in better reception, and friends (no COD's, please), and friends, if you do send in for this, this week, without fail, and put in fifty cents extra for stamps, (hallelujah), you friends, will receive, every day next week a different, a different member of the Holy Family, with a halo that glows and rotates, a television light antenna. Imagine, friends, the envy of your neighbors when they come in to watch Mitch Miller at your house, and they see the en-tire Holy Family, sitting on top of your television set, with their halos glowing and rotating, easing eye-strain, and bringing in better reception. Friends and neighbors (hallelujah), what better place for a family altar than the top of your television set?
{sung} You can buy a Sweet Madonna Dressed in rhinestones sitting on a Pedestal of abalone shell. Goin' ninety, I'm not wary 'Cause I've got my Virgin Mary, Guaranteeing I won't go to Hell. (All together now!) I don't care if it rains or freezes 's long as I've got my Plastic Jesus Glued to the dashboard of my
*CLICK!*


Then in 1967, Plastic Jesus received more exposure in the Paul Newman film Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman's character, Lucas "Luke" Jackson, had his mother die. Luke is left alone in the prison's bunk house to mourn privately and he busts out his banjo and slowly sings "Plastic Jesus" as a lament -- almost as if it is the only religious hymnal he knows. Luke's search for God is a major theme of the movie. His final siloloquoy (oft called Luke's Prayer) is also a begging cry for God to make himself known. The soundtrack/score by musical genius Lalo Schifrin received an Oscar for best film score in 1967. Plastic Jesus appears as track #10 on this album (which was re-released on CD in 2001). Rush and Cromarty are credited as the authors. The lyrics from this version follow:




I don´t care if it rains or freezes
Long as I´ve got my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car
Comes in colors pink and pleasant
Glows in the dark cause it´s irridescent
Take it with you ... when you travel far.

Get yourself a sweet madonna
Dressed in rhinestones sitting on a
Pedestal of abalone shell
Going ninety I ain't scary
Cause I´ve got the Virgin Mary
Assuring me that I won't go to hell.
(repeat 1 time)




This song has seen hundreds if not thousands of extra verses added to it over the years. Verses playing ode to Moses (and even the devil) have existed since the early 1970's. The song has a huge oral history that is difficult to document. Not to disparage the fathers of GangstaFeelsGood and Trippin who both imply authorship of various versions of the song, but it seems more likely that these men merely repeated common refrains and tunes that had been around for many years. In any case, nobody can "prove" authorship of this folk classic.

An early Jewish Version I found:

I know that nothing could be gaucher
Than eating food that isn't kosher
Right in front of Plastic Moses' face.
And I'm afraid that he'll awaken
While I'm eating ham or bacon
And cut my nose off just to spite my race.

Plastic Moses, plastic Moses
Sitting on the dashboard of my car.
He is made with fine precision
Got a polystyrene circumcision
With my plastic Moses I'll go far!


P.S. I have also discovered a few notable recorded versions of Plastic Jesus. It has been recorded by: The Flaming Lips, Jello Biafra / Mojo Nixon, Rocky Votolato, and Jackass.

Growing up Jewish, we never had Christmas trees, Easter Eggs, or Plastic Jesus. As a substitute, we had Hannukah bushes, passover matzoh, and Plastic Moses.

No joke. My father, not to be outdone by any Christian comedic genius (hah!) would sing:

Well, I don't care if it rains or snows-es,
Long as I have my plastic Moses
Riding on the dashboard of my car
I could drive like a crazy bandit
Long as I got the Ten Commandments
Glued up there with my fuzzy dice

True story.

My dad has thrown quite a bit of information at me when I was growing up. Some of it, like don't pee in the wind and don't eat yellow snow are indispensible. Others, like women, you can't live with em and you can't shoot em and if you quit tee-ball, you'll be a quitter for life are best taken with a grain of salt. And I don't know WTF to make of his two cents on Plastic Jesus.

My dad says that back in the day, when he was a real greaseball with his hog and grass, he was in a band. And his band wrote a song called Plastic Jesus. It went as follows:

Oh I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I've got my plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car.
It comes in colors pink and pleasant
Glows in the dark. It's an irridescent.
Buy it *pause* at your local bar.

Now if your faith begins to falter
Build yourself a plywood altar
And drink your wine from a teflon chalice bowl.
Throw a feast on a third floor upper
Invite your friends; it's your last supper
Be the first one on your block to save your soul.

My dad claims that one of his old band buddies gave the song to Ernie Marrs, who made it a hit without giving props to my old man. Maybe pops has got more talent than I give him credit for. Maybe he's full of horse shit. One thing's for sure though...

He had sex with my mom?

Supporting The Arts In Boston

I like riding the subway because it's so completely anonymous. Not only does no one know who you are, but they really don't want to know who you are. It feels so primal to descend the humid concrete steps into that dark & strange underworld. It's a journey outside normalcy.

My travels this morning take me off the Red Line, and through the fluorescent tunnels to the platform for the Orange Line to North Station, Boston. Today, there's an ancient black guy playing music for a mostly indifferent crowd. He's singing the most soulful version of Ernie Marrs' "Plastic Jesus." Slow and low.

I don't care if it's dark or scary
Long as I have magnetic Mary
Ridin' on the dashboard of my car
I feel I'm protected amply
I've got the whole damn Holy Family
Riding on the dashboard of my car

His thick, raspy tobacco-stained blues voice, was backed up with a sweet finger picking harmony pouring out of a giant old Gibson Les Paul. He's got one of those little pignose amplifiers, but the sound seems to fill the subway platform like a concert hall. The song itself rips a hole in your heart. The original subterranean homesick blues.

I'm so deeply moved by this old guy singing his heart out to a bunch of sullen commuters on the grimy Orange Line platform down deep in this cave.

Riding down a thoroughfare
With His nose up in the air,
A wreck may be ahead, but He don't mind.
Trouble coming He don't see,
He just keeps His eye on me
And any other thing that lies behind.

At least the acoustics are good, really, good.  I'm just a guy waiting for a train and unexpectedly I'm in the presence of greatness.  Looking around me, it's pretty apparent that this isn't a religious experience for most of my fellow viajeros

The train arrives, and in a rush before getting on, I grab all the loose change in my pockets and toss it into the musician's hat. He looked up from his playing just long enough to catch my eye, then I was gone, and he was gone.

Once I was on the train, I realized that I'd just tossed him my last subway token and I that I didn't have any small bills in my wallet, and....damn! Supporting the Arts is a tricky business!

{Chorus} Plastic Jesus! Plastic Jesus, Riding on the dashboard of my car ... I'm afraid He'll have to go. His magnets ruin my radio And if I have a wreck He'll leave a scar.

===============&===============

Dedicated to hamster bong who knows all about the T, & Halspal cause he understands the blues

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