Song of the Day #4,519: ‘If I Was the Priest’ – Bruce Springsteen

Despite starting his recording career four years earlier than Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen has released 11 fewer studio albums. The Boss dropped Letter To You, his 20th, late last month.

The album finds the 71-year-old legend in a contemplative mood, mourning the deaths of past band members and looking back nostalgically at the way music shaped his life.

Springsteen recorded this album with the E-Street Band in less than a week, capturing live studio performances and adding very few overdubs. The band sounds great, as always.

What struck me my first time through the album was how a few of its songs sounded like they could have been lifted off of Springsteen’s earliest albums. Those tracks contain the wild-eyed poetry, verbal gymnastics, and obvious Dylan influence that’s all over Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocents, & the E Street Shuffle.

Well, it turns out three of these “new” songs are indeed tracks Springsteen wrote 50 years ago but failed to include on his earliest releases. Today’s SOTD is one of those, and hearing the young man’s song through the older man’s voice is really something.

[Verse 1]
There’s a light on yonder mountain
And it’s calling me to shine
There’s a girl over by the water fountain
And she’s asking to be mine
And Jesus is standing in the doorway
In a buckskin jacket, boots and spurs so fine
He says, “We need you son tonight up in Dodge City
‘Cause there’s just too many outlaws trying to work the same line”

[Chorus]
Now if Jesus was a sheriff and I were a priest
If my lady was an heiress and my Mama was a thief
If Papa rode shotgun on the Fargo line
There’s still too many bad boys trying to work the same line

[Verse 2]
Well sweet Virgin Mary runs the Holy Grail saloon
Well for a nickel she’ll give you whiskey and a personally blessed balloon
And the Holy Ghost is the host with the most, he runs the burlesque show
Where they’ll let you in for free and they hit you when you go
Mary serving Mass on Sunday and she sells her body on Monday
To the bootlegger who paid the highest price
He don’t know he got stuck with a loser, she’s a stone junkie what’s more she’s a user
She’s only been made once or twice by some kind of magic

[Chorus]
If Jesus was a sheriff and I were a priest
If my lady was an heiress and my Mama was a thief
And Papa rode shotgun on the Fargo line
There’s still too many outlaws trying to work the same line

[Verse 3]
Well things ain’t been the same in heaven since Big Bad Bobby came to town
He’s been known to down eleven, then ask for another round
Me I’ve got scabs on my knees from kneeling way too long
It’s about time I played the man, took a stand where I belong
And I forget about the old friends and the old times
There’s just too many new boys trying to work the same line

[Chorus]
Well if Jesus was a sheriff and I were a priest
If my lady was an heiress and my Mama was a thief
And Papa rode shotgun on the Fargo line
There’s just too many outlaws trying to work the same line

[Verse 4]
Well there’s a light on yonder mountain
And it’s calling me to shine
There’s a girl over by the water fountain
She’s asking to be mine
Jesus is standing in the doorway
Six gun drawn and ready to fan
Said, “We need you tonight son up in Dodge City”
Told him I was already overdue for Cheyenne

[Chorus]
If Jesus was the sheriff and I were a priest
If my lady was an heiress and my Mama was a thief
And Papa rode shotgun on the Fargo line
There’s still too many bad boys trying to work the same line

If Jesus was the sheriff and I were a priest
If my lady was an heiress and my Mama was a thief
And Papa rode shotgun on the Fargo line
There’s still too many bad boys trying to work the same line

[Outro]
If Jesus was the sheriff and I was a priest

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,519: ‘If I Was the Priest’ – Bruce Springsteen

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I owe this album a full listen. He also put out a documentary on AppleTV showing the studio sessions and providing a lot of insight. Need to watch that as well.

  2. Peg says:

    Love him and he sounds wonderful ❤️

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.