Song of the Day #4,857: ‘Sinners, Saints and Fools’ – Brandi Carlile

Continuing my track-by-track presentation of Brandi Carlile’s In These Silent Days

Carlile returns to Elton John territory on the album’s penultimate track, unleashing a blistering rocker about religious hypocrisy.

‘Sinners, Saints and Fools’ is written as a parable about a so-called Christian who turns his back on immigrants only to suffer the same fate at the Pearly Gates.

Carlile has been open about the important role faith has played in her life, but also about the dismaying ways it has been used as a bludgeon against others. Her most personal example is when, as a teen, she was publicly refused baptism by a preacher because she’s gay.

In the Stereogum interview I’ve been quoting about In These Silent Days, Carlile said this when discussing today’s SOTD:

I was like 19, and I went to Urban Outfitters, and I saw a T-shirt with Jesus on a Harley, and I bought it. It said, “What the fuck is a Christian?” And you realize Jesus did not know what a Christian was. He didn’t know what the Bible was. Jesus is a concept of mercy and enduring love, not love, the feeling, but love, the action. And I subscribe. I follow. Anything you like about me, it’s because of that.

[Verse 1]
Where the winds of change were blowin’, there lived a God-fearing man
He was turning through his bible when he came up with a plan
He painted up a sign and held it high above his head
Waved it proudly in the air and this is what it read

[Chorus]
You can’t break the law
There are reasons for the rules
I keep things safe here for everyone
The sinners, saints, and fools
The poor and huddled masses
Who arе hungry and afraid
You gotta do it by the book and there’ll bе
No exceptions made

[Verse 2]
To the weary, desperate souls who washed up on the sand
He said, “We hadn’t seen your paperwork” and he withdrew his hand
You know he never felt any safer, all the peace he hoped he’d find
And up until the day he died, he never changed his mind

[Chorus]
You can’t break the law
There are reasons for the rules
They gotta keep it safe here for everyone
You sinners, saints, and fools
The poor and huddled masses
Who are hungry and afraid
You gotta do it by the book or there’ll be
No exceptions made

[Verse 3]
By the time he got to Heaven, it was surrounded by a wall
The pearly gates were locked up tight, the golden chains and all
They said, “We cannot let just anyone walk in here anymore
You didn’t do it by the book,” and then they pointed to the floor

[Chorus]
You can’t break the law
There are reasons for the rules
I keep things safe here for everyone
You sinners, saints, and fools
The poor and huddled masses
Who are hungry and afraid
You gotta do it by the book and there’ll be
No exceptions made

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,857: ‘Sinners, Saints and Fools’ – Brandi Carlile

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    This song, particularly the jam session at the end, was probably the most incongruous with our peaceful drive from Saranac to Albany. In the right setting and mood, however, I could better appreciate this Elton John inspired track.

  2. Peg says:

    Again I love the lyrics

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