The Original Version

The Original Version

“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.” (Romans 8:29, Message).

You have all heard of what is called a cover song, right? A cover is a personal version of an original song, usually reflecting the personality of the cover musician and that musician’s particular interpretation of the original song. The original song, of course, is unique, a one-time-only song from the original artist. The original song is the prototype, the first-time and definitive version of the song.

There are three outstanding covers of “This Little Light of Mine,” for example. The original is a Negro spiritual. But listen some time to Mavis Staples (gospel soul), Bruce Springsteen (New Orleans Americana) or Ralph Stanley (bluegrass). All three covers are powerful renditions of the original, and all three covers are very different in style. Each of the three artists wanted to interpret that original song according to his/her musical gifts and preferences. Those cover songs never overcame the original, they expanded the vision of what the original could mean and how it could be experienced.

Each of us is unique, of course, but we are unique covers of the same original song. That’s right, Jesus is the prototype, the original version of God himself, “the Messiah, who is the image and likeness of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4). Jesus is the one and only original, the first born of all creation, “the original meaning of humanity. Christ is what God had in mind when he reached down and formed that first lump of mud into a man.” (Patrick Reardon, Christ in the Psalms).

We are all covers of the original, with our own distinct DNA, personality, giftedness and life experience. Since we are made in the image of God, we are destined to develop our own interpretation of the original. Adam and Eve were not content to be covers of the original. They wanted to be their own independent originals, and mankind has tended in that direction ever since. But surely we know that we don’t have to be independent to be unique.

The potential covers of our original song is infinite, because the original version, Jesus himself, is so deep, rich, profound and universal. There is no limit to the number of unique covers of this particular original. How do we pay tribute to the original? By appreciating all that is unique in other covers, other people, as we encounter each other; and by embracing all that is unique in me, in each of us, and let the Holy Spirit have his way in producing a worthy cover of Jesus Christ, the true Original. “And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (2 Cor. 3:18, Message).


These questions are regarding the three covers of Blind Willie Johnson’s original version of “John the Revelator.” Johnson first recorded this traditional call and response, gospel blues song in 1930, and has been covered since by a wide variety of musicians. The three covers to listen to are by Sam Moore and his choir, made popular in the Blues Bros. movie; by the Forest Rangers, recorded in a Songs of Anarchy CD; and by a jazz singer Jubilant Sykes.

How are these three songs different and unique to each other?

How are they similar or the same?

How would you describe/categorize these songs?

Did you like one of these three songs in particular over the other two? Why?

Did you find something you liked about all three covers?

When you meet all the different kinds of people you meet in the course of the day, with all the different personalities:

Do you appreciate how each person is unique is truly different?

Do you recognize how each person is actually very similar? How are they similar?

Is it okay to like some people more than others, that you have  preference, a natural affinity for some over against others?

Is it even possible to like all the people, with their differences?

Is it even possible to love all the people, with their differences?

Can we learn to appreciate the differences in people (the human covers of the Original), and the uniqueness of myself, as we do these covers of the original song?