Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jesus apparently really does want me for a sunbeam, depending upon whom I consult.

The song is torturous enough. Why in hell would anyone create a game about it?

I recently became curious about the song "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."  I know that it has been sung in both LDS and Protestant circles, although the Protestant children seem to have moved on to bigger and better musical genre, while the LDS sucklings are still screeching away about being sunbeams for Jesus.

I've played piano for Primary (the LDS children's organization that takes place on Sunday during meetings that teens and adults are having) on a few occasions when I was still on speaking terms with most of my LDS relatives. Even in the most recent LDS children's songbook, most of the songs are arranged in keys too high for the children or most of the adults to sing, except for the person they call the "chorister," who leads the children's music and usually is a soprano and enjoys the opportunity to show off her range. (Chorister is more commonly used in other settings to refer to a choir member, but the LDS have their own lingo for many things, i.e. communion versus the sacrament, sacrament versus ordinance, sacrament meeting versus morning worship, the stars in the heavens look down where he
lay versus the stars in the sky look down where he lay, and saints and angels sing versus heaven and nature sing. I could go on and on, but I won't. Suffice it to say that Mormons, when they're not pretending to be mainstream Christians, pride themselves on being a most peculiar people (their words, not mine) and are usually pretty damned successful at it.

Anyway, the times I've played piano for Primary, if a particular song happened to be arranged in an especially screechily high key, I just transposed it on the spot into  a key more singable.  Most of the time everyone was very happy with it. They could actually sing the song and didn't know why. "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" fell into this category. The only person who would usually notice, if anyone noticed at all, would be the "chorister," not because she had absolute pitch or anything like that, but because she wasn't the only one hitting the highest notes, which might have been distressing to her ego.

I did just a bit of research on "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."  . The words were written by a lady from Missouri named Nellie Talbot somewhere around 1900. She should probably be forgiven, as that's probably the way people talked in Missouri back then. Come to think of it, some of the more backwoods Missourians probably still talk that way. Arkansas, home of the famous Duggars,  is just south of Missouri, and I can see Jim Bob coming up with something equally lame.

The song has been referenced by Nirvana, the Vaselines, and Elvis Costello in various forms, all superior to the original.

The melody was composed by Edwin O. Excell. While the melody is far from easy on the ears, it did not deserve the words that someone chose to combine with it, so Mr. Excell, too, should be forgiven. Incidentally, the words and music together were first published in 1905. One-hundred-eight years later, the Mormons still haven't figured out that there are more worthwhile songs their children could be singing. I'd be OK with it if I knew one LDS kid who liked the song, and I know many LDS children. A few months ago, I was entertaining about thirty of them by playing their favorite songs on the piano so that they could sing along. One of the adults suggested, "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."  An instant unison groan arose from all the children present -- I'm pretty sure even the two-year-old groaned -- and a six-year-old girl said , "Not that one. They shove it down our throats at least once a month in Primary, and we all hate it." Her words summed up my feelings pretty succinctly, and I haven't had half the exposure to the song in my eighteen years that she has had in her mere six years.

P.S.  I don't think the music producer who is hiring me to fly to Utah tomorrow to finish up with recording songs for some computer-animated  LDS children's short feature movie knows anything about my blog. If I'm wrong, my contract is probably null and void.  If he insists that I am to sing "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam," the contract is either going to be null and void or it will be breached  unless I can get him to speed it up to "Alvin and the Chipmunks'" pace. That would be funny.


  1. That was a most enjoyable read... especially the part about the chorister. Having sung in a few choirs myself, I know exactly what you mean.

    I don't actually know the song "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam", though. I guess Presbyterians don't do that one.

  2. I believe it's sung in some evangelical churches. In every Primary I've been in, I've heard the kids belt out "beam" in a high-pitched silly screech. When my husband was in Indonesia on his mission, the Primary kids did the same thing, singing in Indonesian. Good luck tomorrow!

  3. Knotty, you lucked out if you never learned that song. i learned it at a Presbyterian Vacation bible school in the San Joaquin Valley. The SJV is basically a transplanted part of the bible belt so even mainline churches are slightly more evangelical than in more northern or urban areas.

    Donna, it appalls me to know that somoene actually translated the damned song into Tagalog or whatever Filipino language in which the children were singing. Pig Latin and Klingon are the only appropriate languages for the sunbeam song to be sung. It's bad enough that the children of one nation had to be traumatized. There's no sane reason to spread it world-wide. It's like intentionally spreading bird flu.