Plastic Jesus — Paul Newman


Plas­tic Jesus” as per­formed by Paul New­man dur­ing the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. Writ­ten by Ed Rush & George Cromarty.

INTERESTING FACTS (a la wikipedia)

- “Plas­tic Jesus” is an Amer­i­can folk song writ­ten by Ed Rush and George Cro­marty in 1957.

- They recorded it as a humor­ous ad spoof in 1962 as The Gold­coast Singers on World Pacific Records’ Here They Are! The Gold­coast Singers (wp-1806).

- The author­ship of the song has his­tor­i­cally been incor­rectly attrib­uted to Ernie Marrs. Rush and Cro­marty are listed as the authors by ASCAP and by the song’s pub­lisher, EMI Music Pub­lish­ing. Ernie Marrs is some­times cred­ited as the song­writer due to the folk music mag­a­zine Sing Out! (Vol­ume 14, issue num­ber 2, page 40) cred­it­ing a ver­sion of the lyrics and music to him.

- Ed Rush has stated that the inspi­ra­tion for the song came from a reli­gious radio sta­tion from Del Rio, Texas in the mid 1950s. The sta­tion was allegedly run by a den­tist and reli­gious fanatic who “sold the most out­ra­geous stuff imag­in­able, all with mag­i­cal heal­ing prop­er­ties.” One sum­mer broad­cast in par­tic­u­lar con­tained the line “…lean­ing on the arms of Jesus, wrapped in the bosom of the Lord…”

- Ernie Marrs, along with the “Marrs Fam­ily” (friends Kay Cothran and Bud Foote) recorded a ver­sion of Plas­tic Jesus in 1965 that was fea­tured in the motion pic­ture Cool Hand Luke (1967).

- In the film, Paul New­man also sings the song while play­ing a banjo.

- In 1972, King Earl Boo­gie Band, formed by Paul King and Colin Earl of Mungo Jerry, recorded the song for their album Trou­ble At Mill.

- In 1993, The Flam­ing Lips included the song on their album Trans­mis­sions from the Satel­lite Heart, though on the album the track is titled “*******”.

- 1994: Mojo Nixon and Jello Biafra on the Prairie Home Inva­sion album

- 2001: Jack John­son on the live album Live at Boulder

- 2005: Billy Idol on the album Devil’s Play­ground

- Over the years, the folk tra­di­tion of this song has grown. Sev­eral addi­tional, optional verses have been added to the song. Many folk lyrics refer to Jesus, but sev­eral other verses refer to Mary, Joseph, the Apos­tles, or the Devil. Folksinger Joe Bethancourt has par­o­dies of Plas­tic Jesus on his web­site, includ­ing Plas­tic Vishnu, Plas­tic Cthulhu and an ecu­meni­cal ver­sion con­tain­ing verses ref­er­enc­ing sev­eral reli­gions (Bud­dhism, Judaism, etc.).


Well, I don’t care if it rains or freezes,
Long as I have my plas­tic Jesus
Rid­ing on the dash­board of my car
Through all tri­als and tribu­la­tions,
We will travel every nation,
With my plas­tic Jesus I’ll go far.

Plas­tic Jesus, plas­tic Jesus
Rid­ing on the dash­board of my car
Through my tri­als and tribu­la­tions,
And my trav­els thru the nations,
With my plas­tic Jesus I’ll go far.

I don’t care if it rains or freezes
As 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 trav­el­ing far

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

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

I don’t care if it bumps or jos­tles
Long as I got the Twelve Apos­tles
Bolted to the dash­board of my car
Don’t I have a pious mess
Such a crowd of holi­ness
Strung across the dash­board of my car.


Leave a Reply