The Chieftains with Jackson Browne - The Rebel Jesus (1991)

"The Rebel Jesus" is a Christmas song composed by Jackson Browne and performed with The Chieftains, the eclectic, veteran Irish folk band on The Bells of Dublin, their 1991 holiday album. Browne wrote the song specifically for his guest appearance on this record.

The singer-songwriter, who is deservedly in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, can be a bit preachy when he wants to be, and he is again here, but no one can dispute what the man is saying. 

The last two verses are the key to the song. Browne points out that people often feel more generous at Christmas so they'll give to those who were less fortunate than themselves during the holidays. But, if anyone tries to dig deeper and root out the poverty that envelops the downtrodden they are often scorned like Jesus was. This message is coming from a man who is admittedly a "heathen and a pagan," but on this occasion he is "on the side of the rebel Jesus." At the same time Browne doesn't want to spoil what is understandably for many the most wonderful time of the year.

The song's arrangement takes on an appropriately serious tone and features excellent backing from the session's acclaimed hosts. The entire album is worthy, especially if you're looking for something different to listen to at Christmastime.
All the streets are filled with laughter and lightN
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus
Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus
Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There's a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus 


  1. Love these lyrics. Thanks for highlighting the work of a great songwriter who still deserves our attention.


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