I Was There When It Happened

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There’s a scene in the film “Walk The Line” where John R. Cash is trying to support his young wife and family by holding down a job as a door to door salesman. Whilst doing this he is distracted by the sounds he hears from a band recording at, the now legendary, Sun Studios. Eventually he manages to secure some time there and makes a plea to company owner Sam Philips to get a chance to audition for a record contract.  When asked to play something, Cash and the Tennessee Two play “I Was There When It Happened” which has the following lyrics,

“Yes, I know when Jesus saved me (yes, He saved my soul),
The very moment He forgave me (yes, He made me whole);
He took away my heavy burden (yes, He took my sin and),
And He gave me peace within (gave me peace within).
Satan can’t make me doubt it (he can’t make me doubt it),
It’s real and I’m gonna shout it (I’m gonna shout it);
‘Cause I was there when it happened (oh, my Lord),
and I guess I ought to know (yes, I ought to know)”.

Sam Philips cuts them off short and claims that he can’t sell gospel music and that everyone else has been trying that.  Johnny Cash gets really defensive, as if his own faith or right to grace is being dismissed. 

After a few heated moments, Sam Phillips looks Cash in the eye and says, “If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying and you had time to sing one song, huh, one song before people would remember you’re dirt.  One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on earth.  One song that would sum you up, you’re telling me that’s the song?  That same old Jimmy Davis tune we hear all day on the radio about your peace within, about how it’s real and you’re gonna shout it?  Or would you sing something different?  Something real?  Something you felt?  ‘Cause I’m tellin’ you right now, that’s the sort of song that people wanna hear.  That’s the sort of song that truly saves people.”

In the film Johnny Cash’s response was not some trite ditty about Jesus, love or happiness.

If there was only one song you could sing in that situation what would it be?  Feel free to click on the comments icon to leave some thoughts…

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5 Responses to “I Was There When It Happened”


  1. 1 scottgladstone November 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Mercy by The Gena Rowlands Band.

    “I have wandered away from the narrow path / have I gone so far that I can come back.”

  2. 2 thestatethatiamin November 23, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    You know what? I’ve been pondering this for the past few days prior to posting. I’m down to two songs and that is one of them. It’s probably worthy of a post of its own later in the week given someone that walked back into my life tonight…

  3. 3 jaime November 24, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Street Spirit (fade out) by Radiohead

    Rows of houses, all bearing down on me
    I can feel their blue hands touching me
    All these things into position
    All these things will one day swallow whole
    Fade out again, Fade out.

    This machine will, will not communicate
    These thoughts and the strain I am under
    Be a world child, form a circle
    Before we all, go under
    fade out again, fade out again

    Cracked eggs, dead birds
    Scream as they fight for life
    I can feel death, can see its beady eyes
    All these things into position
    All these things will one day swallow whole
    Fade out again, Fade out again

    Immerse your soul in love
    Immerse your soul in love

    ~Fantastic question. Great blog.

  4. 4 thestatethatiamin November 24, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Thanks Jaime. Great song. Great band.

  5. 5 brunettekoala November 28, 2008 at 12:32 am

    I still can’t decide.

    I’m not sure if it would be something almost melancholic or something filled with anger…

    One consideration is a song by NOFX – ‘Regaining Unconsciousness’

    “they shooed away the bums,
    then they beat and bashed the queers,
    turned away asylum-seekers,
    fed us suspicions and fears.
    We didn’t raise our voice,
    we didn’t make a fuss.
    It’s funny there was no one left to notice
    when they came for us.

    Looks like witches are in season,
    you better fly your flag and be aware
    of anyone who might fit the description,
    diversity is now our biggest fear.

    Now with our conversations tapped
    and our differences exposed,
    how ya supposed to love your neighbor
    with our minds and curtains closed?”


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