Readers recommend playlist: songs about redemption

Primal Scream, Grateful Dead and Van Morrison lead the call for atonement and renewal

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of suggestions on last week’s callout. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

Redemption is a common theme in religion, though my idea for this topic was shaped more by movies and TV shows: I mentioned a favourite, My Name Is Earl, in the callout. The idea that one can attempt to balance past misdeeds and mistakes through acts of benevolence, charity, kindness and compassion is central. But it’s also about Movin’ On Up, and getting out of the darkness – as Primal Scream explain in their signature song, which starts the playlist this week.

Listen to the playlist on YouTube.

Next up is Rise, by Gabrielle. I read up about it and was a bit surprised to find a co-writer credit for Bob Dylan due to an authorised sample of his work. “Look at my life / Look at my heart / I have seen them fall apart / Now I’m ready to rise again” – with lyrics fitting the theme so closely I couldn’t keep a song like that out.

I’m a 90s (and 00s) guy, so forgive me if I am more familiar with cover versions of some popular classics than the original. But here it’s Stevie Wonder (not the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) talking about the second chance he’s been given after all the sins in his past life. He knows better now, so, he aims for the Higher Ground.

Reading the lyrics to Galileo by Indigo Girls over and over again, I feel it’s more than just a song about rejecting redemption.

How about Galileo by the Indigo Girls?

Apart from being a fantastic track, it's got this great idea of atoning - not for something the person has done, but for something they did in a previous life!

"And then you had to bring up reincarnation,
Over a couple of beers the other night,
And how I'm serving time for mistakes
Made by another in another lifetime"

With the great line from the chorus: "How long till my soul gets it right?!"

In the end she decides perhaps not to atone - so that future lives have her as an excuse!

A much harsher critic of the theological redemption theme is found in Blazing Apostles, by Be Bop Deluxe.

My teenage years were the years of post-grunge, alternative rock-metal, so to my mind this choice might prove to be really unpopular, coming from a band seen by some as a cheap rip-off of Pearl Jam (a band I like a lot). In Creed’s One Last Breath our vocalist sings: “Reflecting on all of my mistakes / I thought I found the road to somewhere.” Hope he gets his life back together.

Grateful Dead’s Wharf Rat talks about a man down on his luck, insistent he’ll get back on his feet someday soon enough, while I Saw The Light, by Hank Williams, is a hymn in praise of the Lord who showed the way ahead.

Barbara Allen is a beautiful ballad by Blackmore’s Night, a song about remorse with a beautiful ending, whereas Heal Me, by Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, is just plain kick-ass.

Emmanuel Jal, in tribute to the woman, Emma McCune, who rescued him as a child soldier, has the redemption story.

Finally, Inside Looking Out from the Animals, another instance in which I’d heard cover versions first and the uplifting Full Force Gale, with beautiful Van Morrison harmonies to finish: “I was headed for a fall / Then I looked up and saw the writing on the wall”.

New theme: how to join in

The new theme will be announced at 8pm (GMT) on Thursday 2 November. You have until 11pm on Monday 6 November to submit nominations.

Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for readers recommend:


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