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Flashback Friday: The Time Johnny Cash Covered Depeche Mode


Jesus got his name in a cynical pop love song

In 1989 British electronic band Depeche Mode released a song that your church youth leader can’t decide if he hates. A 1990 profile in Spin magazine says guitarist Martin Gore was inspired to write the song by Priscilla Presley’s characterization of her relationship with her husband Elvis in her biography Elvis & Me. I didn’t know that before writing this blog post, I always thought it was a song of cynicism about religion and religious figures, but a song also about co-dependency? That divorced church youth leader is really torn.

The video is a grainy highly saturated Western where the band walks through a Mexican town. Looking at the lead singer in his cowboy outfit, you might think “Oh hi gay fetish”, but no. They’re in a brothel, being very heterosexual. As the Monarch from the Venture Brothers cartoon says, “Come on! He’s in Depeche Mode!”

Totally straight. Oh well.

So who’s been mooching on Depeche Mode’s cool?

Johnny Cash (2002)

The older I get, the more I appreciate Cash. He never made a video for this song, or as far as I can tell performed it live, so we have to rely on fans making their own tributes to the B-side of his cover for Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”. His career as a country music bad boy and as a gospel singer add so many layers to both “Personal Jesus” and “Hurt”.

Marilyn Manson (2004)

I can’t stand Marilyn Manson, personally. His only real talent is in his aesthetics, which are meant shock and titillate and that fades quickly. He never really had a message or a purpose beyond “LOOK AT ME!”. The video pretty much solidifies that. But whatever, he made an impact on The MTV. Gotta get that goth kid $$$.

Depeche Mode (2011)

The band re-worked their song into a more dance-pop tune and made a pretty interesting video to go along with it. Watch a more peppy version of Personal Jesus set to a story about a woman getting her revenge after being drowned as a witch by Puritans.

Yep, they’re all still heterosexual.

Lisa Hannigan (2013)

Irish folk singer song-writer Lisa Hannigan has performed the song at various live concerts so there are a couple versions of her on YouTube. I think she’s playing the mandolin here. If I had to choose a second favorite version to Cash, it would be this one.

UPDATE: Thanks to the commenters who corrected me, Lisa is playing a “mountain dulcimer“. We learn something new every Friday!


Whatever you do, don’t go find Hillary Duff’s sample. It’s as bad as you imagine it and that’s enough.

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