I lost a good friend on the highway last week
A man of good heart and pure soul
Our friendship spanned years now I know it’s complete
As I lean on the funeral tent pole.
Lagging behind and away from the crowd
I saw this guy the first time that day
I thought that I knew him, but I couldn’t say how.
The Heavens grew angry and gray.
He seemed to belong in his leathers/long hair.
And I wondered where he had met us.
My mind wouldn’t rest and my eye shouldn’t stare,
But I had to find out who he was.
We all said ‘Amen’; the service complete
And I looked up to see where he’d go.
I caught a quick glimpse as he pulled to the street
On a Harley as pure as His soul.
I was possessed, I questioned each guest.
“Who was that man at the rear?”
And everyone saw him, ooo’d him and ahhh’d him
But no one knew why he’d been here.
The last person left, the only one there
I hadn’t asked twice before
Was the priest who had served, read us the Word
And the Father hadn’t seen him at all.
I described to the Father the man I had seen,
All to no avail.
I even pointed to where the stranger’d been
In the midst of denial, he went pale.
It seemed his mind was somewhere else instead.
His eyes looked through me, I swear.
“Jesus rides a Harley”, he said.
Then he fainted into a chair.
Jesus rides a Harley.
Whatever you like.
Jesus rides a Harley.
A simple man of simple taste and times.
I wrote this song in 1990 after attending a funeral in Melrose, FL. As a member of the motorcycling community in Central Florida, roughly 100 of us attended the funeral of a fellow I, myself didn’t know. He was killed and his wife seriously injured one night when their bike was struck from behind by a car.
The song is entirely a work of fiction, although the scene is real (including the ominous weather).
As I listened to the Reverend, the basic idea for the song came to me as well as the image of Jesus on a Harley. It took more effort than most songs to hammer out a lyric that pleased me, but I still struggle with the message. I worry that it might be considered a Christian song with an evangelical message and that was definitely not my intention. When I first finished the song and began playing it, I sang the chorus after each verse. After a while, I reserved it for the last chorus for two reasons: First, I was uncomfortable that such an early mention of a religious figure might turn-off a secular audience (myself included). Second, if performed live, I’d rather let the song build to a climax and save the explanation until the very end.
There’s still an element to this song that is alien to me so I guess I’m sort of a co-author on this one.
Musically, the song is rather like Anywhere, But Here (TIME CAPSULE) with its 12-string rhythm and Emaj7 chords. This is the second song I recorded on the Roland VS-840 EX and the first song where I played the drums as well as the other instruments. I’m rather proud that I managed to pull off all the instruments and vocals in this recording (no midi, no drum machine, no other musicians).
Ironic, isn’t it?…a song about simplicity and humility recorded in so egotistical a fashion. I’m goin’ to hell, I just know it.
Originally recorded in St. Albans, VT in 8-track digital and mixed to stereo on a Roland VS-840EX in the spring/summer of 2000. The final recording was mastered using Cool96.