Alan Jackson‘s “Monday Morning Church” is said to be one of the saddest country songs of all time, ranking No. 39 on Rolling Stone’s list. Billboard magazine’s Deborah Evans Price also called it “one of the most potent ballads in country music since George Jones’ ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.‘”
It was released as the second single off his 2004 album What I Do, and the song peaked at No. 5 on the United States Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks.
The Story Behind Heart-Wrenching Song
Written by Brent Baxter and Erin Enderlin, “Monday Morning Church” tells the tale of a man grasping for faith after his wife’s death, who was the deeper one spiritually and was more the spiritual head of the family.
“You left my heart as empty as a Monday morning church. It used to be so full of faith, and now it only hurts. And I can hear the devil whisper, ‘Things are only getting worse.’ You left my heart as empty as a Monday morning church,” the song goes.
When one preacher visited him and reminded him that Jesus loves him, the man started to doubt if he still deserves it as there’s no longer faith left in him. He’s now unable to bring himself to believe in God now that his wife is no longer beside him.
As sad as it may seem, but “Monday Morning Church” was actually inspired by a lighthearted poem written by Baxter’s mother.
“My mom was an English teacher, so she showed me a poem that she’d written to her English students,” Baxter recalled. “There’s a line in there that says, ‘I walk outside at 4:30, and the parking lot’s as empty as a Monday morning church.’ Yes. Thank you, mama. And so, all the bells and whistles went off in my head, going ‘Title title title!'”
From that one lonely line where “there’s aching, there’s longing,” Baxter came up with something really heavy to fit around it by exploring what someone may perhaps go through after losing a loved one.
After filling out most of the lyrics, Baxter showed it to many potential co-writers – however, no one ever bit. Luckily, he met Enderlin – who just lost a friend in a car accident at that time – and the song absolutely struck a chord with her. The two songwriters went on writing “a really sad, beautiful melody.”
Enderlin then brought it back to Nashville and started playing it around. During one performance, at a bar called the Broken Spoke, Enderlin noted that two men punching each other in the face stopped about halfway through when she started playing “Monday Morning Church.” She knew right then and there that the song would be such a hit.
“Two guys stopped punching each other in the face and sat down to listen to the song,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘Man, I might really have something here!'”
So it was no longer a surprise when the song caught country legend Alan Jackson’s attention. Not only that, but Patty Loveless was also featured in the background vocals. You can listen to “Monday Morning Church” in the video below.