An original blues by Washington Philipps (1880–1954) which he first recorded in 1927. He attended several denominations and his song, “Denomination Blues” reflect his experiences. Unafraid, Mr. Philipps openly pointed out how Christians tend to get fixated with their religious labels that their attitudes become less like the Lord they claim to follow.

Several artists cover the song but always with an alteration to its lyrics. (The thought was preserved though.) Among them is Buddy Greene. His friend, Patt Flyyn, helped him with the lyrics. Having little or no direct contact with some of the denominations mentioned by Philipps, they opted to tailor the lyrics with those they’re already familiar with.

Buddy Greene in “Denomination Blues”

Controversy & Contradiction

As Buddy Greene had predicted, the song was much of a thorn in the flesh when played in church settings. Understandably, some take offense when they think of the song as a type of mockery to their beliefs. Others who are more open-minded received it well. They even affirm the natural fact which the song was trying to convey.

What’s funny though, based on Greene’s observation, is the acceptance given by Christians to the song when they’re outside their congregational meetings. That, to him, is a contradiction and just as bad as keeping a religious façade. And whenever someone takes offense and gives him a piece of his mind, Greene’s usual response is, “ you really ought to get out more.”

Song’s Anatomy

Each verse is a detailing of what the composer thinks as the blind spots of each denomination. In his original work, Washington Phillips included Primitive Baptist the African Methodists. Greene, however, did not include them in his version. Nonetheless, he added his church affiliation with the Presbyterians.

The song’s conclusion is simple. Regardless of our religious distinctive, we all need a Savior. That’s Jesus, and he wants all those who believed in him to be in unity and harmony over this fact. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.