In 1974, Elvis Presley started incorporating the song “Why Me Lord” into his live shows up until his last concert tour. His version appeared on his 1974 album Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis, and on the compilation, I Believe – The Gospel Masters.
Presley would often introduce the song for gospel singer J.D. Sumner to sing “one of his favorite songs.” Sumner would sing the verses, and Elvis would join on the chorus together with the back-up singers.
When Tom Jones started appearing with Elvis in 1968, he revealed how he got frustrated by how the King of Rock and Roll would always sing this song. Jones recalled to New Music Express: “He kept singing, ‘Why Me Lord?’. He just wouldn’t let me get out of the room. He liked to sing all night. I had two shows to do the following day, and I was trying to get out of the door… then he’d start singing it all over again.”
A Song Written During A Rough Time
“Why Me Lord” was originally written and recorded by Kris Kristofferson. In this song, with the original title of “Why Me,” Kristofferson had an epiphany and asked Jesus why he has blessed him so.
“Why me Lord, what have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known. Tell me Lord, what did I ever do that was worth loving you or the kindness you’ve shown,” the song goes.
Before the song’s release, Kristofferson was going through a rough time. The emotionally low period drove him to attend a church service led by Rev. Jimmie Rogers Snow, which utterly inspired him to write the song. During an interview with country’s DJ Ralph Emery, Kristofferson revealed the truth behind “Why Me.”
“I was moved by a song I heard in church, ‘Help Me,'” Kristofferson said. “I had a profound religious experience during the session. Something that had never happened to me before. And ‘Why Me’ came out of it.”
Kristofferson went on sharing his experience in detail, explaining just how moved he really was. And the rest was history. From that moment on, Kristofferson would go on to be known as one of the most talented singer-songwriters in Nashville.
The song, which featured backing vocals by Kristofferson’s wife Rita Coolidge, was released in 1973 from his album, Jesus Was a Capricorn. “Why Me” then became the biggest song of Kristofferson’s career, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles and peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It Has Since Been Covered By Several Iconic Artists
Ever since its release, many iconic artists have covered the song. In addition to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Merle Haggard were just some who released their versions.
And it’s simply amazing how Presley’s rendition brought the song to a brand new, exciting level. His high energy performance is both fun and inspirational. No wonder why any gospel song The King performed was always an instant hit. There’s just something about how he presented himself and performed every inspirational song as he put his heart on his sleeve, poured his emotions into every word, and made anyone who watched want to reach up to Heaven.
You can watch Elvis Presley’s moving performance of “Why Me Lord” in the video below.