When Travis Tritt sang “Why Me, Lord?” to honor the late, great George Jones at his memorial, the song quickly generated a buzz on the internet.
Although every performance is incredible, no one could deny that Tritt’s tribute to Jones was more than touching. Sitting on stage and calmly strumming his guitar, Tritt honored the country legend by pouring his heart and soul into this performance that made the crowd more emotional.
Soon after Tritt’s performance made its way on the internet, his fans demanded the country icon to release the song. Ever since many have already been asking for something gospel from the multi-platinum award winner for years, and so Tritt could only oblige.
Tritt’s live acoustic version of “Why Me, Lord?” is available as a standalone single on iTunes.
The Song That Inspired Several Music Icons
Written and originally recorded by Kris Kristofferson, “Why Me, Lord?” topped the country charts in 1973, making it Kristofferson’s only major country hit as a solo recording artist. Though the song only peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, it had one of the longer runs in the top 40 at that time and had the most chart reversals in one run on the Hot 100.
Interestingly, the song featured backing vocals by Kristofferson’s soon-to-be wife Rita Coolidge and up-and-coming singer-songwriter Larry Gatlin during its recording in 1972. The song was released on Kristofferson’s 1973 album, Jesus Was a Capricorn. But the story behind the song is even more interesting.
Before releasing what would be Kristofferson’s biggest song of his career, the singer-songwriter was going through a difficult time. That emotionally low period of his life drove him to attend a church service led by Rev. Jimmie Rogers Snow, and this ultimately inspired him to write the song.
“Why Me,” Kristofferson began when he revealed the truth behind the song in an interview. “I was moved by a song I heard in church, ‘Help Me.'”
He added, “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.
“‘Why Me, Lord’ may seem greatly out of character for Kristofferson, but it can be interpreted as his own personal religious rephrasing of ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down,'” country music historian Bill Malone wrote. “In this case, he is ‘coming down’ not from drugs, but from the whole hedonistic euphoria of the (1960s).” Malone has also described Kristofferson’s husky vocal styling as “perfect” for the song, as “he sounds like a man who has lived a lot but is now humbling himself before God.”
A huge number of fellow country singers have since covered this beautiful hit. In addition to George Jones and Travis Tritt, there’s also David Allan Coe, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash. The song has indeed become a country staple.
Travis Tritt’s rendition is just one of our favorites. You can watch his moving performance of “Why Me, Lord?” during the late George Jones’ memorial service in the video below, but better get your tissues ready.