judee sill - "jesus was a cross maker" / by Zack Free

judee sill's story is a tragic one. she grew up in a turbulent home, and as a teen, she assisted in several armed robberies. she was sent to reform school, where she acted as a church organist and gained an intimate knowledge of gospel music that would impact her music significantly. later in life, she picked up a heroin addiction and ended up turning to prostitution. she ultimately died at the age of 35 from a lethal mixture of cocaine and codeine. most regrettably, she never reached the level of success that she deserved. she came closest, however, with "jesus was a cross maker," a graham nash-produced cut from her debut that remains her leading legacy (just ahead of her immaculate "the kiss", also on this list). it's a brilliant display of her influences, equally indebted to gospel and classical music, and it shows off her incredible talent as a songwriter. the song is about her tumultuous relationship with musician j.d. souther, but sill translates her own experiences into a stirring biblical allegory, characteristic of the christian imagery that she would utilize throughout her career, that gives the story a certain ubiquity. "one time i trusted a stranger 'cause i heard his sweet song," she weaves, and it's difficult not to feel her suffering. "crossmaker" is a tale of pain, and few have been as fit to tell it as judee sill

SEE ALSO: frida hyvönen's gorgeous cover, from the tribute album crayon angel: a tribute to the music of judee sill

 

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