During the recording of my CD, ZOMBIES, I became aware that I was two songs short, that I needed about  five more minutes of music on the record. First, I decided to use a song that I recorded during my NOT UNCLEAN sessions, TWO, as the “closing credits” music (more on that later).

I recorded all of my initial records with my dear friend, Pastor Weston Burnside in the studio he built in his Southern Baptist church in Kingman, Arizona. There were hymnals everywhere and I grabbed one hoping to find something in public domain (meaning I didn’t have to pay for it) that I knew well enough to sing,  hopefully something I did not find cheesy, dull or irrelevant to themes of alienation that permeated ZOMBIES.

Dear Weston asked me if I was familiar with GIVE ME JESUS. I said no and he began to sing it for me. I did not care for the tune. He played me a recorded version of it which I liked even less. How could someone who worked so close to me and had grown to second guess my sensibilities pick such a benign song for me to consider?

I pointed this out and Weston said, “I figured with all the references to death and mourning, it was right up your alley.” After thinking a bit I asked to see the printed lyrics and he was right! While too often sung as an upbeat account of heavenly hopefulness, this, like most Negro Spirituals, was rooted in the pain of its time and haunted by the specter of death-or worse, the man that would be its deliverer.

“When I come to die… Give me Jesus!” Suddenly, the song really spoke to me and  minutes later we were laying down tracks for a piece that would not only become one of my favorites on ZOMBIES, but the most poignant.

For alas, Weston had handed me a song about the finality of death and it would not be too long when he himself would die in a horrible motorcycle accident. Yes, my best friend, recording engineer and ministry partner is with the Lord and how painful a journey this has been for me.

If you listen carefully to the track you can even hear Weston’s voice. He received a phone call when I was recording vocals but I insisted that his chatter remain. I praise God I did. Weston gave me that song, he gave me so much of my ministry and I have his voice as not only a souvenir of our friendship but as a reminder that I have known at least one man who was always at the ready to meet his Savior.

“When I come to die… Give me Jesus!”

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