Take 'Em to Church: A Gospel Rendition of a Classic

You've heard U2's "I Still Haven't Found" so many times that it's become white noise. Let me play this version for you, and be ready to set your soul free.

For this week’s blog post, I’m introducing you to Song of the Week on Crackle and Hiss.

This isn’t a new song from a little-known band. It’s a tried and true oldie you’ve probably heard hundreds of times over.

U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is one of the most popular songs in the band's catalog, having popped up in movies, TV shows, commercials, supermarkets, and probably some middle school vocal performance your kid was in years ago.

But I want to share with you a version of the song you might not have heard before. And since it’s Sunday, I’m taking you to church.

When I heard this version for the first time, it was as if I had never heard the song before. I had never felt it like this.

Back in the summer of 1987, U2 was in Glasgow touring their Joshua Tree album. A label exec let them hear a demo that New York choir director, Dennis Bell and his choir, the New Voices of Freedom, had made.

The band was so taken with the gospel rendition of the song that they showed up at Greater Calvary Baptist Church to perform the song with New Voices of Freedom. This footage from the Rattle and Hum film gives us a look at that soul-soaring collaboration. [Also, note the ponytails on Bono and Edge. Indoor sunglasses are another nice touch. We all make mistakes.]

Here, we see what happens when the song is stripped of all its original production elements until there is nothing but a touch of guitar, some conga drumming and a sea of voices. The hand-claps, tambourine and improvised harmonies take it to another level.

This song has always reached me in a way that’s hard to describe. I don’t know if it resonates with you in the same way, but I think for me it has do do with hunger.

“Still Haven’t Found” finds joy in the ‘are we there yet?’ moments life brings. It says to us, it’s okay to want more, to reach higher. Rather than underlining the weakness that comes with wanting, the lyrics highlight the power we can harness from it.

Contentment is one of the things I struggle with most. That comes with not always having clarity about how much hunger is too much.

There are fine lines between contentment and complacency, between desire and greed. The song beautifully explores the space that exists there, and the sound of a gospel choir all but sanctifies it.

We’ve all been in a place where the only thing that seems to matter is knowing someone more deeply. Loving more fiercely. Achieving more mightily. Living more dangerously. Believing more fully.

Yearning is universal. Have you found what you’re looking for?

Wherever this gospel version of a worn-out classic finds you, may you continue to climb mountains, run fields and scale walls.
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