One of Us ~ Joan Osborne

Joan Osborne is an American singer-songwriter. She is best known for her song “One of Us”.  She has toured with Motown sidemen the Funk Brothers and was featured in the documentary film about them, Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Originally from Anchorage, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville, Osborne moved to New York City in the late 1980s, where she formed her own record label, Womanly Hips, to release a few independent recordings. She signed with Mercury Records, and released her first full length album, Soul Show: Live at Delta 88, in 1991. Her second (and first major label) album was Relish (1995), which became a hit on the strength of the single “One of Us”. Apart from this song, the rest of the album was steeped in country, blues and folk music. “Right Hand Man” and “St. Teresa” became minor hits following the success of “One of Us”.

In 2001, Osborne appeared on Austin City Limits, singing material mainly from Righteous Love. In a brief interview segment at the end of the episode, Osborne reflects on her gladness to have gotten out of the limelight of her mid-90’s stardom.

She was featured in the 2002 documentary film, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, and toured with Motown sidemen the Funk Brothers. She and her band accompanied the Dixie Chicks for a national tour in the summer of 2003, during which time she also joined veteran San Francisco jam-rockers The Dead as a vocalist, and released her fourth album, titled How Sweet It Is, a collection of classic rock and soul covers.

During 2005 and 2006, Osborne performed on numerous occasions with Phil Lesh and Friends. In February 2007, she appeared on the Grand Ole Opry.

In May 2007, she issued Breakfast in Bed, a return to the soul music that she had covered on How Sweet It Is. Breakfast in Bed also featured the two songs (“Heatwave” and “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”) that she had covered for the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

She sang lead vocals on the cover of “Spoonful” on Vivian Campbell’s solo album Two Sides Of If. She also provided some vocals for “Wayfaring Stranger” on Spearhead’s 1997 album Chocolate Supa Highway. She covered Dolly Parton’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” on the 2003 tribute album Just Because I’m a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton. She is featured on the Holmes Brothers 2007 collection State of Grace performing “Those Memories of You”, an old Allan O’Bryant and Bill Monroe bluegrass tune.

Osborne’s latest album, Little Wild One, was released in September 2008. Osborne performs as a guest vocalist on Sgt. Pepper Live, the 2009 album and DVD by Cheap Trick.

Recently her song “One of Us” was performed by the cast of Glee in the episode “Grilled Cheesus”.

She performed with The Waybacks at Merlefest, 2011, during the Hillside Album hour, featuring The Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach.

Osborne is currently a member of Trigger Hippy, along with Steve Gorman, Audley Freed, Jackie Greene, and Nick Govrik.

One of Us

One of Us” is a song written by Eric Bazilian (of The Hooters) and originally released by Joan Osborne.

Bazilian discussed the song in an interview, saying “I wrote that song one night – the quickest song I ever wrote – to impress a girl. Which worked, because we’re married and have two kids. But we were in the middle of writing Joan’s album, which was a group effort with Rick Chertoff and Joan and Rob and I, and I did a demo of “One of Us,” this wacky little demo which I ended up putting as a hidden track on the CD of my first solo record, and I played [it] for them. And it really hadn’t even occurred to me that it was something that Joan might do, but Rick, in his wisdom, asked Joan if she thought she could sing it. And I think it was better that he asked it that way rather than “Do you want to sing it?” Because the answer to that might not have been yes. But she definitely said she could sing it, and we did a little live demo of a guitar and her singing it. And when I got into my car and popped the cassette in, I started practicing the Grammy speech that I should’ve gotten to give.”

The song deals with various aspects of belief in God by asking questions inviting the listener to consider how they might relate to God, such as “Would you call [God's name] to his face?” or “Would you want to see [God's face] if seeing meant that you would have to believe in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets?” The title of the song comes from the refrain, “What if God was one of us?”

The album version starts off with four lines from a Gospel music song “The Heavenly Aeroplane”:

Oh, one of these nights at about twelve o’clock
This whole earth is gonna reel and rock
Saints will tremble and cry for pain
For the Lord’s gonna come in his heaven airplane.

[flv]httP://djallyn.org/media/joan-osborne-one-of-us.flv[/flv]

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him
In all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

*And yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that
you would have to believe
in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints
and all the prophets (*)

Trying to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone
‘cept for the Pope maybe in Rome(*)

Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rolling stone
Back up to heaven all alone
Just trying to make his way home
Nobody calling on the phone
‘cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

  • Audio from the 1995 album, Relish:

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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.