“Jesus Just Left Chicago” by ZZ Top

ZZ Top‘s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” is sort of a religious track, though not really overtly so. In other words, just mentioning Jesus in and of itself does not automatically make a song spiritual. Indeed claiming that he “just left Chicago” and is traveling throughout the United States can easily be perceived as a comical statement. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for ZZ Top's Jesus Just Left Chicago at Lyrics.org.

But apparently such an assertion is symbolic. And what the singer is actually putting forth is something like the notion of Jesus also having a palpable presence in America. And no, it does not appear that he is using “Jesus” as a metaphor for the Christian church. 

Rather he seems to be very much talking about real-life Jesus, if you will, ‘turning muddy water to wine’. Or put differently, as depicted the titular figure is still going around helping those in need, which is the attribute Jesus is most known for.

This idea is buttressed by the third verse, in which ZZ Top speaks of feeling his presence despite “not see(ing) him in person”. And no, this isn’t what we would classify as a praise song either.  Instead, what the boys are conclusively espousing is an idea like Jesus still being alive. 

That is to say that he may not be visible, but he’s still going around performing miracles or what have you. So if anything this is actually a song of faith, i.e. belief in a spiritual entity who the singer himself has never seen.

But as alluded to earlier, this conclusion does not blare out as much as the vocalist making the wild declaration that “Jesus just left Chicago”.

Lyrics of "Jesus Just Left Chicago"

Who wrote “Jesus Just Left Chicago”?

“Jesus Just Left Chicago” was officially written by the three musicians we traditionally recognize as ZZ Top:

  • Frank Beard
  • Billy F. Gibbons
  • Dusty Hill

The latter passed away the day prior to this posting. And the trio had held down the band for over half a century, i.e. from its formation in 1969 to date.

It is Billy Gibbons in particular, the lead singer of the crew, who is recognized as the primary author of this song. And he is said to have gotten the titular expression from a quirky childhood friend of his.

Jesus Just Left Chicago

More Facts about “Jesus Just Left Chicago”

This track was released on 26 July 1973 as the second song on the playlist of ZZ Top’s “Tres Hombres” album, which is a product of London Records. It is segued into by the track which proceeds it, “Waitin’ for the Bus”, an eventuality which Billy Gibbons referred to as “a fortunate miscalculation by the engineer”.

“Jesus Just Left Chicago” never came out as a single. However, it did prove to be akin to a fan favorite nonetheless. For instance, Phish is known to have an affinity for the tune, even coming out with their own recorded version in 1997.

The producer of this track is the late Bill Ham (1937-2016), who likewise served such a role throughout the entirety of “Tres Hombres”.

What Billy Gibbons said about "Jesus Just Left Chicago"

6 Responses

  1. G$ says:

    The song is about Don fox, owner of beaver productions, who originally put ZZ Top on in the 70s at his venue “the warehouse” in New Orleans

  2. Tim says:

    Call it what you will. How many souls has it brought to Jesus Christ?!

  3. Ken says:

    Clearly the author is unnerved by the idea that ZZ Top has made you think about the existence of Jesus. Don’t try to explain it away, just go with honey.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Don Fox, end of story.

  5. Jack Fuller says:

    Jesus ridin’ Illinois Central train no. 3. “The Louisianne” to New Orleans. It was the daylight train south of Memphis, stopping “At all oints in between”. Interestingly, though named “The City of New Orleans”, Amtrak’s version runs very close to the Louisianne’s schedule.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This was played at our sons funeral.

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