Messianism in Music

The song  “One for the Vine” by Genesis (written mainly by Tony Banks, I believe) has some fascinating lyrics, which I will include below the video. The video is a rare live recording – here is a link to the original album version if you prefer that.


“One for the Vine”

Fifty thousand men were sent to do the will of one.

His claim was phrased quite simply, though he never voiced it loud,

I am he, the chosen one.

In his name they could slaughter, for his name they could die.

Though many there were believed in him, still more were sure he lied,

But they’ll fight the battle on.

Then one whose faith had died

Fled back up the mountainside,

But before the top was made,

A misplaced footfall made him stray

From the path prepared for him.

Off of the mountain,

On to a wilderness of ice.

This unexpected vision made them stand and shake with fear,

But nothing was his fright compared with those who saw him appear.

Terror filled their minds with awe.

Simple were the folk who lived

Upon this frozen wave.

So not surprising was their thought,

This is he, God’s chosen one,

Whos come to save us from

All our oppressors.

We shall be kings on this world.

Follow me!

Ill play the game you want me,

Until I find a way back home.

Follow me!

I give you strength inside you,

Courage to win your battles –

No, no, no, this can’t go on,

This will be all that I fled from.

Let me rest for a while.

He walked into a valley,

All alone.

There he talked with water, and then with the vine.

They leave me no choice.

I must lead them to glory or most likely to death.

They travelled cross the plateau of ice, up to its edge.

Then they crossed a mountain range and saw the final plain.

Still he urged the people on.

Then, on a distant slope,

He observed one without hope

Flee back up the mountainside.

He thought he recognised him by his walk,

And by the way he fell,

And by the way he

Stood up, and vanished into air.


For more exploration of messianism in progressive rock, there’s always “Machine Messiah” by Yes.

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  • arcseconds

    i thought this was going to be about the influence of Olivier Messiaen there for a second.

  • David Faulkner

    From the same album (‘WInd and Wuthering’) that contains the lines, ‘Here comes the bishop all dressed up, he’s gonna bless you if you’re ready to pay’ in the track ‘Eleventh Earl of Mar’.