This Jim Weatherly song was a No. 1 Country hit for Ray Price in 1973. Then the following year Gladys Knight took it by the throat and made it her own.
If you poke around on YouTube, you can find many performances of this song over the years, with Knight still knocking it out of the park it even now. But I’m less fond of the more recent versions, which tend to be more upbeat. The song itself is a celebration and affirmation of love, and that’s how Knight tends to sing it these days. But I think I like the older versions better, which seemed to be infused with a note of heartbreak at something slipping through her fingers — as though she were singing this to someone walking out of the house, or while watching a train pull away from the station.
Anyway, hearing this on the ’70s channel at the store, I started to think that this was an excellent candidate for rechristening as a Jesus Is My Boyfriend song. Capitalize the word “You” throughout and I think we’re looking at a can’t-miss Christian radio hit. What else would we need to change to have this sung by the worship leader in a 21st-century mega-church? Not much, if anything at all.To see if anybody had attempted this already, I dove back into YouTube, where I learned two things. First, Gospel legend James Cleveland got there first, with “Jesus Is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” — a loose, free-form reworking of the song as a personal testimony. And, second, I learned that there is a popular Southern Gospel song called, “Lord, You’re the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me.”
I was reluctant to link to any of the many performances of that song because it would invite comparison to Gladys Knight, and that would be unfair. But then I found this, from Pastor John and Betty Jean Bratcher, sung on their back porch:
And now I want to sit on that porch with them and beg them to do “I’ll Fly Away” and “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” and “Were You There” and every song in that list that Johnny wrote for Roseanne.