Loop: Gavin Bryars and Tom Waits – Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet

The recordings were originally made for a movie. A full length soundtrack for the movie that never existed is available here.

Tramp with Orchestra IV (full strings) [MP3]
Tramp and Tom Waits with Full Orchestra [MP3]

Loop: Gavin Bryars and Tom Waits   Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet :: jesus blood homeless

When I copied the loop onto the continuous reel in Leicester, I left the door of the recording studio open (it opened onto one of the large painting studios) while I went downstairs to get a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual, and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping. I was puzzled until I realized that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man’s unaccompanied singing.

From Wikipedia:

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet is a piece of music composed by Gavin Bryars in 1971. It is based around a recorded loop of an un-named tramp improvising a hymn; eventually rich harmonies are played by a live ensemble of strings and brass, always increasing in density. The recording was originally made for a 1960s documentary by Alan Power which chronicled street life in London. Later when listening to the recordings, Bryars noticed that the clip was very in tune, and that it looped well into 13 bars. The tramp died before being able to hear the completed piece.

Wikipedia Article
Gavin Bryars
More about the recording


  1. noaM wrote:

    theres one thing that i know
    that he loves me so

    Posted on 15-Mar-07 at 10:48 | Permalink
  2. glenda wrote:

    in nneeded that

    Posted on 16-Mar-07 at 22:15 | Permalink
  3. I never heard a record like this one…
    if you can buy it, it’s worth


    Posted on 22-Nov-07 at 10:04 | Permalink
  4. Eric & Jenny wrote:

    The Little Tramps singing (with Gavin Bryars wonderful & blessed backing) has moved so many people, and brought us to really look at our daily walk! Here is a little unknown man (now sadly passed on without knowing how he has changed the lives of people) who is a the bottom of life’s pile and yet he doesn’t lose his love of Jesus or his understanding of the power of the Blood of Jesus. If our life should go this way we hope we are just like the Little Tramp, unknown by man but known by/of Jesus, and never forgoing our belief in Jesus! The Love of Jesus is above our earthly circumstances.
    I thank Gavin Bryars for his understanding of this man’s singing. The Little Tramp sung by himself yet never lost the tune’s key, was in perfect pitch, and believed in what he was singing; this is a miracle!
    All our Love… Eric & Jenny

    Posted on 21-Jul-08 at 23:49 | Permalink
  5. dirkhaim wrote:

    I don’t think it got anything to do with the content of the hymn, but more with its place in the cultural world. Nobody is talking here about the “power” of the blood of Jesus, and I personally think it’s, like many other religious crap, another myth designed to repress the masses and control them. I was tempted to delete the above comment, but I will leave it. However, if a drunk homeless is your idea of a devout Christian, that just to show the foolishness of religion and the way it parasites on the poor and helpless.

    Posted on 22-Jul-08 at 5:08 | Permalink
  6. Richard wrote:

    Feelings and emotion are the purpose of music. If it does so, it has served its reason. This is a beautiful song. Dirkhaim you missed it.

    Posted on 10-Sep-08 at 20:38 | Permalink
  7. dirkhaim wrote:

    It’s beautiful. Otherwise I wouldn’t have featured it. So how come I missed it?

    BTW, feelings and emotions are not the purpose of music. Give music a bit of credit, a good piece has much more into it. Just like this one.

    Posted on 10-Sep-08 at 21:04 | Permalink
  8. Regine wrote:

    Wow – we used to have the single in the pub where I worked 15 years ago and I have tried to find this song again for years and years. It is so beautiful and dirkhaim i totally agree with your 2nd comment. I don’t think we are the ones missing something, do you?!
    Take care and thank you

    Posted on 10-Jun-09 at 19:44 | Permalink
  9. y wrote:

    Definitely not. We got it well covered ;)

    Posted on 10-Jun-09 at 19:47 | Permalink
  10. tom wrote:

    Obviously ‘Jesus Blood’ is slang for red wine, and even if the tramp himself was teetotal, the song is about how drink always being there in troubled times, not religion.

    Posted on 15-Jul-09 at 12:05 | Permalink
  11. y wrote:

    It’s probably both, since I am not sure the bum tramp had any literary intentions about any sort of metaphore. However, I like your analysis.

    Posted on 15-Jul-09 at 15:27 | Permalink
  12. andre wrote:

    I first heard this song about a decade ago, and it brought tears to my eyes. I was deeply touched, because this man knew Jesus Christ. Unless you are born again or converted you won’t get it. Circumstances do not determine your relationship with Christ, it is spiritual it is a intense love affair. I listened to it again tonight with the same result, it helped me to hang on to Jesus eventhough I am going to some very difficult times. I know He won’t let me down. God bless and thank you very much.
    Pastor Andre J. Beyde

    Posted on 22-Aug-09 at 3:40 | Permalink
  13. Janell wrote:

    I first heard the loop of the man singing during communion in 1994. It was deeply moving, something I have never forgotten and think of from time to time. Listening to David Crowder Band sing “Oh how He loves us” over and over reminded me of this again. I’m so thankful I found “Jesus never failed me…” on the internet today. The truth in this song and the way it was sung both then and now is amazing!

    Posted on 22-Sep-09 at 17:17 | Permalink
  14. y wrote:

    For god’s sake, guys. All this god stuff got nothing to do with the loop. It was a drunk man singing for nickels. If anything, it’s a social saying about despair. God? That’s totally another department. So enough with all the messianic crap with people who “saw the light”. There’s no light here, fellows, so move along. There’s just cold despair and death. And, no, god didn’t help here.

    Posted on 22-Sep-09 at 22:06 | Permalink
  15. kevin wrote:

    Thank you so very, very much for this. It’s a cold, rainy day in New England and I really needed to hear this. I found the piece ten years ago and it never fails to move me. I made my (mostly religious) family listen to it and the reactions were invariably similar to the ones posted here (the wonder of Jesus, etc.), but my take is the obvious irony of how he’s being failed by Jesus. And society. And all the people that stepped over him on their way to work. I find this a profound work. Perhaps accidental, but no less moving. I loaned my copy out and it never came back. Please, Jesus, don’t fail me and get my copy back to me!!

    Posted on 27-Oct-09 at 17:21 | Permalink
  16. y wrote:

    Oops. Fixed the link to the soundtrack at the top.

    Posted on 27-Oct-09 at 18:19 | Permalink