The song was written by Depeche Mode primary songwriter, Martin Lee Gore. “Personal Jesus” was released as the lead single from their seventh studio album, Violator (1990), on 29 August 1989 with “”Dangerous” on the B-side. The single reached #3 in Italy, #5 in Germany, #13 on the UK Singles Chart, and #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and #3 on Alternative Airplay chart). The single was the band’s first to make the US Top 40 since 1984’s “People Are People”. In Germany, “Personal Jesus” is one of the band’s longest-charting songs, staying on the singles chart for 23 weeks. “Personal Jesus” was ranked #368 in Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and voted as one of the “100 Greatest Songs Ever” in Q magazine.
The music video was directed by Dutch photographer and film director Anton Corbijn. It is his first Depeche Mode video in colour. The video features the band on a ranch in the Tabernas Desert of Almería, Spain.
“Personal Jesus” has a distinctive sound characterized by its bluesy guitar riff, driving rhythm, and a combination of electronic and rock elements. The lyrics explore themes of faith, power, and personal connections. The “personal Jesus” mentioned in the song refers to a figure who offers guidance and support, akin to a spiritual advisor or confidant. The song’s lyrics use religious imagery and metaphors to address the idea of personal relationships and human interactions. It presents a somewhat subversive take on traditional religious concepts, suggesting that personal connections can serve as a form of salvation or redemption. This fusion of religious themes with more earthly concerns was a trademark of Depeche Mode’s music and lyrics.
“Personal Jesus” remains one of Depeche Mode’s most iconic and enduring tracks. Its influence extends beyond its initial release, with the song being covered and sampled by various artists over the years, including Johnny Cash in 2002, Marilyn Manson in 2004 and Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar in 2013. Its catchy chorus, powerful instrumentation, and thought-provoking lyrics have made it a favorite among fans and a staple of the band’s live performances.