43: Jesus Take the Wheel

43: Jesus Take the Wheel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Jesus Take the Wheel

Story by Hillary Lindsey

Song written by Hillary Lindsey, Brett James and Gordie Sampson

Recorded by Carrie Underwood

I wrote this song with Gordie Sampson and Brett James at my house near West End Avenue. Gordie actually came in with the title “When Jesus Takes the Wheel.” He told us that he had an aunt who always said, “Oh Jesus, take the wheel,” whenever she was frustrated or in a bind. Then Brett told us about a time when his wife Sandy actually was in an accident on the interstate. Her car went under a tractor-trailer, and she pretty much walked away without a scratch.

We started talking about the idea. Words just started flowing from all of us. I said, “She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati.” I have no idea why I said Cincinnati because I’ve never even been to Cincinnati. It just fell out. Brett and Gordie kept adding lines and the song came together pretty quickly. That was one song that definitely came from the spirit in the corner of the room. I’m not quite sure it actually came from us.

Not long after that, Carrie Underwood won American Idol, and of course won a record deal, and started looking for material for her first album. She heard “Jesus Take the Wheel” and it became one of her first singles and then won the Grammy for Country Song of the Year in 2006.

I knew it was a special song with a good message, but it’s kind of funny how art imitates life. I was driving home to Georgia, oddly enough, at Christmas time — I say “oddly enough” because it’s Christmas in the song. I was going through some tough things emotionally right then. As I was driving, the song came on the radio, and the song started speaking to me, even though I was one of the writers! I cranked it up and I just started bawling. It was like the song was saying, “You can let go of this. You can let somebody else take over for you if you just let it go.”

I’ve never had a song do that before. It was like it was saying, “Hey! Hey you! Listen to me!” It was pretty weird — being a part of giving birth to something and actually writing the words and the message, and then it not hitting me until a while later on a random night driving to Georgia.

There were so many letters that came to us about the song. There is a man we know who works in the publishing field. His wife found out she had breast cancer when she was about five months pregnant. She had to deliver early and then go in for surgery about two days after she delivered. The baby was in the I.C.U. We sang the song at the ASCAP Country Music Awards because we won the ASCAP Song of the Year Award for “Jesus Take the Wheel.” That husband came up to us after the song that night with great big tears in his eyes saying that this was the song that got him and his wife through that difficult time together. I’ve known him for a while and he’s never been a particularly emotional man. This is a guy who hears a thousand songs a day because of his work, so the fact that this song spoke to him and meant so much to him was really special.

Jesus Take the Wheel

She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati

On a snow white Christmas Eve

Going home to see her Mama and her Daddy with the baby in the backseat

Fifty miles to go and she was running low on faith and gasoline

It’d been a long hard year

She had a lot on her mind and she didn’t pay attention

she was going way too fast

Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass

She saw both their lives flash before her eyes

She didn’t even have time to cry

She was so scared

She threw her hands up in the air


Jesus take the wheel

Take it from my hands

Cause I can’t do this on my own

I’m letting go

So give me one more chance

Save me from this road I’m on

Jesus take the wheel

It was still getting colder when she made it to the shoulder

And the car came to a stop

She cried when she saw that baby in the backseat sleeping like a rock

And for the first time in a long time

She bowed her head to pray

She said “I’m sorry for the way

I’ve been living my life

I know I’ve got to change

So from now on, tonight”


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