Depeche Mode's song Personal Jesus, from their 1990 album Violator, has been interpreted in a variety of ways--from an assault on organized religion to an endorsement of Christianity--and lyricist Martin Gore thinks that's just fine. "He never explains the lyrics at all," says bandmate Andy Fletcher in Jonathan Miller's 2003 book Stripped: Depeche Mode. "I've heard about ten different interpretations of 'Personal Jesus' and that's what Martin really likes. . . The lyrics are very ambiguous, so although it could have been controversial, in fact it turned out not to be at all. Most people thought it was a pro-Christian anthem, which wasn't intended."
As its inclusion in these pages suggests, the inspiration for "Personal Jesus" came from a book, but it's not The New Testament, as one might think. According to Gore--who opened up about the song in an interview with Spin Magazine--the unlikely inspiration was Priscilla Beaulieu Presley's book Elvis and Me, written with Sandra Harmon and published in 1985, which chronicles her relationship with her late ex-husband, Elvis Presley. Gore told Spin:
It's a song about being a Jesus for somebody else, someone to give you hope and care. It's about how Elvis was her man and her mentor and how often that happens in love relationships; how everybody's heart is like a god in some way. We play these god-like parts for people but no one is perfect, and that's not a very balanced view of someone is it?
In the book, Priscilla Presley writes of Elvis: "Over the years he became my father, husband, and very nearly God."
Stripped: Depeche Mode (Kindle Edition)