After Peter Gabriel left and Phil Collins became also the vocalist of Genesis and there were only him, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks left, the band started to write about many different kinds of things. Curiously, one was the famous televangelists, who became a really huge phenomenon especially in the United States. They are pastors and ministers who preach on television searching for donations and followers. However, most of the time they have a totally different life from what they preach. The track “Jesus He Knows Me” was the fourth single to be released on their six-times platinum album “We Can’t Dance”, released in 1991.
Written by all three members of Genesis, the song became one of their biggest classics and it was inspired by a real televangelist. Collins was always impressed by the amount of preachers on TV in the United States and the inspiration started with that.
The preacher who inspired Genesis to write “Jesus He Knows Me”
The track was originally titled “Do The New Thing” and Collins usually writes the music first and sings whatever comes to his mind just to find a melody to it. When he was improvising one day, he came up with the chorus, which said: “Jesus, He Knows Me and He Knows I’m Right”. That was an instant connection to the televangelists and Ernest Angley, who had a signature one hour show in the United States was the biggest inspiration behind the song.
In an interview with Room 101 in 2008 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Collins talked about televangelists and Ernest Angley. “I don’t know how they get away with it, to be quite honest. My trips to America on sundays, you turn on the television and its wall-to-wall TV evangelists. There is a guy called Ernest Angley who’s now gotta be in his late 80s.”
“(He used to say that) for 100 dollars (you could get a) personal prayer and he gets people to send him 100 dollars. ‘Personal prayer’, that obviously is not a personal prayer at all. It’s scary that most of America go for this. It’s a huge department.”
Phil Collins continued:
“This guy for example has (many) trucks. When we go on tour, for example, we have 12, 15 trucks, he has the same thing. He has not changed (the way he looks), I’ve been watching him for 20 years.
He was then asked how that track performed in the “bible belt” in America. Collins then replied: “Ohh, not well at all, actually (laughs). (Ernest Angley) did see the video. Someone who knew him somewhere along the line asked if he had seen the video. He thought it was very ‘flattering’ (laughs). It wasn’t meant to be sacrilegious, it was just meant to be: ‘Listen people, wake up! These people are fleecing!’ And it is fleece,” Phil Collins said.
The interviewer noted that Angley once told his audience that “God looks more or less like” himself. Besides saying things like that, Angley also was involved in many other controversies during his life.
He had a large audience in the United States and preached until the final days of his life. He passed away in 2021 at the age of 99.
Easter egg in the official video of “Jesus He Knows Me”
The official video made for “Jesus He Knows Me” was certainly one of the best Genesis ever did and it had some easter eggs. Besides Collins, kind of “being” Ernest Angley, there is a moment where a television audience holds a sign saying: “Genesis 3:25”. That doesn’t exist in the bible and it’s a reference to the band itself. Since at the time they were active for 25 years, with most of the time with only 3 members.
On the charts, the song peaked at number 10 in Canada, 20 in United Kingdom. But in the United States peaked at number 23.
In 2023, the track was covered by the Swedish band Ghost on their covers album “Phantomime”.