- Elliot Walker
Uncloudy Day, Willie Nelson
Updated: Mar 26
A classic country cover of an old gospel hymn about the beauty and excitement of the heavenly gates.
By Elliot Walker
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons
When I say the two words “country music,” what is the first thing that comes to your mind? There are obvious things: Johnny Cash, one of the greatest country artists of all time; beer, the go-to choice of alcohol for most people below the Mason-Dixon Line; girls, has to be mentioned; trucks, either Ford or Chevy. But what about those country songs that come from the heart of the artist and speak about the power of God?
I’m speaking about Willie Nelson’s gospel song, “Uncloudy Day” (more commonly known as Unclouded Day). “Uncloudy Day” is not Nelson’s original song but, in fact, a cover of the piece written by Josiah K. Alwood in the 1800s about the joy of heaven (“Uncloudy Day”). Death has always been a terrifying, dark thing that no one can escape; Alwood and “Uncloudy Day” communicate the opposite idea. It is a ticket to a land covered in gold, where beauty reigns forever, and friends have all gone. The song has been performed for years in church choirs which makes it perfect for a revival by one of Country’s best.
Nelson is not known for being the most talented vocalist nor composer, but the simplicity of Nelson’s songs makes for a perfect combination of instruments and lyrics. The guitar–boosting the classic country feel with its distinct sound-begins the song introducing the main melody. A piano is then given the spotlight-bringing the song back to its gospel roots-follows the pattern set by the guitar. Each instrument is full of character accomplishing a different task in creating a song worthy enough to be shouting the praises and beauty of heaven.
The lyrics of “Uncloudy Day” are lovely, and yet, the song never says ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ outright. The lyrics simply hint at Heaven, so this makes the song itself not specifically “Christian.” That specific feature makes the song enjoyable for not just people of the Christian faith, but everyone who is able to enjoy Willie Nelson. Those who enjoy country music are placed into categories such as “Hillbillies,” but “Uncloudy Day” is not just another country song. It is a song for everyone just like the “land of cloudless days” and the “city that is made of gold.”
As someone who avoids most music that isn’t Rap or R&B, I usually spend each morning scrolling to the bottom of my 785 song playlist entitled “listen™” to find the most recent song added. I rarely deviate from that playlist (hints at the massive number of songs on the playlist), but more recently I have found myself enjoying the genre that produced “Uncloudy Day” and many other genres too. Music can be categorized into thousands of different boxes, but its aesthetic and emotional impact is often what leads to it being enjoyed or hated –– a vibe if you will. And the vibe of “Uncloudy Day” has stayed consistent over the years since its creation. You can imagine an American, church-going family enjoying the pure joy produced by the fast tempo of the song similar to how someone now would enjoy Nelson’s cover. The song is timeless.
But we all need to feel the excitement of Heaven. Like most people, I have found myself to not be confident in my faith, thus I have been afraid of death. For a long time, I favored this earth and the home that I have been gifted rather than death. There is a giant hole left in the soul of those who share this same fear as if death is as dark as we fear it to be. This felt like the only way to view death, a person who does not know if I am really ready for “a home where no storm clouds rise” that is heaven. And yet, as I lived my life in fear, I still found myself uncertain – feeling that death is really something to rejoice in, not fear.
Then, only about a year ago, I was given “Uncloudy Day” as part of my Choral Ensemble class to sing as the baritone. As a choir, we sang the song to death which almost made me resent the song. But, quickly after hearing my dad’s favorite version of the song by Willie Nelson, I found out why it is being sung today. Right after pressing play on the track, I fell in love. An organ singing the perfect melody alongside Willie’s simple vocals–my whole presence of heaven and death became clear.
It almost sounds ridiculous to have tricked myself into believing my own words, and even more ridiculous that I have rejected what God has been screaming at me for years. But not listening to God is nothing new for us – we still cry for help though. “Uncloudy Day” being a simple hymn is one of its greatest strengths. It answers human's greatest fear with joy and grace. So I continue to diversify my music catalog with Nelson’s “Uncloudy Day” and other old country hymns and allow the message to marinate in my mind.