Based on a 1997 documentary of the same name, the Broadway musical Hands on a Hardbody centers on a grueling contest held every year by a car dealership in Longview, Texas: to win a brand-new pickup truck, entrants must keep at least one hand on the vehicle for as long as possible, often standing for days on end and suffering from sleep deprivation. The contestants’ remarkable perseverance is captured in “Joy of the Lord,” an uplifting number from the Hardbody soundtrack, co-composed by Phish‘s Trey Anastasio and lyricist Amanda Green (Bring It On: The Musical).
“I was musically inspired when I saw an a cappella gospel street group singing in front of the Seattle fish market,” Anastasio tells Rolling Stone. “It seemed like the perfect fit, the perfect musical direction for the song – a group of people standing around a truck singing a cappella gospel in the middle of the night.” Green then had the idea for the song to grow out of actress Keala Settle’s sleep-deprived laughter. “She is one of a kind, and she just killed that song,” he adds. “Live theater is a roller coaster of emotions, that’s for sure.”
Anastasio can be seen in the clip beatboxing the groove as the cast records “Joy of the Lord” in the studio, a scene interspersed with moments from the song as it’s performed in Hardbody. As Settle’s voice builds to an anthemic climax, her companions join in with background vocals until the song bursts into a cacophony of tap-dancing, truck-slapping and foot-stomping that transcends the competition for four euphoric minutes.