Continuing in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth with some Gaither songs, we arrive this week at Palm Sunday. I thought this week I would feature Bill and Gloria Gaither’s song about the coming of the King. The lyrics of course reveal that the event in mind is the rapture and not the triumphal entry that we celebrate on Palm Sunday, but nonetheless… it represents another fixture among the hymns and songs of my youth.
Continuing with Gaither selections in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth, I’ve picked one of the simpler ones, though it is still very well-known. In looking up the words after many years, I realize why I didn’t remember the verses — the entire song is no longer than what I remembered. Recalling the criticism of the 80’s and early 90’s about “repetitive” worship songs, I wonder if the critics really considered some of what had been in their own repertoire. Of this song, Gloria Gaither writes:
Bill and I received a letter not long ago that said, I don’t understand your song ‘Let’s Just Praise the Lord.’ Why do you say ‘just’? That doesn’t make any sense to me–just praise the Lord.
This week in my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth, I’ve chosen to return to the work of Bill Gaither. “Something Beautiful” was written by Bill and Gloria Gaither in 1971, and has been recorded numerous times since by them (including the Gaither Trio and Gaither Vocal Band) and by several other artists as well. Whether one considers it a “hymn,” or more strictly a chorus or popular music, it forms a part of the musical landscape of my youth as it relates to faith in the context of a conservative little church in a small town.
This week’s addition to my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth is another with words by Elisha A. Hoffman (music by John H. Stockton), originally published in 1878. Hoffman seems to like lyrics that involve the application of blood, but as I said before, this is perhaps the product of a time when such imagery was more common in the marketplace than it is today. In any event, the song proclaims a simple faith based on but a single truth, which is a refreshing point in any time. That is to say, sometimes we have a habit of complicating the gospel far beyond its essence, and hymns like this can help bring us back to the touchstone of saving faith. Sorry for the religious language there… but in keeping with the series theme, this hymn does remind me of times in my childhood. The melody that carries it injects a sense of joy into the words as they are sung, and it is always upbeat as a result. At least that’s how I recall it.
You may recall that last Sunday morning we greeted you here with a server outage; this Sunday morning we’re back on course with an entry (number 94 already!) to my regular series, “Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth.” This week we add one from Edward Mote. Mote was born January 21, 1797 in London, England and died November 13, 1874 in Horsham, Sussex, in England. His early career was in the cabinetry business, but he eventually became a Baptist pastor and served 26 years at Horsham in Sussex, where he was buried. He was apparently so well loved that his congregation offered him title to the church building, but he said, “I do not want the chapel, I only want the pulpit; and when I cease to preach Christ, then turn me out of that.”
I’m a little late in the day with this week’s addition to my series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth, but better late then never… and it’s a good one, too. I’ve hit a couple of bluegrass hymns so far, and this is another solid entry onto that sub-list, with lyrics and music by Elisha A. Hoffman in 1878, who also wrote “Down at the Cross” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
Hoffman was born May 7, 1839 at Orwigsburg, PA, the son of a minister, and himself attended Union Seminary in New Berlin, Pennsylvania. He was ordained in 1868 and worked with the Evangelical Association’s publishing arm in Cleveland for 11 years. He also pastored in Cleveland and Grafton, Ohio, in the 1880s as well as at the First Presbyterian Church in Benton Harbor, Michigan around the turn of the century and in Cabery, Illinois in the early 20th century. Over his lifetime, he wrote more than 2,000 gospel songs and hymns. He died November 25, 1929 in Chicago, and is buried there at Oak Woods Cemetary.
This week as the time comes to add another entry to my list, Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth, I find myself adding what I assumed was a Bill Gaither hymn. And probably thought so too — though the Gaithers aren’t the only ones to have recorded it. Turns out, it was written by Mosie Lister in 1958.
Lister was born and raised in Cochran, Georgia, and studied English and music in college. By the late 1940s, he had worked with a number of groups including a brief tenure as an original member of the Statesmen Quartet. As his career took off and his songs began to find favor, he retired from touring to spend more time songwriting. In 1953, he founded his own Mosie Lister Publishing Company.
“I’d Rather Have Jesus” was a poem by Rhea F. Miller in 1922. The poem was left on a piano in the Shea home by a mother who wanted her son to find it and change the course of his life. The words did move her son George, and spoke to him about his own aims and ambitions in life. He sat down at the piano and began singing them with a tune that seemed to fit the words. Hearing him sing, his mother asked him to sing it at church the next day. George’s life direction did change — he was offered a popular music career with NBC, but a few years later chose instead to become associated with evangelist Billy Graham and sang this hymn around the world. George Beverly Shea is of course credited with writing the music for the hymn.