Lyrics Change

Speaking of earning your dues, I just came across an interesting change of lyrics written by (now) Inspirational singer/songwriter legend Michael Card. He recorded a song (also recorded by Amy Grant) called “I Have Decided.”

“I have decided
I’m gonna live like a believer
Turn my back on the deceiver
Gonna live what I believe
I have decided
Bein’ good is just a fable
I just can’t because I’m not able
I’m gonna leave it to the Lord”

I just picked up a Bill Gaither Trio LP, Bless the Lord Who Reigns in Beauty (1981), that has the song. They evidently liked the song but not the lyrics, changing it to this:

“I have decided
I’m gonna live like a believer
Turn my back on the deceiver
Gonna live what I believe
I have decided
Bein’ good is not a fable
I know I can ’cause He is able
I’m gonna live what I believe”

Despite this, Michael Card was credited as a sole songwriter.

What are the most significant lyric changes you’ve noticed without a different songwriter being given?

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24 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I think Larry Gatlin changed the lyrics himself to “Heartbreak Ridge And New Hope Road” when the Gatlin Brothers shot their Gaither video. The original lyrics during the first verse went, “I was good with the ladies, and I loved the taste of good whiskey….”, but when they recorded it for Gaither, it was changed to, “I turned into a wild man, some people said I’d gone crazy.”

    These are the same lyrics that Russ Taff sang when the GVB recorded the song.

    It’s not a gospel song, but “Turning For Home,” recorded by the Oaks in 1989, is almost a completely different song compared to when Mike Reid (who wrote the song) sang it in 1992. Different verses entirely, and the choruses altered significantly as well.

    • Hi Kyle, who wrote the original lyrics “I was good with the ladies and i loved the taste of good whiskey”? What is the title of the song. I’ve tried to search the net based on the information you provided about the first line, I could not find the original. Please help.

  2. I don’t know about credits, but a lot of non-Calvinistic artists have done some lyric changes. The ones that jump to mind for me would be “in this low and sinful state” changed to “in this meek and lowly state” in “Just a Little While” (Eugene Bartlett??), by the Statesmen … “When God Dips His Pen of Love in my Heart” has “sets this sinful heart on fire,” and the Goodmans sang “happy heart” … seems like there’s a third one I can’t think of right now. I also think I’m not getting all the groups that sang them that way.
    It’s a little strange to me that the same artists, 30-40 years down the road with the Homecoming tour, would sing the words as written. 🙂
    Those aren’t nearly as significant as the one you’ve mentioned, though.

  3. When Amy Grant recorded “Big Yellow Taxi,” she sang “charged all the people twenty-five bucks just to see ’em.” In Joni Mitchell’s original, the line was “a dollar and a half.”

    When the Dove Brothers recently recorded “A Little Good News,” they replaced “Bryant Gumbel” with “the host.” They also changed “I’ll bet” to “I’m sure” and they added an intro and coda to the song that frames the lyric in a gospel context: “The gospel is the good news needed today.”

    When the Dove Brothers recorded “You Don’t Know God’s Love,” they changed “my” to “God.” The Ronnie Milsap original was actually a love song.

  4. I had a distinct feeling the original for “You Don’t Know God’s Love” was a love song. Some lines transfer contexts okay, but others do not. Take, for example, “Here’s God’s number, call Him up.”

  5. Here is an interesting clip from Mark Lowry regarding song lyrics….
    (specifically, at about the 3:00 mark)

  6. Hey Kyle, I watched Marks comments about changing the lyrics to be right theologically, so I find it baffling that he would be so gung-ho for a book like “the Shack” that is just crammed full of heresies! It boggles my mind! What is the difference in a book and a song?

  7. I’ve been meaning to ask somebody about Eldridge Fox’s “Gone”. The second verse I’ve always heard (“My friends if you don’t know this risen Savior, I beg of you: Don’t wait to late to pray…”) is totally different from the second verse used by Jessy Dixon, Signature Sound, and others. Did Eldridge write three verses or is the verse used by members of the Gaither troupe a Bill and Gloria creation?

  8. In 1972, the Oaks recorded “I Believe in Music, I Believe in Love,” but they changed all of the “music’s” to “Jesus.” Another Oaks song that has been altered is “Write Your Name Across My Heart.” It was originally a blatant love song by Kenny Rogers and (I believe) Boyz II Men, but the verses were changed.

    The most notable song to be change, I think, is “Please Release Me” by the Blackwoods. As James Blackwood sang it, it went

    Please release me from my sin
    And welcome Jesus, come on in
    For only You can cleanse my soul
    Release me from sin to sin no more

    But the original country/pop version went like this….

    Please release me, let me know
    For I don’t love you any more
    To live this way would be a sin
    Release me so I can love again

    And let’s not forget “Stand Up” by the Kingsmen (originally a country hit by Mel McDaniel about being burned in relationships).

  9. Sorry, it’s “Please release me, let me go”

  10. One I noticed in an old hymn was the song “At the Cross.” The original words were “for such a worm as I,” but evidentally a lot of people thought that was too degrading and changed it to “for such a one as I.” I always appreciated the GVB keeping the original words.

  11. I have the Goodmans singing “Jesus Is Coming Soon”, and they changed the words on the chorus:

    Jesus is coming soon
    Morning or night or noon
    Many will meet their doom
    The trumpets will sound
    Yes all of the dead shall rise
    Righteous meet in the skies
    Going where no one dies
    Heavenward bound

    Jesus is coming soon
    Morning or night or noon
    It will be very soon
    The trumpets will sound
    Yes all of the dead shall rise
    Righteous meet in the skies
    Going where no one dies
    Heavenward bound

    Are they just trying to stay positive? I never figured out this one!

  12. Well, I think it’s more about the “seeker friendly” movement than just for the sake of staying positive. A lot of churches have taken the blood out of the songbooks and hell out of the Bible. It seems to be trendy to spin everything toward the positive. So, I think the Goodmans’ lyric changes may be a part of that although I’m not for certain. But it is my observation that most people, especially those whose spiritual waters don’t run deep, don’t want to hear about worms and doom and sin anymore because it convicts them–and a number of artists have bought into that notion and are trying to “trendy up” their songs so as to not offend any of those people.

    I will admit that I was disappointed that the Goodmans would make such a lyric change on a classic song like “Jesus Is Coming Soon.”

  13. It seems the song is talking about the rapture, and if so, “Many will meet their doom” would be the wrong line to start with as those “left behind”(hey that would make a great book series…) don’t meet thier doom YET, that comes later.

  14. oops! Their doom…fingers going to fast…

  15. I’ve heard that song changed, but the Goodmans are the last group I would have expected to. I wonder when that version was recorded. I don’t remember who or when I heard it, but the version I heard was “Many will meet the Groom,” I think!

    I can see DJPhil’s point too, though.

  16. Ok, DJ Phil. It seems like you just contradcited yourself. Please explain. Because it looks like you said the line is wrong, but your explanation supports the line as being correct.

    The line is “many will meet their doom.” The line doesn’t say exactly when. It just implies that it will eventually happen, which is what your last line is basically saying which makes it in agreement with the lyric.

  17. No Brady, if you read my post I said that I think the song is talking about the rapture. Those left behind don’t meet their doom at that time, which would have that line being out of place with the remainder of the message of a rapture event. That line would be adding an event that doesn’t happen with the rapture. The Goodmans “It will be very soon” stays in context with the rest of the event(if it is talking about the rapture, of course. lol) And to be theologically correct since the Bible says even Jesus doesn’t know the day or the hour, the line should probably say “It COULD be very soon” 🙂

  18. Websters defines the word “will” as “am about to” or “going to.” There is not a time frame associated with it. We say “The Lord is about to come back” all the time, but there’s no specific time associated with that. So to say “Many are going to meet their doom eventually because of the rapture” is a reasonable interpretation of the line to me. Of course, if you still disagree, maybe when the rest of us have been raptured, you can send word by someone and tell us if you feel bad about it right then or if you think you’ll wait and feel bad later! LOL! Just kidding!

    I do see the point you’re trying to make, but if you are saying that doom comes later, that’s what the word “will” is saying in the line. It’s saying that doom is going to come. Yes, the song is talking about the rapture. I agree. But since no specific time frame was assigned to the word “will” in this line, I think it’s acceptable. In my opinion the phrase means that doom is certain for those who are not rapture ready. And I hope that would be something we all could agree on.

  19. This may be a matter of Mark not being 100% familiar with the lyrics, but on a recent clip of “Journey To The Sky,” he changed the first verse….

    MARSH/WES/ENGLISH version:

    There’s only one thing that I long for
    When I reach my home on high
    To see my Jesus in His glory
    And to reign with him on high
    I’ll be so glad to see my mother
    Who has gone, gone on to that land
    Oh, but I long to see my Jesus
    And by His side to stand

    LOWRY version:

    There’s only one thing that I’m sure of
    When I reach my home on high
    I’ll see my Jesus in all His glory
    And I’ll reign with Him on high
    I’ll be so glad to see my mama
    Who has gone, gone on to that land
    And I long to see my Jesus
    And by His side to stand

    I’m not surprised about the “mama” line, but he’s changed the context slightly, instead of longing for Heaven, he’s sure he’ll be there (which he often jokes about, being Southern Baptist).

  20. Sure Brady, I agree that doom is certain for those that haven’t repented of their sins and accepted Jesus as their Saviour, and I wholeheartedly agree with your post that the Seeker friendly church has rubbed off on so many artists and the truth of Gods word is getting watered down, you can note my shock that Southern Gospel artists like Mark Lowry and Bill Gaither would promote such heresies as contained in the Shack. The author of that book denies the substitutionary Atonement of Christ (see this link of a transcript of a radio interview ) I am saddened that Southern Gospel seems to be watering down the message in some of their songs and promote people like the author of the Shack.

  21. If it was a live performance, anything goes! From personal experience, I have sometimes drawn a blank and rewritten the words unintentionally just so I didn’t have to stand up there and shrug my shoulders! LOL!

  22. My dad’s memory has worsened with age. The songs that he learned 30 years he knows pretty well, but between his hearing and memory, he doesn’t get hold of recent ones very well.

    A few years ago, my brother and I were riding somewhere with him when he launched out on some song. He got done with it, and my brother said, “You know how you’re always say you could never write a song?” “Yeah.” “Well, I think you just re-wrote that one.”

    I try really hard not to do it myself!

  23. I have not read the book The Shack, but if it is contrary to God’s word then I believe God’s people should not be endorsing it. I totally agree, DJPhil.

    What I think has happened with lyrics being watered down is a feeble attempt to try to gain listeners and reach more souls. But one should never try to be so right that they end up being wrong and I think that’s where we could find ourselves lyrically if we are not careful–with good intentions but in reality having weakened our message which is more harm than good in my opinion.