If You Knew Him

When Joseph Habedank left the Perrys, one question on the mind of Perrys fans was this: Will Bryan Walker or the new lead singer (who turned out to be David Ragan) be the one to sing the song that is equally Habedank’s personal signature song and the Perrys’ signature song as a group, “If You Knew Him”?

It turns out both Walker and Ragan have sung it live, and both have nailed their respective performances. Here’s Walker:

And here’s Ragan:

Both bring something different to the song; Walker offers vocal runs and inflections that sound so much like Habedank’s version that a casual listener who had only heard the song on radio might not even realize a different singer was singing the song. Ragan, on the other hand, gives the song a distinctly different interpretation of his own.

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18 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. It’s amazing how some people can step up to the plate and hit a home run. As you said if you hadn’t seen Joseph in person singing you would hardly know the difference with Brian singing. David Ragan fits in with the group perfect and I think he can take the lead on most any of the songs. Between David and Brian with Leah filling in THE PERRYS are in good hands. Maybe Libbi can sing with them on a few occasions while Tracy is still re-cooping.

  2. We were at the concert Friday where that video was taken. David simply tore it up. It’s not on the video but they did an encore of the last chorus and the church was on it’s feet. He is doing an incredible job. After the concert I was able to talk to Bryan and he said at first Libbi wanted him to sing the song since it’s a Perrys standard and they were not sure how many fill in lead singers they would have. After David started she decided that David should take the lead on the song and he is certainly making it his own. And Leah Page is a beast! She is only 20 years old but sings and has a command of the stage like she has been singing for 40 years. We think she has a very bright future ahead of her in Gospel music.

  3. Giving the song to David was a great move. That is the best I’ve ever heard him sing. Sounds great!

  4. Wow to both !!

    I do have to say that David has the timber that the song needs in the high parts. (both can hit the notes however) I do understand that I could be just hearing the difference between the outdoor event (stage event ?) and the indoor service.

    I think that they need to split the song, Bryan on the first verse and David on the second … why not?

  5. Wow! What a powerful song! Loved both clips. David singing the lead seems so effortless. My only question is, as you watch David’s mouth on second clip, he is not singing the lead note on the ending. (The lead note begins while he is still inhaling.) Is that Joseph’s original vocal in the track.

    • I would guess that Joseph and Bryan swapped parts on the last note.

  6. A song like that needs to be sang as it was recorded, simply let the song speak for itself. All the extra runs aren’t needed in my opinion.

    • I generally think that way about most songs. But when the person adding the extra runs originally is one of the song’s writers, I suppose the opinion of the writer carries a fair amount of weight here. The runs Bryan added were quite similar (or in some cases note-for-note identical) to Joseph’s original live runs.

  7. I’m a bit torn between the two… I think Walker oversings it a bit but overall sings it with much more emotion. Ragan, on the other hand, lacks a bit of emotion but lets the lyric speak more for itself and is spot-on with every note, pitch-wise. Both guys are rock-solid, though. Maybe as Ragan sings it more he’ll do so with a bit more emotion.

    • I don’t think vocal ornamentation = emotion, though there has been somewhat of a perception in Southern Gospel that there is a significant correlation between the two. Ragan comes from a school, I think, where that isn’t necessarily what you do when you want to convey emotion.

      • When I talk about emotion, I’m not talking about vocal runs, either. I’m talking more about expression. I think Walker is naturally a more expressive singer.

      • OK, fair enough.

        I will add, though, that Ragan has just spent the last four years in a less expressive sub-tradition within Southern Gospel. He’s such a capable vocalist, though, that I suspect he’ll be able to adapt well to this within a year or two.

  8. Bryan Walker did a close job to what Joseph did, but we have to say David Ragan has a “golden” voice. We hope to hear them live soon!

  9. they shoud split the song like here on “When He Spoke”


  10. I liked both versions but neither sound like Joseph….he owned that song and Bryan and David both sound like themselves and give different spins on a GREAT song….keep singin guys

  11. Both singers are excellent, IMHO, but as you listen to the choruses, to me, the group has a more full, rounded sound with Bryan at baritone. Davids voice has a more subtle cut than Bryans… a great cut, but less pointed ….keep in mind that Bryan was recorded outdoors. These kids are working their tails off, and the Lord is blessing them at almost every turn. Libbi should be grateful that God has blessed she and Tracy with these great young people….All of them !

  12. Agree, no one can do this song like Joseph. I have heard him sing it in concert at least a dozen times and to many to count on CD. t has his mark all over it. But Bryan stood alongside Joseph multiple 100’s of times, listening/see him do it, so understandably his rendition is colored by Joseph’s. I love Bryan and David, both, but think the 3 of them, as a group, sounded better with David. I realize being inside makes a difference.

    Does anyone know anything about Joseph?

    • I have heard confirmation that Joseph is still writing songs; that’s good news, because it would be quite a loss to our music if he quit. So far, though, I haven’t heard any word of him getting back on the road.