George Beverly Shea passes away

George Beverly Shea’s family confirmed that he passed away yesterday evening. He was 104, and had been hospitalized with a stroke earlier this week.

He began his recording and radio performance career in the 1930s. He joined the Billy Graham crusade team in 1947, and would remain associated with Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for the next fifty-five years. Through his singing career, it is estimated that he sang to more than 220 million people live and in person. He has held the Guinness Book of World Records title for performing to more people live than any other person.

His impact on Southern Gospel is extensive; among other things, he co-wrote “I’d Rather Have Jesus” and popularized both “How Great Thou Art” and “To God Be the Glory.”

Two years ago, I attended a Gaither Homecoming taping. Shea was there, and, at 102, he got the strongest response of the night. 

UPDATE, 4/17/13, 8:45 PM: Shea’s funeral will be this Sunday at 3 P.M. at Anderson Auditorium in Montreat, North Carolina. It will be open to the public.

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The Old Rugged Cross and Tent Revival Homecoming: How a Taping Became a DVD

You’ve seen reviews of Gaither Homecoming DVDs. You’ve even seen occasional reports from news websites allowed into Gaither Homecoming tapings. But you probably have not seen coverage that starts with reporting from the live concert (found in its original form here) and focuses on the transition from the live event through the final product.

  • Daddy Sang Bass (#15 on Tent Revival Homecoming): The requisite fixes to the live performance were made. The humor in the live skit translated well to DVD.
  • On the Other Side of the Cross¬†(#7 on The Old Rugged Cross): The intro was replaced by a post-production voice-over.
  • Yes, I Know (#1 on Tent Revival Homecoming): Unlike the other opening track, this one did feel like the start of a concert on the DVD. (Dailey & Vincent’s songs were taped ten or fifteen minutes before the main program began, to allow time for instrument set-up and tear -down,
  • When the Saints Go Marching In (#2 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
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Happy 100th, George Beverly Shea

Today, George Beverly Shea celebrates his 100th birthday.

Though not expressly identified as a “Southern Gospel” singer, he was a “Gospel Singer” in the same era when the Blackwood Brothers, Chuck Wagon Gang, Statesmen, and other groups were also simply identified as “Gospel Songers.”

Even more impressive than Shea’s 100 years of life on this earth are his better than six decades of service to the Lord through song. The full impact of his lifetime will never be known till eternity.

What we do know now, at least in part, is some of the impact of his songs. Not only do we have his composition of “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” (written with his mother-in-law), but we also have him to thank for popularizing “How Great Thou Art” and Fanny Crosby’s “To God Be the Glory,” among others.

Visit his website to wish him a happy birthday:

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