January 3

Best Loved Hymns V: Stand By Me

Miss singing or listening to hymns? What about the man who treasured hymns and who was proud to perform them on national TV?

Who else would that be if not Mr. Tennessee Ernie Ford! We already know by now how he fought the network so hymns would be included in the closing act of his show. Such was a man of true conviction!

Commentaries aside, let’s have Mr. Ford usher us into a contemplative mode as we make every word of Stand by Me our prayer song for this day.

“Stand By Me” by Tennessee Ernie Ford

ABOUT THE SONG

Stand by Me was published in 1905 and appeared in about 40 hymnals. It was not much of a pick for a solo number or for congregational singing in the following six decades. At the turn of the 70s, the hymn was endeared by many parishioners.

It continued to gain more reception from the pious throughout the 80s and the 90s.

THE SONGWRITER

Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933) was a Methodist preacher who had quite a remarkable reputation in his adult years. According to his hymnologist, James Abbington, Rev. Tindley was a “pastor, orator, poet, writer, theologian, social activist, ‘father of African American Hymnody,’ ‘progenitor of African American gospel music’ and ‘prince of preachers.’”

Though born a free-man, our singing preacher had his share of the rough edges of life. His father made him a hireling throughout his boyhood and he experienced working with slaves in the plantations. Somehow, the long days of menial work did not break his spirit. With determination, he taught himself how to read. Persistently, he pursued theological studies and learned Bible languages (Hebrew in a Philadelphian synagogue and Greek in the Boston School of Theology).

Aside from his dynamic preaching, his songs were said to have influenced civil rights and justice movements. They were published in Soul Echoes (1905, 1909) and New Songs of Paradise (1916-1941).


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