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Flashback to Kenny Rogers & Wynonna Judd’s Duet of “Mary, Did You Know?”

Flashback to Kenny Rogers & Wynonna Judd’s Duet of “Mary, Did You Know?”

In the early 90s, Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene of Gaither Vocal Band wrote a song together titled “Mary, Did You Know?” The song was first recorded by the Christian singer Michael English, and later by the Gaither Vocal Band for their Christmas album Still the Greatest Story Ever Told in 1998.

Ever since then, the song has become a modern-day Christmas classic and has been recorded and covered by many country musicians, including Glen Campbell, Scotty McCreery, Reba McEntire, and a cappella group Pentatonix.

But in 1997, Kenny Rogers teamed up with Wynonna Judd to sing the angelic song for Rogers’ Christmas album The Gift. Their version did well on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, peaking at No. 55.

Questions You Might Want To Ask Mary

“Mary, Did You Know?” is a Christmas song addressing Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mark Lowry gave us a glimpse of how his famous song was created decades ago.

“In 1984, Jerry Falwell called and asked me to write the program for their next Living Christmas Tree. As I wrote the ‘speaking parts,’ I began to think about Mary. I have always been fascinated with the concept that God came to earth,” Lowry recalled. “In a conversation with my mother, I remember she said, ‘If anyone on earth knew for sure that Jesus was virgin-born – Mary knew!’ That was a profound statement that stuck with me.”

He then started writing a series of questions he would like to ask Mary if he could sit down with her.

“Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you,” the song goes. Though none of the questions were answered in the song, the lyrics instead poetically invite its listener to contemplate the relationship between Mary and her newborn divine son. 

Lowy handed the lyrics to Buddy Greene, who “held onto them for about two weeks.”

“One day, I pulled them out and looked at them. They seemed to suggest a minor key approach to writing an accompaniment. I completed the musical setting in about thirty minutes,” Greene revealed. “I called Mark at his home in Georgia and on the phone played and sang the song to him. He was ecstatic! He said, ‘That’s it!’”

However, the lyrics received criticism for perceived ambiguity or lack of scriptural or theological depth. For instance, Lutheran writer Holly Scheer addressed the rhetorical question of the song’s title. He wrote: “Anyone who has even a slight familiarity with the biblical account of Christ’s conception and birth shouldn’t need to ask if Mary knew, because the Bible plainly tells us she did.”

Baptist theologian Michael Frost, on the other hand, suggested it is the “most sexist Christmas song ever written… It treats her like a clueless child… Could you imagine a song asking Abraham seventeen times if he knew he’d be the father of a great nation?”

Still, the song has since become a modern Christmas classic, recorded by hundreds of artists over the years, across different genres. And one of the most notable renditions were of Kenny Rogers and Wynona Judd.

On one special occasion for a television special called Gospel Music Channel, Rogers sang the tune. However, Wynonna was nowhere in sight. Thanks to technology, a video of her singing her part of the duet was displayed on the screen behind Rogers. At the very end, Rogers walked up to the screen, and it looked like they were both performing together!

Watch Kenny Rogers and Wynona Judd’s performance of “Mary, Did You Know?” in the video below.

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