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First published in 1931, “Morning Has Broken” is a popular and well-known Christian hymn. It has words by English author Eleanor Farjeon. To note, it was inspired by the village of Alfriston in East Sussex, then set to a traditional Scottish Gaelictune known as “Bunessan.” Most often, the song is sung in children’s services and in funeral services.

Included on his 1971 album, Teaser and the Firecat, English folk singer Cat Stevens made this “Morning Has Broken” popular. In addition, the song became a trademark of Stevens due to the popularity of this recording. Reaching no. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at no. 1 on the US Easy Listening chart in 1972. In addition, it was no. 4 on the Canadian RPM Magazine charts.

Though “Morning Has Broken” is clearly a hymn for children, it has an appeal for adults too.  It praises God for the sights and sounds of the new day. And likens each dawn to the very first day in the Garden of Eden.

Origins

“Morning Has Broken” originally appeared in the second edition of Songs of Praise in 1931. Composed in the Scottish Islands, it was inspired by the tune of “Bunessan.” In Songs of Praise Discussed, Percy Dearmer explains that as there was need for a hymn to give thanks for each day. Hence, English poet and children’s author Eleanor Farjeon had been “asked to make a poem to fit the lovely Scottish tune.”

Furthermore, “Bunessan” had been found in L. McBean‘s Songs and Hymns of the Gael, published in 1900. Before Farjeon’s words, the tune was a Christmas carol, which began “Child in the Manger, Infant of Mary.” The English-language Roman Catholic hymnal also uses the tune for the James Quinn hymns, “Christ Be Beside Me” and “This Day God Gives Me.” Both were adapted from the traditional Irish hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Another Christian hymn, “Baptized In Water,” borrows the tune.

Cat Stevens/Rollingstone.com

Of Stevens’ recording & misunderstanding with Wakeman

Writing credit for “Morning Has Broken” has occasionally been erroneously attributed to Cat Stevens, who popularised the song abroad. Rick Wakeman composed and performed the familiar piano arrangement on Stevens’ recording. A classically trained keyboardist, Wakeman is best known for his tenure in the English progressive rock band Yes.

In 2000, Wakeman released an instrumental version of “Morning Has Broken” on an album of the same title. That same year, he gave an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live in which he said he had agreed to perform on the Cat Stevens track for £10. According to him, he was shattered that they omitted him from the credits. In addition, he never received the money either.

On his return to performance as Yusuf Islam, Stevens made a payment to Wakeman and apologized for the original non-payment, which arose from confusion and a misunderstanding on the record label’s part. On a documentary aired on British television, Wakeman stated that he felt Stevens’s version of “Morning Has Broken” was a very beautiful piece of music that had brought people closer to religious truth. He expressed satisfaction in having contributed to this.

Moreover, Stevens explained on The Chris Isaak Hour,

“I accidentally fell upon the song when I was going through a slightly dry period and I needed another song or two for Teaser And The Firecat. Came across this hymn book, found this one song, and thought, This is good. I put the chords to it and then it started becoming associated with me.”

Be enticed and praise the Lord for everything. Here are the lyrics of this Christian hymn.

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass
Mine is the sunlight, Mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning
God’s recreation of the new day
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world