August 7

A Touching Ballad of James Otto, “When Angels Hang Around”


A Touching Ballad of James Otto, "When Angels Hang Around" 1
James Otto | Photo credit: Screen grabbed from Youtube

Children are precious gifts from God. They are considered angels sent from above. No amount of joy would a parent have when they are blessed with children. That said, if anyone of the kids in the family is hurt or sick, the distress that parents face is likewise grave. So, what if we’re talking about a child having a serious illness and the chance of survival from such is too slim. Can you imagine the stress that this child’s parents go through? It’s obviously horrible. It is on this premise that the song “When Angels Hang Around” was anchored. Performed by country music singer James Ottothe song appeals to the emotions of parents who pray for something not to be experienced. It’s a touching song that served as a tribute to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

The Song “When Angels Hang Around”

The Soldiers and Jesus” singer co-wrote the song with Monty Criswell. It was Criswell who brought up the idea of writing the song. At that time, he had a friend whose child was diagnosed with cancer. He approached the singer if he could write a song about it. To be able to do that, what the singer initially did was to recall his mother-in-law who had a breast cancer and how that affected him. He tried putting it in a reverse scenario. He was terrified by the thought of seeing a child go through the horrors of cancer.

Otto and Criswell had put themselves in the shoes of a father with a cancer-stricken child to be able to have a clearer grasp of the situation. But, it was only after he visited a children’s hospital in Memphis a few years later that Otto was able to understand things clearly. At St. Jude Children’s Hospital, he got to meet the children and doctors and found out what they do there. That encounter pushed him to pursue the completion of the song right then and there and eventually recorded it.

“I really found a reason to put the song on my record while I was there. I didn’t have any experience with it necessarily until then, so it really took hold there.”

“When Angels Hang Around” was released as a single on Otto’s 2008 album Sunset Man. The clip below shows Otto singing the song live in Asbury Park, NJ. The concert was a tribute to Gregory Francis Rubin and Carolyn Kelly Wallach. The two were siblings who died of brain cancer twenty years apart.

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james otto, Monty Criswell, Sunset Man, When Angels Hang Around

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