The next round’s on Judy!*

Via Joel Lindsey’s blog, it looks like Susan Boyle has recorded “How Great Thou Art,” to which sg mainstay Judy Nelon owns the rights. In addition to being one of the nicest people in the whole wide world, Judy is also the legal custodian of some of the music’s most beloved and coveted songs¬† and catalogs. Among other things, this is one case study in how NOT to go broke in the music business.

*This is purely a figure of speech. All humorless internet scolds can hold their tsk-tsking. 

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  1. Charles Brady wrote:

    I’m just a bit curious… I’ve seen that claim made a couple times now and I have to ask the question… How do you own the rights to a song that is over 100 years old?? I know that you can register a new arrangement of a Public Domain song as evidenced by the 90+ listings for How Great Thou Art at BMI alone. But that certainly does not grant you payments for every other person that comes along and does the same thing that you just did… does it?

  2. Tony Watson wrote:

    I don’t know the answer to your question entirely, but I know that How Great Thou Art is not over 100 years old - I think it was written in the 1950’s by Stuart Hine

  3. cdguy wrote:

    My understanding is that the tune is an old Scandinavian folk song, “O Stor Gud”, or something like that. I’ve seen it in print as a piano solo.

    But the copyright Judy’s late husband (Mr Spencer) is for the combination of the tune and Mr Hine’s lyrics. Not really a whole lot different that the concept behind Dottie Rambo’s “He Looked Beyond My Fault” (or other text set to “Oh Danny Boy/Londonderry Aire”), or the classic “Oh How I Love Him”, set to the Italian tune “O Sole Mio”.

    I wish Judy had answered the question posed to in interviews regarding how many times the song has been recording. Obviously there is no way to know how many times it’s been recorded and not reported (not that that ever happens, especially in Christian music — lol), but she has access to numbers on what’s been reported. And she probably carries an approximate number in her head. Like “over X-thousand times.”

    Maybe she just doesn’t want us to be able to guess what that song (and thus, her fortune) may be worth. Of course, she owns hundreds, if not thousands, of other songs, as well, including early Andrae Crouch’s catalog.

  4. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Stuart Hine translated a poem from Swedish to English. He then adapted the lyrics to fit the melody, and also added new lyrics that built on the ideas expressed in the original Swedish poem.

    To avoid paying royalties, you could always sing it in Swedish using the original poem. Good luck selling those CDs! :o)

  5. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    By the way, here is the story behind the song. The website looks like it was built in 1995, but it appears to be the official site of the song’s publisher, Manna Music.

  6. Charles Brady wrote:

    Tony the origin of the song does go back to around 1890 something. Hine added a couple verses to it as I understand the songs history in the 50’s. I did just see that Judy is listed as the VP of Manna Music on her website. I guess she was once married to Hal Spencer the CEO? I have to say the more I learn the more confused I get! LOL!!!

  7. Melvin Klaudt wrote:

    How could we be singing a song in the 1930’s and 1940’s that was written in the 1950’s?

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