The wonder of sunset at evening

As you doubtless have heard, the great gospel revivalist Bev Shea died. He was 104.

Whenever possible as a blogger, I’ve tried to gather the roses (and thorns if necessary) while ye may with respect to great figures during their lifetimes. So I’ll stand by what I wrote a few years back re Shea on the occasion of his being honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Grammys. Money quote:

[Shea’s style] certainly fit to the forthright, just-the-gospel-of-Christ-ma’am Graham aesthetic, but Shea’s propensity for coloring his tones quasi-operatically tended to make most everything he sang sound the same. “I’d Rather Have Jesus” can certainly carry the weight of Shea’s majestic singing. Or perhaps more accurately, Shea’s singing style befits the song. A more rollicking tune like “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” not so much.

No matter, Shea was arguably among the first bonafide international gospel stars and certainly the most famous white gospel singer of the 20th century. He’s the kind of singer whose work and talent suffuse the fiber of American culture and yet - like so much of the popular culture and arts of evangelicalism - often go largely unnoticed and unrecognized outside of the religious world. Congrats, Bev.

And now, may he, who wrote of the wonder of it all, rest in the wondrous peace about which he sang so much.

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  1. Jim Markel wrote:

    Nice tribute to a truly great gentleman. I wonder how future historians will assess the influence of the Billy Graham Evangelistic organization on today’s church? So many influences, techniques and strategies have made their way from the Graham organization into church life that it’s hard to count them all. People like Bev Shea, Cliff Barrows, Grady Wilson, Leighton Ford, as well as the entire Graham family, have had an undoubted influence. It’s amazing to think that the next time I hear Bev sing “How Great Thou Art,” it will be in the presence of the Lord himself. Rest well, Mr. Shea and wonder no more!

  2. Janet B wrote:

    There has been a lot of big news this week, but still…not a mention anywhere (other than the expected religious/music sites) of the passing of Bev Shea. His legacy and influence are intact, nonetheless, I suppose. (If they could manage to sneak in a mention of Pat Summerall, though…just saying.)

    I found this yesterday and it moved me. Surely Goodness and Mercy, from 1967.

    And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever… Amen and amen.

  3. cynical one wrote:

    I heard a nice obit for Bev Shea on NPR yesterday. So, not EVERY “secular/liberal” news outlet has ignored his contribution/impact/achievements at his passing.

    Nice tribute, Doug.

  4. observer wrote:

    NYTimes had a nice article as well that i read online this morning

  5. NG wrote:

    Thanks for the tribute. Most fitting that the Canadian-born Bev Shea is shown in a clip from a Canadian TV show.

  6. ode wrote:

    Reuters reported it on Apr 16, at 11 pm, that’s when I first saw it on my phone

  7. Tim wrote:

    He was part of a childhood for several generations through the televised Billy Graham Crusades. Truly a Gospel music treasure.

  8. NG wrote:

    Here’s a good article on Bev from CNN. It was posted on the Gospel Music CSI site on Facebook.

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