Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Early Adventists Used Popular Songs and Set them to Sacred Words

One way of addressing this issue was to set new hymns to well known popular tunes, and early Adventist hymnals display several examples of this practice. “Land of Light” was written by Uriah Smith and first published in 1856. Smith’s hymn focused on heaven and was set to the popular secular tune “Old Folks at Home” by Stephen Foster. Smith also penned “O Brother Be Faithful” and set it to the popular tune, “Be Kind to the Loved Ones at home” by Isaac Baker Woodbury. [1]
How many times I have changed the words to songs from my youth and enjoyed--as though a secret vice--the joy that these Christianized pop songs gave me. Perhaps the earliest instance was in the mid-70s when I found a particularly transcendent sentence from Steps to Christ [2] and mysteriously started singing those words to the tune of "I've Seen All Good People" by the Progressive Rock group Yes. For me, that combination of a song by a group that had altered my reality and had introduced me to the music of Igor Stravinsky, with the much loved words from Steps to Christ will forever remind me of, perhaps, the most natural and spiritual time of my life.

  1. I Have Heard the Angel's Sing
  2. Steps to Christ. See Chapter 9, "The Work and the Life." which contains these words: "God is the source of life and light and joy to the universe" which I adapted to the Yes song I've mentioned above.

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