The song, “Thank You, Billy Graham” flew under the radar when it was released in 2005 on Pat Boone’s album, “Glory Train: The Lost Sessions.” Now, 13 years later as the nation mourns its greatest modern day pastor, the song and video have special meaning.
“If there’s anyone in my lifetime who deserves honor it is Billy Graham,” Boone, 83, said in an interview. “I think he is the most significant figure since the apostles. I didn’t know Peter and I didn’t know Paul, but I know Billy Graham.”
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The song features more than a dozen of the recording industry’s biggest names. Boone called it at the time “a love letter…from the world.”
Boone, who began his career as a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll heart throb famous for his white buckskin shoes and outspoken Christian faith, first penned a twangy tribute titled “We Call Him Billy” that caused some listeners to roll their eyes.
“I liked the idea, but I thought the song itself was dreadful,” said David Pack, a veteran gospel producer who agreed to review Boone’s demo. “He was at least kind enough to say, ‘Why don’t you try something yourself, then?”‘
Pack accepted the challenge, and with the help of country songwriter Billy Dean, reworked the bluegrass melody into a contemporary “We are the World”-type single.
Artists from the rock, pop, country, R&B and gospel traditions, joined the ensemble project to pay tribute to the man, who passed away this week.
After bumping into U2’s Bono at a Grammy party, Boone convinced the rock star to record an introduction.
“I give thanks just for the sanity of Billy Graham,” Bono, an Irish Catholic, says of the Protestant evangelist in the recording. “For that clear, empathetic voice of his and that Southern accent. Part poet, part preacher, a singer of the human spirit, I’d say.”
Musicians from country star LeAnn Rimes to late gospel singer Andrae Crouch recorded separate segments in the ensuing months. Digitally combining their voices in the studio, Pack and Dean assembled a multi-media package based around the lyrics:
“He heard the word, he got the call/ He took the message to us all/ He said it so we all could understand/ Around the world, here at home/ He let us know we’re not alone/ Oh, thank you, Billy Graham…”
Millions of people around the world are saying, “Thank you” this week as we remember the impact that a simple country preacher and the impact he had on so many.
–Metro Voice and wire services