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“I Thank You, Jesus”

TITLE: "I Thank You, Jesus"
AUTHOR: Kenneth Morris
TUNE: IONA MARANATHA
COMPOSER: Kenneth Morris
ARRANGER: Joseph Joubert
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3037 SCRIPTURE: Luke 17:16 TOPICS: brother; care; doctor; sister; family; father; friend; giving thanks; gratitude; lawyer, mother; providence; teacher

Background

Kenneth Morris (1917-1988) was born in New York. As a child, he grew up immersed in music in the church. Early on, he began his career in jazz. In high school and as a student at the Manhattan Conservatory of Music, he formed the Kenneth Morris Band and traveled, playing in hotels, restaurants, and lounges. The band performed dance music and evening concerts at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair. Illness, brought on by the demands of performing, caused Morris to leave the band. His decision to remain in Chicago resulted in his meeting a number of influential gospel musicians, including Lillian Bowles and Charles Pace. Morris was regarded as a pioneer and innovator in gospel music and is credited for introducing the Hammond Organ into the gospel music sound. Morris worked for six years at the Lillian Bowles Music House, and in 1940 joined with Sallie Martin, proclaimed "The Mother of Gospel" by the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, to found the Martin and Morris Music Company. At the time, Martin was directing the choir at the First Church of Deliverance in Chicago, and Morris was a choir member. Martin and Morris, Inc. became the largest and oldest continuously running black gospel music publishing company in the United States. Morris bought out Martin in 1973 and ran the company until his death in 1988.

Joseph Joubert was born in New York City, the son of a Baptist minister. He began playing the piano at age eight, which led to more serious study. He graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with bachelor and master of music degrees. His success in piano competitions led to numerous performance opportunities with major orchestras. He served as staff pianist for the Metropolitan Opera Company's revival of Porgy and Bess and was conductor/arranger/pianist for the PBS special "Three Mo' Tenors." In addition to his performing, Joubert is a successful and sought-after theater and record producer, arranger, and orchestrator.

Words

The lyrics of verse one of "I Thank You, Jesus" are a simple but heartfelt statement of thanks to Jesus for having "brought me from a mighty long way." Each half of the song is itself divided into two subsections, "I thank you, Jesus" and "You brought me…." The first half of the verse is repeated as the second half.

Verse two makes use of familiar family relationships to name the various kinds of relationships one might experience with Jesus: mother, father, sister, brother, followed in the second half by yet more non-familial relationships: doctor, lawyer, teacher, friend, all completed with the thankful "you brought me from a mighty long way."

There is a verse three that is omitted in Worship & Song: "You've been my bread, you've been my water, you've been my life, my everything, oh, you brought me from a mighty long way…."

Music

Worship & Song broke new musical ground for United Methodists with its inclusion of some musical styles and forms not previously found in our hymnals and songbooks. "I Thank You, Jesus" is one of those with its introduction of the blues and its alternating droned fifths and sixths in the bass and its use of 12/8 meter as a triplet subdivision of 4/4. Also noteworthy is Morris' use of the technique often found in black gospel music as well as African-American preaching; that is, the technique of starting in a lower pitch, a quieter volume and perhaps a slower tempo, gradually building, rising, heightening excitement and tension to the climax, which in "I Thank You, Jesus" comes in measure twelve on the song's highest pitch (E), "Oh, you brought me, yes, you brought me from a mighty…."

Sources

See more Hymn Studies.

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