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“Love Lifted Me”

TITLE:"Love Lifted Me"
AUTHOR: James Rowe
TUNE: LOVE LIFTED ME
COMPOSER: Howard E. Smith
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3101
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 8:23-27; 14:22-33; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25
TOPIC: assurance; Christ's love; despair; safety; sinfulness

Background

Author James Rowe (1865-1933) was born in England, the son of a copper miner. He immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1889. He was a railroad worker for ten years in New York before becoming an inspector for the Hudson River Humane Society. Rowe went on to work for several music publishers, including Trio Music Company in Waco, Texas; A. J. Showalter Music Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee; and James D. Vaughan Music Company of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Late in life, Rowe moved to Vermont where his daughter was an artist. He worked with her, writing greeting card verses.

Composer Howard E. Smith (1863-1918) was a church musician and organist in Connecticut.

"Love Lifted Me" was written and published in 1912. It gained popularity among United Methodists as one of the frequently sung songs in The Cokesbury Hymnal, where it appeared with three stanzas. The original stanza two was omitted in Worship & Song:

All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I'll cling,
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing.
Love so mighty and so true merits my soul's best songs;
Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.

Country singer Kenny Rogers recorded a secularized version of "Love Lifted Me" on his first solo album for United Artists Records (Love Lifted Me, 1976). It had been released as a single in 1975 and went to #19 on the U.S. Country charts and crossed over to the U.S. Hot 100 list at #97. In Rogers' version there is nothing sacred, and he substitutes his own verse while retaining an adaptation of the refrain.

The church-wide research conducted by Discipleship Ministries (New Hymnal Research Report, 2007-2008) that followed the joint Discipleship Ministries--United Methodist Publishing House four-year music study of 2004-2007 showed "Love Lifted Me" as the number one hymn requested to be included in a new hymnal that was not already in The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) or The Faith We Sing (2000).

At the national introductory event for Worship & Song in 2011, worship leader Marcia McFee and musician Jackson Henry led the congregation in singing "Love Lifted Me" in an arrangement that joined it with the 1967 R&B Jackie Wilson song, "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher."

Music

One of the criticisms of this song is the incongruity between the opening phrases of text and the opening phrases of music. The text speaks of sinking in sin, deeply stained, sinking to rise no more, but the accompanying music is in a rollicking gospel style with six beats divided into a quick duple meter. The music seems joyful, celebrative, as a dance, hardly what should be accompanying such a text. Of course, the opening two lines go on to reveal redemption and salvation, something certainly to be celebrated.

Some contemporary musicians have transformed this song by changing the meter to 4/4 and singing it in a quick tempo with syncopated, anticipatory melody. A congregation will often dramatically slow the last line of the refrain and add another fermata on the word "help," not included in Worship & Song.

Words

Rowe's text uses images from two biblical stories. The first is found in Matthew 14:22-33, where the disciples were in a boat in the midst of a terrifying storm. They saw Jesus walking on the sea. He commanded Peter to join him, and Peter also began walking on the water toward Jesus. The storm frightened Peter and he began to sink, calling out to Jesus to save him. Jesus caught Peter by the hand and lifted him up as they got into the boat.

The second story is Matthew 8:23-27, in which Jesus is asleep in the boat while the disciples are terrified by the fierce storm threatening to plunge them all into the sea. They wake Jesus and appeal to him. Jesus rebukes the wind and sea, and there is calm.

Rowe's text skillfully draws on both stories, using sinking or being swamped into the sea as an image for "sinking deep in sin…sinking to rise no more." Jesus, "Master of the sea," hears our cry for help, reaches out to us in love, and lifts us up into the safety of salvation.

Sources

See more Hymn Studies.

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