Stories Behind the Songs and Hymns About Heaven
post written by Esther Filbrun
Title: Stories Behind the Songs and Hymns About Heaven
Author: Ace Collins
Major Themes: Christian Songs, Hymns, Heaven, Life Stories
Synopsis: A book sharing 30 favorite songs about heaven and the stories behind what brought each of those to us today.
I was excited when I saw Stories Behind the Songs and Hymns About Heaven come up for review. Years ago, I read a short book about four different hymn writer’s lives and was deeply struck by the different circumstances a hymn can be drawn from. It was an encouraging read, so as soon as I saw this book come up, I knew I wanted to read it, too. Although it didn’t end up quite as interesting as I had hoped, there were some fascinating stories here, so I thought it was well worth my time to read.
This book covers 30 songs altogether. It traces their journeys from the circumstances in the author’s lives that led to them writing the song, up through to famous artists or recording companies that brought the songs to the public eye. I found it fascinating to see how many of these songs were popularized during the Great Depression, even though some were fairly old at that point. Of course, others are relatively new, but it was interesting to see the correlation between current events and how that can change what we sing or think about a lot. Out of the 30 songs, there were only 7 or so that I hadn’t heard of before, and the other 23 were almost all favorites of mine.
The book starts out with “Wayfarin’ Stranger”, a song that is near and dear to my heart. I was slightly confused as to why this song was chosen for the opening, because (SPOILER ALERT) the background for this particular one isn’t actually known (END SPOILER ALERT), but it was still interesting to learn about how it became the favorite it is today. I think the two most memorable stories for me were “This Ole House” and “Victory in Jesus”, but some of the others were also fascinating.
Besides just sharing the stories behind the songs, there are almost always devotional themes brought in at the end of each chapter, relating the song with something we experience in life or a thought we can hang on to. I appreciated some of these; others seemed to drag out and I didn’t always quite see the correlation between the song and the devotional. I did like that there is more to think about in this book besides just the lyrics and what brought them to life, even though the stories themselves can have many lessons embedded in them to learn from. Almost everyone who wrote these songs were in dire straits of one kind or another, and seeing their hope in the midst of trouble was quite encouraging to me.
One quote I loved from a devotional section said,
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know, the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” —Albert Schweitzer
Stories Behind the Songs and Hymns About Heaven is a book you can’t read quickly. I was trying to, but it just didn’t work. There’s a lot you can pull from these pages to ponder on. Even though I did struggle with some aspects—some parts of the book did tend to drag, and I didn’t quite understand why things were shared the way they were at times—it’s a good book overall. If you’re interested in knowing some of these hymn’s backstories, I think this would be a great resource to have on the shelf. I’ll be looking for more books like this, simply because I find the topic fascinating. Recommended!
I requested a free review copy of this book from Baker Books, who graciously gave me one, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: In the chapter about “Amazing Grace”, Newton’s riotous life before Christ with lots of killing, alcohol, and women is mentioned. In the chapter about “Peace in the Valley”, there is a mention of a man who considered suicide. In the chapter about “Shall We Gather at the River”, there is a mention of families being reunited in heaven with those who died in battle.
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults
Links to buy Stories Behind the Songs and Hymns About Heaven:
AbeBooks: View Choices on AbeBooks.com
Book Depository: Hardcover
Keywords: Christian Songs, Hymns, Heaven, Life Stories, Biography, Christian Non-fiction, Christian Living, Devotional Helps, 20th Century, 1900-1950, 1950-2000, Europe, North America