"I Love to Tell the Story," a familiar tune found in most Protestant hymnals, was the title track of Andy Griffith's lone Grammy award-winning gospel album.
According to AllMusic, I Love to Tell The Story: 25 Timeless Hymns (Sparrow Records, 1996) sold half a million copies, beginning with a television telemarketing campaign. Its symphonic selections include American folk standard "Wayfaring Stranger" and popular Swedish hymn "How Great Thou Art."
On the title track, a majestic, orchestral arrangement pairs with Griffith's baritone vocals to turn what could've been yet another run-of-the-mill instance of a celebrity moonlighting as a musician into something spiritually uplifting.
Griffith and his supporting cast won Best Southern Gospel, Country Gospel or Bluegrass Gospel Album for I Love to Tell The Story at the 39th annual Grammy Awards.
It wasn't Griffith's first or last gospel album. He recorded 1972's Somebody Bigger Than You and I in Nashville with George Jones and Tammy Wynette's go-to producer, Billy Sherrill. A different "as seen on TV" collection, Precious Memories: 33 Timeless Hymns, was released in 1995. Just as I Am: 30 Favorite Old Time Hymns followed in 1998.
The Story Behind "I Love To Tell The Story"
Katherine Hankey (b. Clapham, England, 1834; d. Westminster, London, England, 1911) wrote the hymn in the 1860s while recovering from a lengthy illness. It comes from the second part of her two-section poem about Christ's life on Earth: The Story Wanted and The Story Told. An almost identical hymn, "Tell Me the Old, Old Story," comes from the same source.
According to her Hymnary.org bio, Hankey "was the daughter of a wealthy banker and was associated with the Clapham sect of William Wilberforce, a group of prominent evangelical Anglicans from the Clapham area. This group helped to establish the British and Foreign Bible Society, promoted the abolition of slavery and was involved in improving the lot of England's working classes. Hankey taught Bible classes for shop girls in London, visited the sick in local hospitals and used the proceeds of her writings to support various mission causes."
American choir director William G. Fischer (b. Baltimore, MD, 1835; d. Philadelphia, PA, 1912) set Hankey's words to music in 1869. Hymnary.org credits Fischer with "some 200 tunes for Sunday school hymns and gospel songs."
Other popular acts with their own soul-stirring rendition of what's now a public domain song include country music stars Barbara Mandrell (from her 1989 double album Precious Memories) and Alan Jackson (from a 2005 album also titled Precious Memories).
"I Love to Tell the Story" Lyrics
1 I love to tell the story of unseen things above:
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know 'tis true.
It satisfies my longings as nothing else could do.
I love to tell the story,
'twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.
2 I love to tell the story, more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams;
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me,
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.
3 I love to tell the story. 'Tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
the message of salvation from God's own holy word. [Refrain]
4 I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it, like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
'twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long. [Refrain]
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