The Originals: Mary, Did You Know?

The Originals: Mary, Did You Know?

This week, The Originals series takes a look at “Mary, Did You Know?”

Mark Lowry was inspired to write the lyrics of this classic Christmas song in 1984 when he was approached and asked to help compose a musical for the Advent season. Lowry came up with a series of questions he wanted to pose to Mary, the mother of Jesus. For the next six years, Lowry showed his lyric to a number of composers. None were able to write a tune that satisfied him. Finally in 1990, he reached out to harmonica and guitar virtuoso Buddy Greene, who set the words in a minor key. The lyric finally had a melody.

The following year, “Mary, Did You Know?” appeared in recorded form for the very first time on Michael English’s self-titled solo album. Like the rest of English’s solo recording, the arrangement was produced with synthesized accompaniment and breathy vocals aimed at the Christian Adult Contemporary market.

Take a listen:

By 2000, the song had been covered by Kathy Mattea (1993), Anthony Burger (1995), Vickie Winans (1995), Gary Chapman (1997), Kenny Rogers & Wynonna Judd (1997 duet), Perfect Heart (1997), Donny Osmond (1999), Nelons (1999), Kingdom Heirs (1999), and Reba McEntire (1999). Lowry himself recorded the song for his Remotely Controlled comedy DVD in 1995 and again with the Gaither Vocal Band in 1998 for their Christmas album, Still the Greatest Story Ever Told. Lowry also released a gift book titled Mary, Did You Know? in 1998 that included a CD single.

Since 2000, the song has been recorded numerous times by artists from a variety of genres. Some of those individuals from the secular field include Clay Aiken (2004), Cee Lo Green (2012) and Pentatonix (2014). Here’s a list of Southern Gospel artists who have recorded “Mary, Did You Know?” over the years, courtesy of SGHistory.com.

Category Audio, History

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

MusicScribe Comments

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3 Comments

  1. James Hales
    Reply January 19, 13:35 #1 James Hales

    I never liked the original version. It just never appealed to me. It wasn’t until I heard Mark’s version from his “Remotely Controlled” video that I finally took notice of the song and it’s powerful lyric.




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  2. Chris Unthank
    Reply January 19, 17:40 #2 Chris Unthank

    The original is still my favorite.




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  3. lee65
    Reply January 28, 13:55 #3 lee65

    I like Kathy Mattea’s version the best




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