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.
- Anthony Burger (1995 The Gift; 1999 The Best Of Anthony Burger; 2003 A Christmas Gift; 2007 Christmas With You)
- Ball Brothers (2012 Winterized)
- Browns (2010 Christmas Joy)
- Called Out Quartet (2010 A Called Out Quartet Christmas)
- Calvarymen Quartet (???? A Christmas Gift)
- Dennis Gwizdala (2003 A Christmas Past, A Christmas Present)
- Gaither Homecoming Series (1996 Joy to the World; 1998 Hawaiian Homecoming)
- Gaither Vocal Band (1998 Still The Greatest Story Ever Told; 2004 Best Of the Gaither Vocal Band; 2009 Reunion Volume Two)
- Isaacs (2011 Christmas)
- Kingdom Heirs (1999 A Christmas Celebration, 2004 The Spirit Of Christmas)
- Mark Lowry (1998 Mary Did You Know-book/CD single combo; 2000 Just Singing…No Kidding; 2001 The Best Of Mark Lowry, Volume 1; 2001 On Broadway; 2004 Mary Did You Know)
- Michael English (1991 Michael English; 2003 Christmas; 2006 In Christ Alone)
- Nelons (1999 A Journey)
- Oak Ridge Boys (2012 Christmas Time’s A-Coming)
- Old Paths (2008 Christmas Classics)
- Perfect Heart (1997 The Light Of The World)
- Palmetto State Quartet (2009 Christmas 2009)
- Three Bridges (2011 Christmas Must Be Tonight)
- Triumphant Quartet (2003 Christmastime)