Saturday, August 29, 2015

He Gave Me a Song -- Alton Howard

Just what particular song was he thinking of when he composed the words in 1977? Alton Howard must have been thinking of something when he wrote “He Gave Me a Song”, so could one guess what it was just by looking at the words he penned at the time? It would be just as likely that Howard, if he were able to say so today, would respond that he was thinking of many events and their coalescence that caused his heart to swell with this ode of thanksgiving. What was it that made Alton feel this way, either in the specific moments as he wrote the words, or as he looked back on 50 years of his life?

Without a testimony from Alton Howard to tell us, we cannot say if there was a unique set of events that made his heart flow with the words to “He Gave Me a Song”, but maybe the decades that this 52-year old had lived speak louder than any single story he could remember. His life up to that point had been a variety of adventures and experiments, one might say, all of which Alton had grown through while simultaneously putting his strong and deep Christian faith into action. From a wartime experience in uniform to many business ventures afterwards, he must have had some pretty profound connections to make solid his foundation. They came through in the music that this longtime Louisiana church elder and businessman helped propagate for millions of believers. Besides writing songs, he turned loose his business acumen in 1969 to produce songbooks through a company he established – Howard Publishing. Perhaps it was the contact with so many composers and their music over the next several years that Alton reflected upon, as his enterprise collated, printed, and delivered God’s musical message to people around the world. Such an experience may have salved the pain from other times that weren’t so positive, as he hints in his words that ‘burdens (were taken) away’, while ‘sin and doubt’ vanished. It was evidently a sensation that continued to grow as the years accumulated and his songbooks and his life’s purpose – to spread God’s influence – expanded.

What was the secret of Alton’s life-song? One commentator suggested the Howard was willing to take a risk, and had a wide assortment of projects that he attempted. Not all of them succeeded, but he must have felt that God ‘had his back’, because he kept trying. Perhaps that’s what gave him the joy, the exuberance that he shares in his song. It was wonderful, because he always knew confidently where his adventure would ultimately lead. Alton may have reasoned that he could just enjoy the ride, and point others to Him – through music, a radio show, a church camp, or books he wrote, or any other multiple ways God might prompt him to attempt. If one didn’t work out, he’d try something else. Alton sure sounds like a resilient character. From whom do you think he inherited that spirit?


See following links for information on the composer:

See also “Our Garden of Song”, edited by Gene C. Finley, Howard Publishing Company, West Monroe, Louisiana, 1980.

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