While technically I suppose this is a “blog,” I am writing it in the form of a letter. Why? Because you are my friend.
A few minutes ago, I was compiling this list of three unusual Christmas performances by some of my “artist” buddies… Intending to send the list and its links to a few of my friends, I changed my mind. Instead, I decided to send it to ALL of my friends!
Each of these performances are “unusual” to me for different reasons, and I’ve placed them in no particular order. I’ll provide you the background as we go…
Mark Lowry — “Mary, Did You Know?”
Knowing Mark as I do, it is easy to give God all the credit for this classic Christmas song. Why? Because Mark is a nut. A brilliant nut, to be sure, but a nut, just the same. My whole family adores Mark, and that includes me—though I often tell people that Mark is my step brother who has just been released from an asylum.
Seriously, sometimes I think someone that funny could not possibly write words like this without Divine help, could he? In any case, I am proud to be Mark’s friend.
Buddy Greene, another friend and artist I greatly admire, wrote the music that has become as recognizable as the lyrics.
“Mary, Did You Know?” has now been released by more than 500 different recording artists around the world. The coolest performance, however, has now been done by the songwriter himself. Here is Mark, earlier this year, singing his classic with background vocals by Voctave.
Gordon Mote — “Go Tell It on the Mountain”
Gordon Mote is one of the most successful studio musicians of all time. He has been the keyboard genius behind sixty number one hits and seventy-five more that made the top ten—on more than fifty million albums covering the musical spectrum like no one else in history. He has performed on Gold and Platinum albums in Pop, Rock, Country, Southern Gospel, and Contemporary Christian.
But for all his skill on a keyboard, Gordon Mote has never actually seen a piano. Blind since birth, Gordon’s story is one you need to know. When I tell it (in another letter, some other time) I’ll also tell you how Gordon failed a keyboard class in college (they said he didn’t use the correct fingers on specific keys), and how he came to marry Kimberly, who looks like a model. Gordon and Kimberly have three awesome children.
So I promise you’ll get the full story some other time. For now, enjoy this unusual video of Gordon in the recording studio with some of his friends. It’s the best version of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” I have ever heard!
(Watch closely toward the end and you’ll see Gordon playing with one hand upside down!)
The Isaacs — “Labor of Love”
Quite honestly, I love everything they do. This includes their latest release, Nature’s Symphony in 432. For this unique collection, The Isaacs just received a Grammy nomination.
The video I want you to see is one of the most unique of all time. If not for YouTube, you and I would never be able to catch the wonder of this moment. An American tourist captured the whole thing on her cell phone. Here’s the story of how it came together…
A couple of years ago, the group, their spouses, and children went to Israel. They had been several times before, but always performing in concerts night after night. This time, they went as a family. This time, they wanted to experience the Holy Land, to walk where the disciples walked and to visit the city in which Jesus was born.
In Bethlehem, as part of a tour group, The Isaacs and their families visited the Shepherd’s Cave. This is the shelter where the angels appeared on that first Christmas Eve so long ago. The small cave is where those “certain poor shepherds” were, “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.”
It was in the Shepherd’s Cave that someone told The Isaacs they had been recognized. “It would be incredible,” a young woman said, “if you sang ‘Labor of Love’ here. Your song about the night Jesus was born is the only one like it. And this place was a part of that night.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Ben looked at Becky with eyebrows raised. This was her song. The decision would be hers…
Then, a man spoke up. Seeing the group had not declined, he said, “If you need a guitar, there was a guy outside with one. He was playing for tips, but I’m sure he would rent it to me for one song.” He paused a beat before adding, “I’ll go get it.”
A couple of minutes later when the man returned, it had been decided that Jimmy Yeary—Sonya’s husband and an accomplished songwriter—would play the guitar, accompanying the group on the song.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that at the time of this video, Jimmy had recently written the song that would not only be his fifth number one hit, but win Song of the Year honors the following year at the CMA and ACM awards. The song “I Drive Your Truck” was a father’s description of how he kept his son’s memory alive after the son was killed in Afghanistan.
And so it happened that hot, summer afternoon in Bethlehem that the CMA and ACM’s Songwriter of the Year took hold of a rented guitar and quickly tuned it in the Shepherd’s Cave. The stage was set, but there was no stage.
There was no sound system, no air-conditioning, and no opening act. Sonya was pregnant, Becky had a cold, and Ben had a headache. They wore no make-up and didn’t have the luxury of warming up their voices.
The small audience in the cave held their breath as Jimmy reverently began to play the introduction. And The Isaacs, knowing that God was in that place, began to sing.
Merry Christmas to you all,