“SO WHAT MAKES IT A HIT ANYWAY?”
Song: “Mary, Did You Know?” Words: Mark Lowry Music: Buddy Greene
It’s already December and we are hearing Christmas music everywhere we go!! Radio, stores, restaurants, movies, etc. rely heavily on Christmas music this time of year. Many of the songs we hear are Christmas Carols that have been around for hundreds of years. Other songs are much newer and may not be as well known. So what does it take to create a Christmas classic? We will consider this as we look at what would probably be considered the “newest” Christmas classic of the last 30 years.
“Mary, Did You Know?” was originally recorded on Christian artist Michael English’s debut project in 1991. Interestingly enough, it was not a Christmas project, but rather a regular studio project. However, the song was a hit and has since been recorded countless times on Christmas projects by Christian and secular artists, which has made it a Christmas standard.
So what is the appeal of “Mary, Did You Know?”
“Mary, Did You Know?” is about the birth of Christ, which of course makes it appropriate for Christmas projects. The author is asking Mary, the mother of Jesus, if she understands the significance of the Child she is carrying. This is Jesus – Immanuel, the Messiah, the Savior that the prophets spoke of so long ago and wrote about in the scriptures. He is coming to save people from their sins. What an overwhelming truth for a young, teenage girl to ponder, yet she is the chosen one to give birth to and raise this very special baby boy.
The lyric is simply stated and elegant. There is no fat. Every word was carefully chosen and tells the story poetically and beautifully. One of my favorite lines is, “this child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.” Mary has given birth to the means of her own salvation, as well as the salvation of the rest of the world. Another great line is, “and when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.” Mary has literally given birth to God in the flesh – Wow. Every line in “Mary, Did You Know?” can be supported by scripture, so it is Biblically accurate.
“Mary, Did You Know?” is a ballad written in a minor key. There is something about a minor key that makes the listener feel the song in a deeper way. It gets our attention differently than an uptempo song in a major key. The ascending 5 notes of “Mary did you know…” are immediately attention getting melodically. The combination of this lyrical and melodic hook draws the listener in emotionally and keeps their attention as this hook repeats several times throughout the tune.
“Mary, Did You Know?” does not have a chorus per se, but it really doesn’t need one. The melodic difference of the first two lines of each verse from the last two lines of each verse provide enough melodic diversity to keep the melody flowing and interesting. The melodic high point comes from the two lines in the bridge, which provide an effective “goosebumps” moment. Any singer with a wide range can make those lines soar and make us feel like the heavens are opening up!!
Christian artist and comedian Mary Lowry wrote the lyrics for “Mary, Did You Know?” and Christian artist and instrumentalist Buddy Greene wrote the music. Their marriage of lyric and music provided the right winning combination to produce a Christmas classic that we will hear for years to come.
“MARY, DID YOU KNOW?”
Words: Mark Lowry
Music: Buddy Greene
[Verse 1] Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water? Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you. [Verse 2] Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God. Oh Mary did you know
Bridge: The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb [Verse 3] Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am