Behind the Song: Mary, Did You Know
Mary, Did You Know? is a popular Christmas song that was written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene. The song originated from Lowry’s desire to ask Mary, “what was it like to raise God?”
Mary Lowry is a popular comedienne that has also been a member of the Gaither Vocal
Band off and on for the last two decades.
Lowry was born on June 24, 1958 in Houston, Texas. From a young age, he developed a great love for music. In 1980, he graduated from Liberty University.
According to an published interview with Mark Lowry, he was asked by Jerry Falwell, his pastor, to write a program for their next Living Christmas Tree in 1984.
Lowry said, “As I wrote the ‘speaking parts’ I began to think about Mary. I have always been fascinated with the concept that God came to earth. In a conversation with my mother, I remember she said, ‘If anyone on earth knew for sure that Jesus was virgin born — Mary knew!’ That was a profound statement that stuck with me. One thing they couldn’t take from Mary was that she knew her Child was not ordinary.”
Lowry went on to say, “At the cross on Mount Calvary, while Jesus was dying, her silence
was a great testimony to the fact of who he was and is. He said to them, ‘When you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’ Of course, for this they nailed him to a cross, and his mother never said a word.”
Lowry described how the song came into existance, “As my mind went back to the manger scene, I began to think about the power, authority and majesty she cradled in her arms. Those little lips were the same lips that had spoken worlds into existence. All of those things were contained in the young child lying quietly on her bosom. Even now, he was the very one who had given life to his mother, Mary. I began writing a list of questions I would like to ask Mary if I could sit down with her — questions such as, ‘Mary, do you know who is in your arms?’”
Lowry said that he began to write out the questions he would ask Mary if she were there.
Seven years would pass before Lowry handed the lyrics to his friend, Buddy Greene, to make his poem a musical composition in 1991. The men were on the Gaither bus when Lowry gave the lyrics to Greene.
Greene told the St. Augustine Chronicle, “Mark handed me his lyrics, and I held on to them for about two weeks. One day I pulled them out and looked at them. They seemed to suggest a minor key approach to writing an accompaniment. I completed the musical setting in about 30 minutes. I called Mark at his home in Georgia and on the phone played and sang the song to him. He was ecstatic! He said, ‘That’s it!’
The song was recorded in a Nashville hotel two weeks later. Lowry then gave the song to his fellow Gaither Vocal Band Member, English Lowry, for his upcoming album. English was the first person to record Mary, Did You Know?
Lowry said in an interview that Gloria Gaither pointed out after publication that the grammatically correct English was “Mary Do you Know.” His response, “Well, my way sings better!”
For a long time after the song was released, Lowry did not perform the song. He felt the song was “too rangy” for his vocal range. He says in an interview, “One night in Detroit, I was doing a solo concert & someone hollered from the audience, “Sing ‘Mary Did You Know!'” I said, “Well, I don’t sing that” but, then everyone started saying it, so I did it a’cappella & I’ve done it every night since. It has become my career song, so to speak. I can’t go anywhere without singing it & I don’t want to really…”
Mary, Did You Know? has become a modern Christmas classic and been recorded by a variety of artists.
There are many things Mary may not have understood about her son, but she knew that he was a special gift from heaven.
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