Behind the Song: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands is a traditional American spiritual. As a spiritual this song was probably around for a long time before it was recorded and written down.

The song was first published in the 1927, paper bound hymnal Spirituals Triumphant, Old

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

and New.

In 1933, Frank Warner collected the song from Sue Thomas while she sung the song in North Carolina.

Frank Warner was an American folk art collector, singer, musician, and YMCA executive. He was born in April 1903 in Alabama and died in February 1978 in Long Island, New York.

Frank Warner performed and introduced the spiritual to the American public throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Other collectors also recorded the song. In 1941, Robert Sonkin, who was with the Library of Congress, recorded a version in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. That version is still available at the Library’s American Forklife Center.

In 1958, English singer Laurie London and the Geoff Love Orchestra recorded the song. Their record became a gold record and became the first and as of this writing the only gospel song to hit #1 on the U.S. pop singles chart.

A variety of other performers have also recorded the song.

The song has made it’s way in part or whole into several films including Tootsie, Roxanne and Con Air.


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