Hymn Story: I’ll Fly Away
I’ll Fly Away was written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929. The song was influenced by the 1924 secular ballad, “The Prisoner’s Song”.
Brumley was reportedly picking cotton on his father’s farm in Rock Island, Oklahoma. Brumley says that as he worked he was “humming the old ballad that went like this: ‘If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly,’ and suddenly it dawned on me that I could use this plot for a gospel-type song.”
Over the next three years he worked out the song. before it was published in 1932 by the Hartford Music Company.
I’ll Fly Away has been called “the most recorded gospel song”.
The Selah Jubilee Singers were one of the first groups to record the song in 1941. Others to record the song include The Chuck Wagon Gang, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Jars of Clay, Alan Jackson, Andy Griffith, Aretha Franklin, Wynonna Judd, The Osmonds, Randy Travis, Avalon of Faith and Michael W. Smith.
The song was also featured on two episodes of The Waltons, in the movies O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and even had a television series named after it. I’ll Fly Away TV Series aired from 1991-1993.
Albert E. Brumley published over 800 songs including “Jesus, Hold My Hand”, “Turn Your Radio On”, “I’ll Meet You in the Morning”, and “This World Is Not My Home”.