Behind the Hymn: Pass It On

Recently, I heard Dr. David Jeremiah discuss the origins and popularity of this song and it sparked my interest.

Kurt Kaiser

Kurt Kaiser

So, I thought this would be a wonderful time to explore this beautiful hymn.

Kurt Kaiser, born in 1934 Chicago, made a career in music as a composer and author with over 60 tunes to his credit, after attending The American Conservatory of Music.

For five years in the late 1960s, he was director of the Baylor Religious Hour Choir

He is well known for his composition of numerous youth rock musicals.

It only takes a spark to get a fire going

It only takes a spark to get a fire going

In 1969, the Christian youth movement was taken place. Kaiser set out to write a hymn that would be the modern day equivalent of Just As I Am. This would be the closer to the musical, Tell It Like It Is, he was working on with Ralph Carmichael. “It was the beginning of youth finding a place in church again”, said Carmichael.

Kaiser describes his experience writing the hymn by saying, “On a Sunday night I was sitting in our den by the fireplace where there were remnants of a fire, and it occurred to me that it only takes a spark to get a fire going . . . and the rest came very quickly. My wife suggested that I should say something about shouting it from mountaintops, and that ended up in the third verse. It only took about 20 minutes to write the lyrics. Afterwards my wife and I went for a walk, letting the song ruminate in our minds.”

The song has a simple but powerful message that reminds of us the words of Jesus in the Great Commission. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” {Matthew 28}

And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing

And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing

The song soon took on a life all it’s own. Kaiser continues, “I am always amazed how the Lord can take a little song and use it to reach so many people. It has been sung at countless weddings and funerals, at ordination services, by the Sea of Galilee, in Zimbabwe and in Zambia, on the aircraft carrier Enterprise, and lots of camps.”

Tell It Like It Is, alongside the musical Purpose, are considered to be the first youth musicals to have a major impact on the church youth culture, defining the genre. These musicals paved the way for two well known Broadway musicals, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.

That's how it is with God's love

That’s how it is with God’s love

Pass It On gained a larger audience when it was published in the hymnals Hymns for the Living Church {1974} and Hymns for the Family of God {1976}. Since then it has been published in numerous other hymnals.

In 1993, Kaiser won a Dove Award for his album Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, one of his sixteen piano solo albums.

He has worked with many well known names such as Burl Ives, Larnelle Harris, Ernie Ford, George Beverly Shea, Joni Erickson Tada, Ethel Waters and many others.

Kaiser was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001. He

Spread His love to everyone

Spread His love to everyone

has received numerous other honors including, Lifetime Achievement Award from ASCAP, an honorary Doctor of Sacred Music degree from Trinity College in Illinois; and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Baylor University.

Kurk Kaiser also wrote another well known song, “O How He Loves You and Me.” He and his wife, Anne, live in Waco, Texas and have four adult children and ten grandchildren.

Kurt Kaiser continues to be active on the music scene conducting choral workshops, performing and producing.


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