Behind the Song: Reach Out to Jesus

Reach Out to Jesus was written by composer Ralph Carmichael.

Ralph Carmichael

Ralph Carmichael was born on May 27, 1927 in Quincy, Illinois. He was the son of a

Pentecostal minister.

As a child, he learned to play the violin. By the time he was a teenager, he was playing with the San Jose Civic Symphony.

He grew up in the days before TV, when he listened to the radio. He later recalled “I was captivated by the chordal explosions I heard on the radio. I felt a sadness that we didn’t have that in our church. Our church orchestra sounded weak and terrible by comparison. It was embarrassing. Why? Why did we have to settle? Why couldn’t we use those gorgeous rhythms, sweeping strings, the brass, the stirring chords? That started to control everything I did.”

Billy Graham and Ralph Carmichael

He attended Southern California Bible College {now Vanguard University} and started or led a variety of groups and ensembles while experimenting to blend jazz, gospel songs, hymns and classical music and techniques together. Many in the local churches did not favor his style and techniques.

In 1948, he married Evangeline Otto, but they would divorce in 1964.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association invited him to score the music for a film in 1951, leading to a long associations and almost twenty more films.

Soon, he was arranging music for shows such as I Love Lucy, Bonanza, My Mother the Car and The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show. He also scored music for singers Rosemary

Ralph Carmichael

Clooney,Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole, whom he would work with regularly for the remainder of the singer’s life. He and Cole’s first project together was The Magic of Christmas album.

Over time, his experiments with various styles came to be accepted in local churches. He founded Light Records and has come to be known as the Father of Contemporary Christian Music. Carmichael worked closely with gospel singer, George Beverly Shea.

In 1969, he and Kurt Kaiser collaborated on a folk musical about God, Tell It Like It Is. This musical introduced the song Pass It On.

Ralph Carmichael

In 1985, he was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame and a year later published his autobiography, He’s Everything to Me. In 2001, he was inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame.

Reach Out to Jesus was first published in 1968.

Elvis Presley released Reach Out to Jesus on his 1972 album, He Touched Me, for which he won a Grammy Award.


Reach Out to Jesus was written by the same person who arranged music for I Love Lucy and Bananza #songstory Share on X


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