Behind the Hymn: Softly and Tenderly

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling was written by William Lamartine Thompson.

Softly and Tenderly is one of his best known compositions, alongside Jesus is All the World to Me.

Softly and Tenderly first appeared in a collection of songs, Sparkling Gems, Nos 1 and 2, by Thompson’s company in 1880.

“UM Hymnal editor, the Rev. Carlton R. Young, notes: “This is a typical lullaby in the gospel hymn tradition that characterizes Jesus as a mother, gently rocking and comforting a child. This attribute contributes to the continuing popularity of this genre of religious song that presents Jesus as waiting, caring, and forgiving in intimate—and for many, compelling—metaphors.”

Evangelist Dwight L. Moody used the song in many of his crusades. He was visited by Thompson in the hospital when he was dying, where he told him “Will, I would rather have written “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.” Moody is said to have been singing Softly and Tenderly when he died.

Softly and Tenderly was also sung at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Softly and Tenderly has been recorded by numerous artists and featured in the films Trip to Bountiful and Urban Cowboy and a funeral scene of the TV show, True Blood.


Dwight L. Moody said he'd rather have written Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling than all of the ministry he provided #songstory Click To Tweet



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