Hymn Story: The Wonder of it All
George Beverly Shea’s deep baritone voice, set the mood during the Billy Graham crusades.
George Beverly Shea was born on February 1, 1909 in Winchester, Ontario, Canada. He later said he gave his life to Christ at five years of age and rededicated his life at eighteen.
His parents taught him to play the violin, piano and organ at a young age, but it was his deep baritone voice he became best known for.
In 1947, he became the soloist for the Billy Graham crusades, but he was already a well known singer having appeared on the radio in such programs as Songs in the Night, Club Time and Singspiration. He had also sung for Youth for Christ, where Billy Graham was preaching, five years earlier and released his own album.
Bev Shea wrote in his book Songs that Lift the Heart, about the inspiration for this beautiful song.
“England figures in the story behind this hymn written in 1955. I was on my way to Scotland for meetings there aboard the S.S. United States bound for Southampton when inspiration came from conversation with another passenger. He wanted to know what went on at our meetings and after detailing the sequence of things at a typical Billy Graham Crusade meeting, I found myself at a loss for words when I tried to describe the response that usually accompanied Mr. Graham’s invitation to become a Christian.
“What happens then never becomes commonplace…watching people by the hundreds come forward…oh, if you could just see the wonder of it all.”
“I think I should,” he answered. Then he wrote these wonders on a card and handed it back to me: THE WONDER OF IT ALL.
“That sounds like a song to me.” Later that night, I wrote words on that theme and roughed out a melody to go with them.”
The Wonder of It All was first released and copyrighted in 1956.
George Beverly Shea remained with the Billy Graham organization for the remainder of his life. He entered the wonder of it all on April 16, 2013 at his home in Montreat, North Carolina. He was 104 years old.
George Beverly Shea also wrote another popular song, I’d Rather Have Jesus.