In 1954, composer Jack Richards and lyricist Richard Mullan got together and co-wrote a song about God. Titled simply He, the song was first recorded by baritone Al Hibbler and a version was released the next year by the McGuire Sisters. Both recordings rose high on Billboard’s charts and He was listed among Billboard’s Top Tunes in both 1955 and 1956.
Since then, He has been recorded by a number of notable names: The Righteous Brothers, Andy Williams, The Lennon Sisters, Bobby Vinton, Glen Campbell, Tammy Wynette, Crystal Gale, Mel Tillis, and even Elvis Presley (private recording) just to name a few. It’s a rather an old-fashioned song – especially in light of today’s Praise and Worship music – but since it has always been one of my mom’s favorites, I grew up hearing it and had a copy of the sheet music.
This past April I noticed He was part of a program at Sheet Music Plus that allows arrangers to legally arrange copyrighted music (ArrangeMe). Since it was just a few weeks before Mother’s Day, a light bulb went off in my head and I decided to write a piano setting of it as a Mother’s Day gift. It made me a bit nervous because I wanted to create something really, really nice but I also felt a bit of that little kid excitement again making a handmade gift for Mom.
As beautiful as He is – especially with its imagery – it’s one those songs that can be over-sentimentalized and quickly become schmaltzy (not uncommon for the era it was written) so I took extra care to avoid any treacliness. I crafted it to start out tenderly and then grow to more majestic proportions by the end. I kept it fairly simple to play – it sounds more complicated than it actually is – and used harmonies that reflect the emotions in the lyrics. I also added an original introduction and ending to put my own spin on it.
It will likely never top a Billboard chart, but Mom loved the piano arrangement and I thought it came out too pretty not to share with the rest of the world. Due to copyright restrictions, I can’t release a full recording of my arrangement but I hope you enjoy the 30 second clip I am allowed to post.