"You Can Write a Better Song"

Song: "More than Wonderful"

 

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6).

"Larnelle Harris and Sandi Patty won a Grammy Award for their duet performance of More Than Wonderful'; the song was voted Song of the Year m 1984 by the Gospel Music Association, and I was honored as CMA's Songwriter of the Year. Although my songs had been nominated seven previous times, it was the first time that a song from a musical, rather than from an artist's project, had ever been chosen as Song of the Year." That was Lanny Wolfe's brief history of his song.

Although highly educated and vastly experienced as a music professor, Wolfe is best known for his songwriting. Following is Lanny's account of just how difficult it was for him to bring into being one of his most honored and blessed songs. He told me the following story:

"During the 1970s, in addition to songs I wrote for the many albums recorded by the Lanny Wolfe Trio, I also wrote my first two musicals, Greater Is He That Is in Me and Noel, Jesus Is Born. Because of the impact of the latter, my publisher at that time, the Benson Company, wanted me to do another Christmas cantata.

"In the process of the meetings, Bob McKenzie, the president of the company, suggested that I write a song for the musical based on Isaiah 9:6. I responded to the assignment, and the song came easily.

"The song was written on the Lanny Wolfe Trio bus. As was my custom, I shut out all of the activities on the bus and got right down to the task. First I became thoroughly familiar with Isaiah 9:6. Then I began to write lyrics, parts of which came very easily. All of the lyrics flowed from the Scripture. The song is built around the entire idea of How do you describe someone who is indescribable?' He's beyond description. Preachers and songwriters try, but in vain, to pull words together that will paint pictures of His likeness. I tried to use words like amazing-He's more. I tried marvelous-He's more. After I wrote about His promises in the first stanza and found them all to be true, the rest of the song came rather quickly."

Lanny added, "The trio was as excited about this new child' as I was. We all sensed the destiny of it. As a trio, we were able to tell when a song had spirit and excitement in its lyrics and music, which were all very apparent with this new song.

"After we had sung More Than Wonderful' in concerts for four or five months, I presented it to Bob McKenzie, who was given to quick decisions. His first reaction was that the song should not go into the new Christmas musical. Lanny, you can write a better song' was his response. It was difficult for Bob to assess the response that we were getting in the concerts. He wasn't there to feel what we had felt so many times. After much persistence on my part, Bob gave in and allowed the song to go into the cantata.

"Don Marsh arranged the song for his choir, but it just didn't click. He then went back to the drawing board and came up with the now famous duet/choir arrangement. I suggested that Sandi Patty and Larnelle Harris sing the duet on the demo tape, and it was agreed upon. Because of their concert schedules, Larnelle and Sandi were not present in the studio at the same time. Larnelle recorded his part, and later Sandi was brought in to add her part, under Don's direction.

"I learned so much about God from this chapter in my life. Occasionally, what we call bad times are really blessings in disguise. God is always working for our good, even when we might not have a clue as to what He is doing."

Not even a small fraction of God's glory and His majesty can be imagined by people who are finite.

© 2008 by Lindsay Terry. Used by permission.

Lindsay Terry has been a song historian for more than 40 years, and has written widely on the background of great hymns and worship songs including the books I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (2008), from which this piece is excerpted, and The Sacrifice of Praise (2002). 

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