George Beverly Shea on God’s Blessings

By   •   January 31, 2011

Legendary gospel singer George Beverly Shea received his Lifetime Achievement Grammy award today. Read below as he discusses his friendship with Billy Graham, favorite ministry memories, and thoughts on turning 102.

BGEA: What are your thoughts on being selected for the Grammy award?

Shea: It was a great surprise. The president of the recording academy phoned me about a month ago. I couldn’t figure out why he would be calling me, because it’s been a while since I’ve made a new record. I have received a Grammy before, but it was back in 1965. I was very interested to hear about the award. The record executive was very friendly to talk to. He even knew some people at RCA I used to know.

BGEA: Another exciting event upon us is your 102nd birthday. With this lifetime of wonderful blessings from God, what are some of your favorite memories?

Shea: I’ve really enjoyed going to places like New York, Nashville and Hollywood to do recordings with different arrangers and composers. Back in those days, they used a live orchestra that was right there in studio. One of my favorite recordings I can remember is Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho. They wrote a new verse to it, and it was fun to sing.

In my travels, Australia is quite a memory. I went on a musical tour with Cliff Barrows and Ted Smith. Never forget those times.

In 1966 Billy, Cliff, Ted Smith and I went to Viet Nam for 10 days and had the privilege of visiting different places. We had services where 2,500 men were present, and 1,000 men were in the woods, guarding us. We sang for them and Billy spoke. Through the years, I’ve actually met three men that were there that time.

Another thing that stands out to me was Korea in 1973. We were there for a week for a series of meetings in different places. The Sunday meeting was held at a black top area for wartime landing. They had the black top painted off in squares, and there were 4,500 people in a square. We had a total of 1,100,000 people there. We are on a platform 16 feet high, and I will never forget the image of all those people as I sang How Great Thou Art with a 10,000-voice choir.

BGEA: Tell us how your friendship with Billy Graham began.

Shea: In 1943, I was an announcer in Chicago at Moody (WMBI). One morning on the other side of my glass door stood a tall blond young man named Billy Graham. He came to tell about his interest in my program, Hymn From the Chapel. That is how we met and we became acquainted from there. He was 21 and I was 31. That’s how we became acquainted. It has been a blessing to be friends with him.

BGEA: Do you still sing in public?

Shea: I still sing at the Cove (Billy Graham Training Center), which is about 15 miles away from my house. I sing there about eight times year, for senior adult events and at Christmastime.

BGEA: What advice do you have for other singers?

Shea: I never put my hand on a knob to open a door. The Lord opened doors for me by having Billy Graham ask me to come sing. And I never even planned on being a gospel singer!

BGEA: Valentines Day is coming up soon. What advice can you offer to couples in keeping their marriages strong?

Shea: I’ve been married to Karlene for 25 years. And it’s been bliss spelled with capital “b!” One of the reasons for our wonderful marriage is that I tell her every day that I love her. You have to work at marriage–do kind things, remember birthdays and anniversaries and enjoy one another’s friendship. Serve together–open your home to others so they can come in and enjoy it.

BGEA: As someone who has walked with the Lord for quite some time, what advice do you have for other Christians?

Shea: Keep your devotions, study the Word, enjoy His presence, and learn from Him daily.

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  1. Elisha Rao says:

    I Thank God for your life and songs and praise music melodious in my memory .

  2. Santiago says:

    Dear brother Shea – I got my first long-play by you, Whispering Hope, in 1968, from a Canadian friend. Then I could scarcely understand English (I am a Catalan). Since then your hymns filled my home as I grew up, and after I got married (to a Canadian girl) and my children grew up listening to your hymns and treasuring their message – gospel, encouragement, guidance … You've been a blessing in our lives. Blessings!

  3. Tony says:

    I've heard it said that any glory we receive down here, we won't get up in heaven. Well Bev, you are so humble, glory awaits you in heaven!! You are a true servant of God! 50 years ago, I was the one listening to you at 5 years of age, standing in wonder at my parents stereo in our living room and, looking back, you ministered me into the presence of the LORD Himself by His Spirit through your wonderful singing. I would have to agree with Billy – if I had a choice, yes, I would choose to hear you sing about that Peace, Peace, Wonderful Peace, coming down from the Father above!!! How the Spirit has swept and continues to sweep, over my spirit through your faithful singing Bev! Thank you, thank you!

  4. Chris says:

    Congratulation Mr. Shea on your 'life time achievement award and for your faithfulness to the proclaimation of the gospel in songs over all these years. You have inspired me since I was a young child growing up in Jamaica. I looked forward to hearing you sing every Sunday morning on the Hour of Decision with Billy Graham. May God continue to bless you, Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows and the team that so faithfully proclaimed the message of salvation.

  5. philip says:

    How wonderful the words of How Great Thou Art and I can honestly say no one in the world can sing it like you.. As a child I came to the BG rally at Haringay in London in the 1950s and your depth of sincerity and rich baritone voice have been an inspiration to me ever since,, to reach the 102 rung of life's ladder is a wonderful achievement .God bless you as you continue to climb.

  6. W. Ian Walker says:

    Blessings to you on your 102 Birthday, you are such a blessing for musicians/singers to keep on going! I'm so happy to hear that you've received another Grammy. I had the opportunity in 2004 to interview Cliff Barrows at the Toronto Crusade, and would enjoy meeting you and interviewing you as well. I hope that we can connect soon to make this happen. Thank you, for singing God's songs!