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.
Do You Need God’s Love in Your Life?
Follow the Steps to Peace to learn about Jesus or recommit your life to Him.