Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Song Story: Holy Ground - by Geron Davis

There are some songs that seem to insist upon being born and nothing, not even teenage overconfidence and procrastination, can get in their way. No one knows this better than Geron Davis. In 1979,

19-year-old Davis was helping to prepare the new building that his church congregation, pastored by his father, would soon call home.

"We had just completed a brand new sanctuary in the little town of Savannah, Tennessee," he says. "About six weeks before we moved into the new place, my dad started saying: 'Son, I wish you'd write us a new song for the first Sunday service.'" Davis, who had been writing songs since his earliest teen years, replied that he would do it. After a couple of weeks, Davis's father asked, "Son, you got that song?" He replied, "No, Dad, but I'll do it." A similar exchange followed weeks later.

On the Saturday before the new building's dedication, church members worked all day, preparing for the opening service. At midnight, after the other laborers had left, Davis' father turned to him once again and asked: "Son, did you get us a special song for the first service?" Davis answered: "No, sir. But I'm fixin' to."

Once his father had left, Davis finally sat down at the church's shiny, new grand piano and thought to himself, "What do we want to say when we come into this place for the first time?" The answer came without hesitation.

"Literally, as fast as I could write the words down," Davis says, "they were there. Within about 10 or 15 minutes, I had the entire song finished: 'As I walked through the door, I sensed his presence/And I knew this was a place where love abounds/For this is a temple, Jehovah God abides here/We are standing in his presence, on holy ground.'"

Did Davis realize that he had written something powerful? "Are you kidding?" he laughs. "I was a 19-year-old kid, dead-tired on my feet. I was ready to go get into bed."

The next morning, Davis taught the song to his sister and brother and they sang it in church. "The power of God moved in...it was a wonderful time. Of course, my mother was in the audience, so I expected everybody to love the song. But, I didn't really understand at that point what God had done."

Soon thereafter, Davis helped record "Holy Ground" for a friend's album. Another friend heard the recording and asked permission to shop the song around; 24 hours later, he returned to Davis with news that Meadowgreen Music was interested. When the company bought the tune, music executive Randy Cox told Davis: "This song will live beyond you. It will be bigger than you can imagine." Davis remembers thinking, "Yeah, sure," only later to realize that his words were right on target.

Though the song was not recorded by any major artists at that time, it quickly caught on in the church, and in 1986 was Word Records' best-selling anthem. At the end of the millennium, it remained Word's No. 2 selling anthem of all time. It has since been recorded by countless artists and appeared in numerous hymnals.

Davis speculates that the reason for the song's popularity lies in its accessibility. "The most satisfying thing is not how many units we've sold or how much money it's made, but the fact that I have done something that becomes a part of the fabric of people's everyday lives," he says.

"It's not just something they sing on Sunday, but something they sing in the special moments of their lives: at weddings, at funerals, in times of sickness, of trouble, of heartache.

"It blows me away that God will take a country boy from the foothills of Tennessee and let him write a song as a teenager that would have the impact that this one's had. It just kind of proves that little is much when God is in it."

In addition to touching the hearts of the average man and woman, "Holy Ground" has also spoken into the lives of the rich and famous. While still serving as the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton became of fan of the song. Following his election to the presidency, Clinton invited Davis and his wife, Becky, along with their choir, to sing "Holy Ground" at his inauguration. Also present were celebrities such as Colin Powell, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

When Bill Clinton's mother, Virginia Kelly, died in 1994, the President asked that "Holy Ground" be sung at her funeral. It was at Kelly's memorial that her good friend Barbra Streisand first heard the song. Streisand later wrote in the liner notes for her album Higher Ground: "It's hard for me to describe that electrifying moment. The music lifted us, elevating our spirits. I knew then I had to sing that song and others like it. The idea for this album was born at that moment. The lyric says that when we are in God's presence, we are on holy ground. But since God is everywhere, that would make every square inch of this planet holy ground."

After the album's release, someone asked Geron Davis: "How does it feel to know that you 'electrified' Barbra Streisand?" Davis replied, "Here's a lady who's sung on Broadway. She has sung duets with every famous person in the country. She's produced, starred in, and directed movies. You think a 19-year-old's song is gonna electrify her? That's not what electrified Barbra Streisand. What happened to Barbra Streisand-and I believe she would agree-is that she got into the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. She was electrified not by my song, but by the presence of God that she felt in the room.

"The presence of God has the same effect on everybody. It doesn't matter how powerful, how wealthy, how well known you are. When you come into God's presence, friend, we're all on level ground."

"Holy Ground," Geron Davis, 1983, Meadowgreen Music Company/Songchannel Music. Lyrics printed by permission of author.

Phil Christensen is worship pastor at the Church on the Mountain near Mt. Hood, Ore.

Source Article: http://www.ccli.com/WorshipResources/SongStories.cfm?itemID=6

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