Graham Kendrick Profile

The Times, 8th January 1993

Topping the soul charts, Graham Kendrick

The contemporary hymn writer who has turned his back on a fortune.
In the religious pick of the pops Graham Kendrick has come in at number six. He is the most successful of Britain's praise and worship songwriters, and his composition "Shine, Jesus, Shine" has just ousted the Womens Institute anthem "Jerusalem" from the Top Ten hymn chart compiled by the BBC1 programme, Songs of Praise.

The chart, based on a poll of viewers and released this week, shows Mr Kendrick up there with golden oldies such as Charles Wesley "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" and Isaac Watts "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross".

More than half a million people in Britain sing Mr Kendrick's songs every Sunday. Many, many more sing them abroad. Songbooks including his work sell in millions, and in the past decade he has sold well over a quarter of a million records.

Theoretically Mr Kendrick, the son of a Baptist pastor, could become the hymn-writing world's first millionaire. In fact he will not, because he takes only a monthly salary from his own publishing company, Make Way Music, and has set up a charitable trust to handle royalty payments, which in any case are seldom forthcoming from mass markets overseas where translations are unofficial and the publishing infrastructure not yet formalised.

Mr Kendrick says he does not mind. "Making money was not the object in the first place." The true goal he describes as being "to write songs which will equip Christians of whatever denomination to worship".

Though his work is best known in this country on the charismatic wing of the evangelical movement, Mr Kendrick is an interdenominational artist. Born and raised a Baptist, he spent eight years in the Anglican church, married in a Methodist chapel, and now worships with an independent free church, the Ichthus Christian Fellowship, in southeast London.

He is also a co-ordinator of the interdenominational Marches for Jesus, for which many of his songs have been written. These marches, Mr Kendrick says, are "joyful, positive movements of masses of people celebrating their faith". There were 55,000 marchers in London in 1988, 70,000 in Berlin last year, the biggest single gathering from the 600,000 people who took the streets on the same day across Europe and America. This June the organisers hope to have 80 nations involved.

Mr Kendrick is a self-taught musician whose work had its origins in the do-it-yourself pop and folk song era of the 1960s. He played guitar with a group from his Baptist youth club, for which he began to write songs

He continued writing while at teacher training college. "Originally my songs were written without thought of publication, but they began to get around on the grapevine and were taken up by a publishing company."

He composes in bursts. "I start with an idea, a flash of inspiration, perhaps a word or a line which i have heard from someone preaching. After the initial inspiration I tend to be very methodical, making draft after draft, it is a laborious process."

Charles Wesley wrote 6,500 hymns, of which a dozen or so survive in popular use. "I have a long way to go to equal that", Mr Kendrick says. So far, he estimates, he may have turned out 300 songs.

His love of contemporary music does not prevent him from enjoying the old favourites that share the Songs of Praise top ten. The chart toppers are "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind", "The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended", and "The Old Rugged Cross".

"People try to cast me as an opponent of traditional hymns, but it is not true", Mr Kendrick says. "I was brought up with them, I value and enjoy them." His personal favourites would include Watts's "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", Wesley's "O for a Thousand Tongues" and Mathew Bridges' "Crown Him With Many Crowns".

"The Church is put into the world, not to live on its past history but to make history," Mr Kendrick says. "To me that means each generation has to find its own contemporary expression of faith. Of course while traditionalists see me as a dangerous radical, there are doubtless younger people who are already saying that I am past it."

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