Chris Tomlin “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” and Keith Green
- Chris grew up down the road from Keith and this song was one of his first and most favorite worship songs. It's a true testimony to the power of sung prayer that 40 years after the passing of Keith Green, his music is still impacting some of the biggest artists and songwriters in Christian music.
We could talk about Chris Tomlin’s twenty-three GMA Dove Awards, his GRAMMY nominations, and awards, or his many platinum albums. We could talk about his desire as a young man to enter a career in physical therapy, to serve people in medicine, reflecting a desire to serve people he’s always had. But with the soul of a creative, frenetic personality and enough energy to power a small town, what would Tomlin want to talk about?
In this Worship Sound Bite Tomlin shares some wisdom he’s learned from a trusted fellow traveler in his faith and musical journey. He talks about the impact that Keith Green’s song “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” had on him in the early days of his ministry. Chris grew up down the road from Keith and this song was one of his first and most favorite worship songs. It’s a true testimony to the power of sung prayer that 40 years after the passing of Keith Green, his music is still impacting some of the biggest artists and songwriters in Christian music. For any songwriter, hearing Chris Tomlin talk about the process of re-recording this classic is inspiring, to say the least. Enjoy and share this with your songwriting friends as it’s sure to encourage them to continue to write love songs to Jesus.
Another great video worth watching where Chris says there are two lanes of worship: songs of deliverance, and songs of transcendence, can be found here. And he’s right. We see these all over the Word of God, especially in the Psalms (Psalms 3:3-7; 5:11-12; 23:4-6). David calls out from the caves for deliverance, for God to smite his enemies or rescue him from his own weakness. Then we see him praise the Father for who he is, declaring his transcendence (Psalms 145; 34:1-9; 111:1-5).
Songs of transcendence are especially powerful as they remind us of a bigger story than our own, that we are part of a higher calling than our own human interests. In Revelations 4, the angels sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” This theme is reflected in Tomlin’s song Holy Forever. It takes our eyes off of ourselves and raises them to heaven. Tomlin says with songs of transcendence, “Heaven opens for a minute and you join the song.”
Singing songs of worship, extolling God’s power and might, gives us a glimpse of our future in heaven. Often we confuse its effect on us as emotion. It contains that, but it is much bigger. It brings us side by side with saints and angels in the Holy’s presence. We laugh, we cry, and we feel empowered and emboldened beyond explanation because that’s what happens when we even brush the greatness of God.
You can catch more from Tomlin in this interview with Joshua Swanson. Tomlin’s latest album, Always, was released in 2022 featuring the song Holy Forever.
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“Oh, Lord, You’re Beautiful” is really, it’s what started this album. When the pandemic happened and kind of clo- and churches closed, most everybody was like, okay, what do we do? And then you go to church online or you… streaming. And I was like, well, this is a great chance to just really have a home church. with my girls. I have three girls and on Sunday mornings we would just gather around and this song, this is the song for this season.
“And so I taught my girls to- this- I said, Girls is this song that I used to love when I was growing up. And it’s one of my favorite songs and I wanna teach it to you. And we- and when you hear a seven year old singing and
When your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me
I’ve done this song every Sunday with my girls for two years, and when I went to my team and I said, I want to make a new record, I got a lot of songs, I don’t know what the record is going to be, but I want to start with Oh Lord- I want to start with this recording, and you could tell the team”
was like, okay, you’re starting with a song that is not yours and is, you know, has been redone so many times. I said, You know, this song has been my song, this is my song. And I- and I want this to start the record and see where everything flows from it, see where everything goes from it.
And so we’re like, okay, let’s do it. And, you know, obviously, you know, this song is Keith Green and Keith’s Ministry is called Last Days Ministries, and it was in East Texas, where I’m from. Ten miles down the road from where I grew up was where his ministry was. This is 40 years since he died in a plane crash.
I was very young when he died. I wouldn’t- I didn’t know him, didn’t know of him. I was just a little kid. But his impact of his songs has obviously impacted the world and impacted all of us, and this song has always stuck with me. And so we went to record it and it- just the way God lines things up, right?
He’s doing all this and me in this song and then I sit down with one of the producers whose named Ben Glover. I said, Ben, I want to record “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful.” He’s like, are you kidding me? I was like, No. He goes, Man, the reason I’m in music is because of Keith Green. This is- it would be an honor to produce this song.
He goes, Let me get this piano player to do this. And he brings in This piano player named Gordon Mote. Gordon is blind, was blind from birth. One of the best session players in Nashville, plays on tons of massive records. Country, mostly country records and incredible heart for the Lord. Comes in and, I’ll never forget, I’m sitting there and he’s sitting over here in this corner.
I walk in the studio, he’s kind of got his hands like this, and he’s just kind of looking down. I said, Gordon, hi, my name’s Chris Tomlin and it’s really great to meet you. And I’ve known of your work. You’re an incredible piano player. Thanks for playing on this record. He’s like, Oh man, I love your music. I’m so honored to play on your- on your music.
I said, Well, Gordon, what I wanted- the first song I want to record, is this song called “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful.” I don’t know if you’ve ever heard it. And he’s just he starts doing this. “Somebody just get me to a piano, get me to piano.” And so I led him in to this piano and he said, That’s one of my very favorite songs ever.
I just kind of gave him the format flow. And he said, I love this he goes, okay, he goes I don’t want any, if you know, recording, you’ll love this, he goes, I don’t want any computers in my ears and I want any click tracks.
I don’t want anything. He goes, I want you to get in that booth over there. You just sing and I’ll play and we’ll see what happens and what you hear on the recording is the very first thing he played and it’s the first take and it’s one take. There was a bunch of takes for vocal because I could not get through it.
I was I was so moved. By the end I was like, I cannot believe this. And it was just this moment like, wow. I asked Steffany Gretzinger to sing it with me because I- she is- is talking to me how much that song had meant to her and then interestingly, as crazy, my wife is named Lauren she
was hanging out with Lauren Daigle and she said, You know what, during this pandemic, you know, the song that keeps coming to me is this song, “Oh, Lord, You’re Beautiful.”
It’s a song I keep singing. This was just out of the blue. And I was like- it was just one of those other confirmations of like, God- what are- what do you- what are you doing? What are you trying to say? I’ve already had
people reach out and go, Man, I love that new song you wrote. It’s like, I’d love to take credit for that. I did not write that. But there’s a section of the song that people who know the song still think I added to it. And it’s- it’s the bridge section that not many people sing, but it is the charge, I would say to any worship leader, this is the- this is the guide.
“This is the direction. This is the charge for all of us. And it is this. It says this.
I wanna take Your word and shine it all around
But first help me just to live it, Lord
And when I’m doing well
Help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to you
It’s so simply said, it’s so beautifully said.”
And for me, every time I sing that and hear it back, it’s just a reminder of: that’s the North Star. That is what it’s about. It’s, yeah, I want to take your word and I want to sho- I want everybody to know about it. Help first help me just to live it myself. And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown. It’s so easy, right?
“To just like, try to do things for our own glory. But it’s my- “cause my reward is giving glory to you. You know,
Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful
Your face is all I seek
And it’s like, it’s just a pure song. And so it really comes from that place. It wasn’t just some random, Oh, I’d like to do a cover of a great worship song.”
I mean, this is something that comes deep within me and we’ll see if a whole new generation hopefully can maybe some people can discover it for the first time.
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It is estimated that 20-30 million people across the world sing one of Chris’ songs every week in church services in nearly every language. TIME magazine heralded Chris Tomlin as the “most often sung artist in the world” as his music has inspired and uplifted an entire generation of believers. Along the way, Chris has scored 17 #1 one singles at radio, placed 29 top ten hits (more than any other Christian artist), sold more than nine million albums with 5.6 Billion career global streams, earned a Grammy, three Billboard Music Awards, 27 Dove Awards, became a two-time BMI Songwriter of the Year honoree and an ASCAP Songwriter of the Year. In 2016, he was named one of only four artists ever to receive the Sound Exchange Digital Radio Award for over 1 Billion digital radio streams, alongside Justin Timberlake, Pitbull and Garth Brooks. Chris is also the first Christian artist to reach the Billion streams threshold on Pandora and was presented with their BILLIONAIRE award. As one of the most successful Christian touring artists today, Chris has sold-out venues everywhere including New York City’s Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Red Rocks in Denver and more. Chris recently set a career attendance record with an unprecedented concert at LA’s Banc of California Stadium.