Blessed Be The Name is one of those hymns I thought everybody knew… until trying to find it on Youtube. There’s plenty of praise and worship songs of the same title, but after searching through 8 screens of videos, only found 2 that were the traditional tune.
It’s a shame, because Blessed Be The Name is a beautiful song. It has a simple yet memorable melody, verses written by Charles Wesley in 1739, and the refrain added by Ralph E Hudson in 1888. So much time between verses and refrain being written makes for some confusion in trying to trace the origins. For the sake of simplicity, I like to think of Wesley as the original writer.
Charles Wesley seems to have been marked as a man of God through his entire life. In school, a wealthy man offered to adopt him, yet Charles declined. Charles was elected Westminster King’s Scholar, a position that granted him free room and board. He and his brother John were briefly missionaries, and afterwards they both continued to preach the Lord’s word. During the course of Charles’ life he wrote at least five thousand hymns, many of which are considered great classics. (Who hasn’t heard of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”?) Every event in his life was turned to music or poetry, and he only ceased upon his death in 1788. His great gift for hymns is evident in the “Wesleyan Hymn Book”, where more than 600 of the hymns were penned by himself alone, or in collaboration with his brother. For a more detailed account of his remarkable life, Hymnary.org has a fascinating page on Charles Wesley.
The first line of lyrics was inspired by Peter Bohler, making a remark to Charles Wesley: “If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ with them all.” Typical of his entire life, Charles turned this into a song to celebrate his one year anniversary of converting to Christianity. And in so doing, penned a hymn that has stayed in my heart my entire life.
On a more direct note, this is my first time to incorporate 3 different keys into a single song. Because the verses and the refrains are so similar, I wanted to break them up a bit. Wound up starting off in the key of ‘C’, shifting to ‘G’, then ‘F’, but returning to ‘C’ for every refrain. Playing by ear, I’ve always stuck to C, but bit by bit am trying to learn my way around other keys. My playing isn’t spectacular, but I have a lot of fun!