Written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley; this makes the last two in a row in my blog that are copyrighted hymns. Usually my focus is on public domain, but I’ll Fly Away had two big things going for it… One, it’s been a favorite since childhood. Exactly the kind of peppy, lively hymn that I love. Two, it was a special request with strings attached that were irresistible. One of my co-workers asked, and said she would sing along if I did. Another offered to clap along for the background beat.
Unfortunately, my volunteer singer quickly retracted her offer, but by then my mind was already set on “I’ll Fly Away.” At the risk of sounding shallow, I’ve played it so much over the years, it sounded like an easier project than the usual. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. After two weeks coming up with an acceptable arrangement, then practicing enough to sound decent, I was actually recording for Youtube when my fingers took a wrong turn, and trying to fake my way back on track wound up sounding better than what I’d intended. It surprised me so much I couldn’t keep going.
The NEXT two weeks were spent re-arranging to incorporate that happy error. Doubled the amount of time it took, but I like it a lot better. Of interest, the day before recording this, my sister told me (out of the blue) that her church’s version of “I’ll Fly Away” is slow and kind of sad-sounding, instead of the way we grew up hearing it. So in addition to my friends, this is for Karen as well… a fast and happy hymn, played the way we remember it!
Wikipedia says “I’ll Fly Away has been called the most recorded gospel song.” Among other faiths, it’s very popular with Baptists, which I knew from my childhood. Aside from instant recognition in most churches, the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?” featured I’ll Fly Away as performed by Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch. That really boosted it in the popular mainstream. My wife and I enjoyed the entire sound track from O Brother, though that’s a bit off topic.
Albert Brumley wrote over 800 songs, many are beloved favorites (see Hymnary.org for a partial list). It’s fair to say his songs have shaped the lives of many people, myself included. This was a fun interlude; I’ll try to get back on track for the next one!