How America’s pastor popped up in lyrics from Pat Boone to Johnny Cash to dc Talk.
Many musicians—from Johnny Cash to dc Talk to Pat Boone—considered Billy Graham an inspiration, often bringing him into their songs. For decades, Graham has made cameos in tunes across multiple genres, not just Christian music.
Fernando Ortega, one of Graham’s greatest admirers, wrote a song in 2011 called “Just As I Am” specifically for the evangelist. Ortega’s original tune shares the title with Graham’s favorite hymn—sung at most of his crusades—and includes the same famous chorus:
Just as I am
Without one plea
But that Your blood
Was shed for me
But Ortega’s version is written from Graham’s perspective. “Lyrically, I was trying to imagine what his prayer life must be like as he approached the end of his life,” Ortega wrote Wednesday on his Facebook page.
On Graham’s 94th birthday in 2012, Billy’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz invited Ortega to the Graham home in Montreat, North Carolina, to join a low-key celebration. Ortega recalled that after Anne led a Bible study, “we ate birthday cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Dr. Graham. Then he asked me to sing a solo for him. I leaned over and sang in his ear ‘Just As I Am.’”
Here is Ortega’s song. Listen for Graham’s voice in the bridge:
Randy Stonehill, one of the pioneers of Christian music, wrote a sweet-but-seldom-heard song called “Billy Frank”—Graham’s nickname as a boy. The last verse is especially poignant:
Now your flame is flickering as you are nearing home
And pretty soon you’ll stand in awe before God’s gleaming throne
I have no doubt there’ll be a shout as heaven celebrates
When St. Peter …