George Beverly Shea, who sang at Billy Graham crusades for more than 60 years, died on Tuesday at the age of 104.
According to the PR Newswire article, he was
Born in Winchester, Ontario, Canada, where his father was a Wesleyan Methodist minister, Shea's first public singing was in the choir of his father's church. Between Crusade, radio, and television dates in many countries, he sang at hundreds of concerts and recorded more than 70 albums of sacred music. At age 23 he composed the music to one of his best known solos, "I'd Rather Have Jesus."He won a Grammy in 1965, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys in 2011. He was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1978 and the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1996.
According to Shea's authorized biography, written by Paul Davis, Shea turned down an early offer of a career in secular music. He won a radio competition, singing Go Down Moses and was offered a recording contract, but wasn't comfortable with anything but gospel music. After he joined with Graham in 1940s, he wholly committed his talent to evangelical outreach. That talent did not go unappreciated. As Davis writes,
In those dizzy, busy days of Billy Graham Missions, his hit records barely kept pace with demand as his multiple admirers flocked to see him in person or on the silver screen in his movie musical shorts or cameo in Christian feature films.The New York Times reports he was "perhaps the most widely heard gospel artist in the world."