My 10 Favourite Worship Songs of the 1970s & 1980s

worship

In this previous post I wrote up my list on top 10 favourite worship songs from the 1990s. Here I am going… backwards… to the hey days of the 1980s. For me, being a child of the 1980s means that I was exposed to all manner of Christian worship songs – across both the children’s genre as well as the adult genre. The edges of the decade get fuzzy when you consider a whole raft of songs were written at both ends of the decade. What is also interesting is that a number of 1970s songs not only were prominent during this later decade, but remain forever classics today – some 40 years on.

10. Shine Jesus Shine

CCLI SongSelect#: 30426Written: Rick Founds; Year: 1989
Original Key:  G; YouTube link: Make Wake for Jesus

For me, the 1980s will always be strong associated with this song. The number of verses and repeated chorus does make it a little long, but the imagery of the chorus lyrics always had me picturing flowing rivers of living Spirit-filled water. There was a certain appeal to us kids growing up in this era where we had songs like this permeating the environment. Indeed, the 1980s for me was a period when the Holy Spirit was active in His church. I have distinct memories of attending other charismatic churches as a kid where this song was song with much passion and freedom in worship from congregation members.

9. I Love You Lord

CCLI SongSelect#: 25266Written: Laurie Klein; Year: 1978-80
Original Key:  F; YouTube link: Maranatha Singers

As you see throughout this list, the Maranatha group is highly represented. In one sense, they were the equivalent of Hillsong during the 1980s. I Love You Lord, in my mind, has always been paired with In Moments Like These, which you will find at #2 on my list. Both are great personal worship songs for declaring our love for God. I Love You Lord is a much simpler song with just the verse:

I love You Lord

And I lift my voice

To worship You

O my soul rejoice

Take joy my King

In what You hear

May it be a sweet sweet sound

In Your ear

8. Great Is the Lord

CCLI SongSelect#: 10769Written: Steve McEwan; Year: 1985
Original Key:  A; YouTube link: Maranatha Singers

When I think of this song, I am always reminded of a certain former Worship Coordinator who led the worship ministry of my church during the 1980s-90s. This uncle would always sing it passionately, during church worship on a Sunday as well as during the fortnightly bible study group sessions. It was during those fortnightly sessions that he would lead the group in worship, whilst I played piano and another friend played guitar or bass.

And Lord we want to lift Your name on high

And Lord we want to thank You

For the works You’ve done in our lives

And Lord we trust in Your unfailing love

For You alone are God eternal

Throughout earth and heaven above

Biblically, the song first verse lyrics are based on Psalm 43:1-2:

Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of he Great King.

7. Be Still

CCLI SongSelect#: 120824Written: David J Evans; Year: 1986
Original Key:  D; YouTube link: Libera

Just like Great Is the Lord above, thinking of this song also reminds me of the same former Worship Coordinator. More often than not, when I think of versions of this song, I have his voice inside my head… It’s the complete opposite to the version presented in the YouTube version linked above, which is very full of reverb. The reverb effect does add to the entire song environment.

According to SongSelect, there are also three non-English versions (at least) – Africcans, Dutch and German! Like a lot of songs from the 1980s which were constructed with a repeated verse – chorus pattern, the aim when performing these types of songs as a band, is to build and create a journey within the song – so that each verse builds upon the previous. In this way, you prevent the song from falling flat.

6. Salvation Belongs to Our God

CCLI SongSelect#: 24092; Written: Adrian Howard & Pat Turner; Year: 1985
Original Key:  A; YouTube link: Army of God

Written smack bang in the middle of the 1980s, this was one of the first songs that came to mind when I thought of 1980s Christian worship songs. The sound is very 1980s in the way the music flows. Piano/keyboard driven, the rhythm is also very typical of the decade.

The chorus proclamation of “Be to our God, forever and ever” sounds majestic with both band backing as well as a vocals only rendition. Lyrically, the song offers strong biblical truth and alignment.

 

5. Lord I Lift Your Name on High

CCLI SongSelect#: 117947Written: Graham Kendrick; Year: 1987
Original Key:  A; YouTube link: The Maranatha Singers, iWorship

It’s no surprise that my personal #2 is the highest rating song from the decade according to the CCLI Top SongSelect Songs. Distributed originally under the production house of Maranatha Music, the song simply speaks out the journey of Christ in being our Lord, lifted most high:

You came from heaven to earth

To show the way

From the earth to the cross

My debt to pay

From the cross to the grave

From the grave to the sky

Lord I lift Your name on high

I even remember mixing up the order of the lyrics on various occasions – heaven > earth > cross > grave > sky.

4. I Exalt Thee

CCLI SongSelect#: 17803Written: Pete Sanchez Junior; Year: 1977
Original Key:  F; YouTube link: 25 Songs that Change the Way we Worship

For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods
For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods

I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord
I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord

While it may be listed here at #4, the top four songs are very close and are potentially interchangeable… Lyrically and musically, I Exalt Thee aligns with Awesome God, in the style and flow. Combined they form an awesome, unstoppable worship session where God is exalted as the awesome and Holy God He is.

The repetitiveness of I Exalt Thee is one of its strengths, which Awesome God has to a higher degree (in part because of it’s simpler/shorter lyrics). The flexibility and duality of the chorus for I Exalt Thee allows it to be sung both in corporate and personal environments of worship – I exalt Thee! We exalt Thee!

3. As The Deer

CCLI SongSelect#: 1431Written: Martin Nystrom; Year: 1984
Original Key:  D; YouTube link: Maranatha Singers

As the Deer is my dad’s favourite Christian worship song. It is also one of my top favourites overall. The melody of the verse and chorus complement one another so well, it creates the ebb and flow, allowing the song to build and then settle. Over the years of having played and sung the song, it too, like In Moments Like These, ranks highly because of my personal connection to both the lyrics and music. There have been countless times during my younger days when this song was the source of my hope and strength – God and I speaking to one another through the words of the chorus:

You alone are my strength, my shield
To you alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship thee

The “spirit yield” low and pause is appropriately part of the song in giving us that instant of reflection and connection to God.

2. In Moments Like These

CCLI SongSelect#: 10082Written: David Graham; Year: 1980
Original Key:  D; YouTube link: Maranatha Music

The first version I constantly heard of this song is different to the YouTube/Maranatha singers here. The version I learnt was an instrumental where the strings were performed as a single crisp violin which played a scale-like progression up/down as a chorus solo. The lyrics are simply magical beauty that are most simply summed up in the chorus “Singing, I Love You! Singing I Love You, Lord! I Love You!”.

Part of the reason why I love this song so much, and it ranks so high in my list is that not only do I sing it from my heart, but I also play it on the piano with just as much connection, if not more. It is musically and lyrically perfect – if I may suggest… Whilst I don’t want to ever call one song perfect, it’s hard to find flaws in this one… Part of that is its simplicity, purity and integrity. So why is it not #1? Well – whilst it’s not a “power” song, it is still declarative and emphatic. However, it is a personal worship song, sung from the perspective of the individual. It is #2 mainly for the reasons Awesome God is #1 as explained below.

1. Awesome God

CCLI SongSelect#: 41099Written: Rich Mullens; Year: 1988
Original Key:  Cm; YouTube link: Rich Mullens Live (starting from 1m 42sec) /
Michael W Smith Live

Awesome God, as performed by Michael W Smith (last link above) helps to explain why this song is #1 on my list. The other YouTube clip is only provided here because it is performed by its writer – Rich Mullens. This “original” was a variation I had never heard until I found it as part of research for this post – I’m not a fan of it, but it does show you the complete diversity in how the one song can be performed. Such is the diverse and flexible nature of the song that SongSelect has it listed in eight different languages!

The song is so simple, yet so powerful:

Our God is an awesome God!

He reigns from heaven above

With wisdom, pow’r and love

Our God is an awesome God!

Singing this song is a great way to help encounter God. I have found it ties in well with I Exalt Thee, one of the classics from the 1970s- especially the chorus.

So, in further explaining the order of my #1 and #2 songs, Awesome God doubles up as both a corporate and personal worship song. It is this power in numbers, as heard in the Michael Smith videoclip that truly amplifies the power and awesomeness of the song. Hearing a congregation sing In Moments Like These doesn’t quite have the same effect.

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