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"'What a Friend We Have in Jesus'" is a Christian hymn originally written by preacher Joseph M. Scriven as a poem in 1855 to comfort his mother, who was living in Ireland while he was in Canada.Guillet, Edwin C., "Community Life: Religion", 'The Valley of the Trent', Chapter IX, page 301. The Champlain Society, 1957. Scriven originally published the poem anonymously, and only received full credit for it in the 1880s. The tune to the hymn was composed by Charles Crozat Converse in 1868.
The hymn also has many versions with different lyrics in multiple languages. The 'Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal' notes, "In spite of the fact that this hymn, with its tune, has been criticized as being too much on the order of the sentimental gospel type, its popularity remains strong, and the hymn retains a place in modern hymnals." In some settings, the lyrics have been matched to other tunes such as the Welsh "Calon Ln" (originally wedded to the Welsh poem translated as "A Pure Heart").
*Washington Phillips, as "Jesus Is My Friend" (1928, Columbia Records)
*Bing Crosby (1951, 'Beloved Hymns')
*Tennessee Ernie Ford (1958, 'Nearer the Cross, Capitol Records')
*Rosemary Clooney (1959, 'Hymns from the Heart', MGM Records)
*The Stanley Brothers (1960)
*Reno & Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups (1963)
*Ella Fitzgerald with the Ralph Carmichael Choir (1967, 'Brighten the Corner')
*Thurl Ravenscroft (1970, 'Great Hymns In Story and Song')
*Aretha Franklin (1972, 'Amazing Grace')
*Ike & Tina Turner (1974, 'The Gospel According to Ike & Tina')
*Lester Flatt & and the Nashville Grass (1975), the LP 'Flatt Gospel'. Also performed by Flatt & Scruggs while Flatt and Earl Scruggs played together.
*Bill Monroe (Bear Family (German) BCD-16639 My Last Days On Earth 1981-1994
*Wade and Julia Mainer with unknown musicians (1989)
*Glen Campbell (1989, 'Favorite Hymns')
*'Driving Miss Daisy' (1989) sung at Little Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia
*The John Tesh Project (2000, 'Pure Hymns')
*Amy Grant recorded it as part of the medley "What a Friend We Have in Jesus/Old Rugged Cross/How Great Thou Art" on her 2002 studio album 'Legacy... Hymns and Faith', and later included on her 2015 compilation album 'Be Still and Know... Hymns & Faith'.
*Alan Jackson (2006, 'Precious Memories')
*Brad Paisley (2008, 'Play')
*Ronnie Milsap (2009, 'Then Sings My Soul')
*Hugh Laurie (2013, 'Didn't It Rain' as "Changes" by Alan Price)
*Monty Alexander (2013, 'Uplift 2')
*Perkins Twins (2018)
*William Bolcom composed a setting of the hymn in 1979.
In AsiaIn Japan, the hymn's title was originally translated as , by which it is best known. In 1910, Daisui Sugitani rewrote the lyrics in Japanese and changed the title to . Another version was written by Ryk Kawaji with the title . It is also known by the title . The hymn is popular at wedding ceremonies in Japan. Both hymn instrumentals of "Hoshi no Sekai" and "Itsukushimi Fukaki" are used as background music for Key's 2004 visual novel 'Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet', arranged by Magome Togoshi.
In Indonesia, the hymn is known as "Yesus Kawan yang Sejati" and is sung in Indonesian or Batak (the indigenous language of North Sumatra) in Manado, Maluccan, and Protestant churches (around 6% of the population). Statistically, most Indonesians are Muslim (around 76%), but native religion elements have up to 90% of the total population and consequently the hymn is widely known only among musicians, scholars, and Indonesia's Christian community. Prior to when Suharto seized power in 1967, though, the same music was adopted for a popular patriotic song titled "Ibu Pertiwi".
In Hindi, the hymn is a very important song and is sung as "Yeshu kaisa dost pyara". In Marathi, the hymn has been translated as "Kon Mitra Yeshuwani" By Mary Bessel. The song is common during solemn services (Passion week and burial). In Malayalam, the hymn as "Enthu Nallore sakhi Yesu" is sung to comfort and as an invitation to Christ.'Christhiya Keerthanangal' (Christian Hymns). 2007. Hymn 173. This hymn had been translated into Telugu and is sung during occasions as a song of comfort and solace. It is translated as "Preethi gala mana Yesu" and is listed in the 'Andhra Kraisthava Keerthanalu' (Andhra Christian hymnals) as hymn No. 407.
In India, the hymn sung in Konkani, "Dulob Jezu", was translated by Felix Paul Noronha of Mangalore.
In South Korea, the hymn is translated as the title of "The Savior who took our burden of sins". The hymn was first introduced to South Korea by Oriental Mission Society, which is the previous organization of Korea Evangelical Holiness Church in 1919. This hymn has been sung by the church of evangelical denomination in common for a century. The remake version has been also made through contemporary Christian music.
Parodies and homages
Parody versions have included the First World War soldiers' song, "When this lousy war is over".
Alan Price used the tune for his song "Changes" in the 1973 film 'O Lucky Man!', which was reused in a Volkswagen commercial of the same name with Paula Hamilton in the 1980s. In 1989, the song reached number 54 on the UK charts and number 29 on the German charts. In 2013, Hugh Laurie covered the song on his album 'Didn't It Rain'.
The tune is also used in the 2021 anime series 'Taisho Otome Fairy Tale'.
*'Rise Up Singing', page 98
*'The Lutheran Hymnal', hymn #457
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