Friday, October 2, 2009

Israel Houghton

Music has always been an important part of worship for me. This is quite ironic because I have no musical talent whatsoever and never seem to hit the right notes when I (attempt to) sing. Nonetheless, good music really speaks to me. One of my favorite Christian artists is Israel Houghton. Beyond Houston (where I lived for many years) he does not seem to be as well-known even though he has earned an impressive array of awards and wrote many of the contemporary Christian standards sung in churches across the country. I wish his profile were higher, he is one of the most talented musicians around. The term “musical genius” would not be an exaggeration.

Houghton’s music is known for its mixture of influences and high energy. His lyrics emphasize breaking down divisions among people, and reflecting God’s tremendous love for his people. The tone of Houghton’s lyrics is infectiously optimistic and hopeful. The melodies are also quite catchy. It is hard to sit still and remain quiet when listening to his songs. When they are over, you feel inspired. His songs also have very broad appeal. My husband and I love Houghton’s music. However, our young children love singing along as well. Despite their tender ages, they know all the lyrics.

Israel Houghton also has a compelling personal story. His mother was a white woman from Iowa. In 1971, at age seventeen, she found herself pregnant with the child of her African American boyfriend. To put it mildly, her family was not pleased with the situation; it was suggested that she should have an abortion. She refused to do that, was shunned by her family and moved to California. She was on drugs and broke up with the biological father before the baby’s birth. However, somewhere along the line, she became a Christian. Despite Houghton’s difficult childhood, he was apparently quite strong in his faith. As a young man, he initially had no inclination towards a career in music, but was encouraged by his church to consider leadership in their music ministry. His innate talent eventually led to albums and leadership in the music ministries of large congregations.

Two of our family’s favorite songs by Israel Houghton are “Say So” and “Friend of God.” The links below include lyrics and performances of those two songs, as well as some biographical information about Houghton. Enjoy!

Psalm 40:3 (New Living Translation)
“He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.”

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