At the ripe age of 104, the former insurance clerk turned gospel singer George Beverly Shea went to be with the Lord. Often to be found at the Billy Graham crusades in the USA, the Canadian-born singer had been associated with the evangelist’s work for more than 50 years.
According to the New York Times (NYT), Mr Shea’s father, Rev. Adam J. Shea, was a Wesleyan Methodist minister and his mother church organist. During the Depression, he moved to New York and took a job as an insurance clerk, while practising his singing.
At this time, he entered an amateur talent contest on a radio show, singing a gospel song. He came second but had attracted several people who offered him a job on commercial radio.
He turned these down and moved to Chicago to join WMBI, the radio station of the Moody Bible Institute, and became a staff announcer and singer.
In 1943, a young trainee preacher called William Franklin Graham Jr came to tell him how much he enjoyed his singing, thereby kick-starting a long-standing ministry together.
The NYT said that Mr Shea recorded more than 70 albums, and composed the music for ‘I’d rather have Jesus’ and wrote the lyrics and music for ‘The wonder of it all’.
In 1966 he won the Grammy Award for best gospel or other religious recording for his album Southland Favourites, which had been recorded with the Anita Kerr Singers.
Mr Shea received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy, which administers the Grammys, in 2011.