“Barroom Tunes”…Again!

Wordwise Hymns

It’s a question I get a lot, so an article was needed on the subject. Were the tunes of our hymns originally used with barroom songs? A report in the November 30, 1993 edition of Christian Week celebrated the (then) thirty-year career of Larry Norman in contemporary Christian music. In the article, the writer, Ron Wall, made this statement:

“Like the hymn writers of old, Norman has used the music of bars and taverns to present the gospel.”

This is an oft-repeated claim. It implies that it was the general practice of earlier hymn writers to wed sacred words to secular tunes–and not just any secular tunes. The contention is that they purposely used the music of the beer hall crowd, so these people would be attracted to the gospel.

But is this historically accurate? It may be for some a comforting and convenient notion, but is it true? If not…

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