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About Hymn

A secular hymn is a type of non-religious popular song that has elements in common with religious music, especially with Christian hymns. The concept goes back at least as far as 17 BCE when the Roman emperor Augustus commissioned the Roman poet Horace to write lyrics by that title ("Carmen Saeculare" in Latin). The idea has been recognized in popular music at least since the late 1960s and early 1970s when people began to see a pattern in songs, such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Let it Be" by the Beatles, and "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor, which came out at about the same time. "Hallelujah" (which was written by Leonard Cohen in 1984, but only became famous when John Cale covered it in 1991) has since been called perhaps the quintessential secular hymn despite the lyrics containing strong Jewish themes. Other songs that are sometimes mentioned as secular hymns include "Many Rivers to Cross" by Jimmy Cliff, "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash, "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night, "Hey, Jude" by the Beatles, "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell, "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley, "Going My Way" by Bing Crosby, "Blowin in the Wind" by Bob Dylan, "Like a Prayer" by Madonna, "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell (famously covered by Judy Collins), "Show Me Heaven" by Maria McKee, "Lean On Me" by Bill Withers, "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King, "You Can Close Your Eyes" by James Taylor, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Judy Garland, "Imagine" by John Lennon, "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty, "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, and "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga, and many others. Determining exactly what does and does not qualify as a secular hymn is obviously difficult. Professor Steve Thomsen, BYU communications professor, suggests six criteria including that the song transcends generations, that it is about redemption or deliverance, that it has spiritual overtones, that it includes metaphors referring to up or down and/or to light and dark, that its meaning transcends initial purpose, and that it has become used as a backdrop for important life events. Richard Wilson suggests a secular hymn needs only to be written as an anthem with a positive theme that doesn't gloss over the difficulties of life. 


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I got holy children to show me the light, 
Singing hallelujah, brother how about you?
Yeah, we got holy scriptures here 
That prove us to be right,
In believing out loud what we wish to be true.

I got stoned out neighbors to take me in tow, 
Singing close your eyes, singing open wide.
Watch the world fall away below, 
Let the winter wind blow,
And where will we hide when it comes from inside?

Oh, hear me now, hear me now, 
Hear me now, hear me now, 
Hear me now, hear me now,
Hear me now, listen I got sweet, sweet music inside.

Yes, a child inside me was alone in the night,
Now has come to me, love has set my soul free.
As a man and a woman stand alone in the night, 
Here is reason to be like sun on the sea.

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James Taylor

James Vernon Taylor (born March 12, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Taylor was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. more »

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"Hymn Lyrics." Lyrics.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 4 Aug. 2020. <https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/36337326/James+Taylor>.

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