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A Hymn History
“I’d Rather Have Jesus”
Mrs. Rhea F. Miller, 1894-1966
 
The inspiring and challenging words of this hymn, written by Mrs. Rhea Miller, so influenced 23-year-old George Beverly Shea that they determined the direction of his entire life.  In the words of “America’s most beloved Gospel Singer” himself, here’s how it happened:
 
“As I sat one evening playing the piano, my mother brought to me a piece of paper on which was written a poem by Rhea Miller.  She thought it to be a very wonderful poem and wanted me to read it. ‘Will you try your hand at writing a melody for it?’ she asked.  I began to play as a melody came to me.  The melody seemed to fit the lyric, and so I began to sing and play for the first time ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus.’”
 
“Bev” as he was called, was born in Winchester, Ontario, Canada, to devoted Christian parents.  He had the advantage of good musical training early in life.  His rich bass voice, coupled with his sincere Christian attitude, carried him to the zenith of man’s acclaim for gospel soloists.  He was offered his share of lucrative musical contracts, but he thoughtfully turned them down to become a singing servant for the Saviour.  Mr. Shea is perhaps most remembered as the song director and soloist for the Billy Graham crusades that crisscrossed the United States and world.
 
Bev continues, “Over the years, I’ve not sung any song more than ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus,’ but I never tire of Mrs. Miller’s heartfelt words.”  As a young man of 23, Bev allowed the message of this text to guide him wisely to a wonderfully productive and worthwhile life of service to Christ as he shared his musical “theme song” with audiences around the world.
 
When the beautiful voice of George Beverly Shea is but a memory, many happy Christians will be singing “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
 
                I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
                I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
                I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land;
                I’d rather be led by his nailed-pierced hand: