“Mary, Did You Know”

It’s easy to deduce the gist of “Mary, Did You Know” simply from its title, if you’re equipped with the foreknowledge that the Mary being referred to Jesus’s mother of New Testament fame. 

Actually the Virgin Mary, as she is often called, has gone on to become one of the most-revered historical figures in all of religion, especially as far as Christians are concerned. And interestingly, historians have generally concluded that she was most likely in her early to mid-teens when she gave birth to Jesus, since in those days women were given away in marriage quite young (for those who know the full story). 

So the fact that some analysts have gone on to say that this vocalist is taking a condescending tone towards Mary illustrates how some people, in the grand scheme of things, may be taking this song too seriously.

Indeed Mark Lowry, who wrote the lyrics, also happens to be a professional comedian. And the statement of that fact is not to imply that this piece is meant to be comedic. But the presentation is, if nothing else, creative.

Lyrics of “Mary, Did You Know”

What we are met with in the lyrics is the vocalist imagining himself having a conversation with Mary, presumably while Jesus is still young. 

So it’s like make believe that the singer is a time traveler who already knows how Jesus’s story goes, and he travels back to visit Mary some short time after his birth. He proceeds to basically tell her all of the things that her son will go on to achieve. 

And to note, this song was written for a church-based Christmas event and therefore has what can be deemed an overt Christian slant.

For instance, Mary’s “baby boy” is presented as the one who “will save our sons and daughters”, i.e. as the Christ. He is also basically identified as “God” Himself. This is a belief that isn’t wholly in congruence with the New Testament but is propagated in many Christian circles.

So what’s actually being implied here is that Mary didn’t really have a solid idea of how great Jesus would become. And to note, there is Biblical evidence which does imply that such is true. In certain parts of the Bible, when Jesus wholeheartedly took up his ministry, he even caught his mother off-guard, in a manner of speaking. 

But in reality it’s like no one at the time knew how big Jesus would become besides Jesus himself, as it would be virtually impossible for any of us to fathom that someone we know personally would some millennia down the line have billions of followers.

Lyrics to "Mary, Did You Know"

Who wrote “Mary, Did You Know”?

The lyricist behind this song is Mark Lowry, who wrote them during the mid-1980s, with the music being added a few years later via Buddy Green. 

The first singer to officially drop “Mary, Did You Know” is a Christian artist named Michael English. At that time, Michael was part of the Gaither Vocal Band, as was Lowry. English’s original came out in 1991, via Curb Records, on an album named after himself.

Success of “Mary, Did You Know”

“Mary, Did You Know” quickly proceeded to become a contemporary Christmas standard, being covered by countless musicians, some of whom are more popular than Michael English and whose versions charted. 

The names on that list are as follows:

  • Kenny Rogers alongside Wynonna Judd (1996)
  • Clay Aiken (2004)
  • CeeLo Green (2012)
  • Zara Larsson (2017)
  • Carrie Underwood (2020)
  • Dolly Parton (2020) 

But the act to experience the most success with this song to date is an acappella unit from Texas known as Pentatonix, as featured on their 2014 studio album “That’s Christmas to Me”.  For instance that same year, their rendition topped a Billboard chart known as the US Holiday 100.

There was also a live musical named after and based on this song that took home a 1999 GMA Dove Award in the category of Musical of the Year.

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