Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
You may not know who Mark Lowry is, but you probably know the most famous song he ever wrote.
Ace Collins writes about Lowry in his book, “Stories Behind the Best-loved Songs of Christmas.”
Mark Lowry started singing almost before he could talk. As a pre-schooler he was already belting out solos in the grade school choir.
Mark stood out in teachers’ eyes for more than his singing. During his first years of elementary school, Lowry was diagnosed as hyperactive and place don medication. At about that same time it became apparent that the boy had absolutely no athletic ability. To many adults and kids, mark appeared to be little more than an energetic klutz- an out of control mini-tornado. Rather than allow their son to be sidetracked and dismissed as a hopeless cause, Mark’s parents made sure that this “curse” was looked at as a blessing. They emphasized the positive.
The Lowry’s assured Mark that God had a plan for his life and that his uniqueness was a part of it. Instead of trying to make him act just like all the other kids, The Lowry’s allowed Mark to exploit his curiosity and his energy. He loved performing, so they put him on every stage that would take him- everything from church programs to community musicals.
As a teen, he was discovered, and recorded inspirational albums with the London Symphony Orchestra.
In 1984, when he was living in Houston, his pastor asked Mark to write the program for the living Christmas tree choir presentation. The group traditionally sang familiar holiday carols, so Lowry’s job was to write the bridges that connected one song to another. It was while he was working on the project that Mark considered what it would have been like to be Jesus’ mother.
“When I wrote this thing about Mary,” Mark explained, “I began by thinking I was interviewing her on her thoughts of being a mother to Jesus. A couple of the lines I wrote really stood out, like ‘when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.’ I just thought this needed to be a song.”
Keeping the perspective of a reporter doing a story on Jesus from Mary’s viewpoint, Mark penned a poem that sent chills up his spine. Still, taking those powerful lyrics and turning them into a full-blown song was a bigger challenge than even he could have expected. Although he gave the words to a solid music writer, he wasn’t happy with the results; the melody didn’t have the right feel. Filing “Mary Did You Know?” away, Mark decided to wait on the Lord’s timing rather than put his lyrics to music that failed to move him.
In 1988, after Gary McSpadden left the Gaither Vocal Band, Bill Gaither was looking for a replacement to fill the void in his quartet. After watching a video of Mark Lowry onstage, not only was Gaither impressed with Mark’s singing, , he thought the young man could bring a great deal of Christian humor to the group’s performances. When Bill called, Mark packed his bags.
Mark had been with the band for two years when Buddy Green joined them. A talented musician, Buddy was also a songwriter who was beginning to hit stride and produce some very strong work. Mark decided to share, “Mary Did You Know?” with Buddy.
Rather than pull Green to one side and share the story behind the song, Mark wrote a short note over the top of the lyrics: Buddy, here are some God-inspired words. Please add some beautiful music and make it a profitable hit. The memo was meant as a joke, but Green took both the note and his job seriously. He set the lyrics aside for a couple of weeks, then went to work. When he finished, he called Mark on the phone and sang the song to him. Lowry loved it and within a week they had put together a “jam box” demo to give to one of their favorite artists.
Their pick for the song was impressed as well. When “Mary Did you Know?” was originally cut by Christian sensation Michael English, the writing duo felt blessed, but they really didn’t expect anyone else to jump on the bandwagon. Then country singer Kathy Mattea heard the Lowry-Green number and recorded it next. Scores of other acts quickly took the song into the studio.” For the first time ever, southern gospel music had given the world a Christmas carol.
Collins then credits Mark’s parents for viewing their son’s problems as gifts.
Looking at the world through his unique, God-given perspective led him to think of one of the world’s most familiar stories in a new light. “Mary Did You Know?” a song like no other Christmas carol ever penned, written about a mother like no other, came from the hand of man like no other.
Lowry can now be seen on Bill Gaither’s gospel programs on public television. Here’s Lowry singing his own Christmas carol.