Thanks to NBC’s “The Voice,” America has finally discovered “Mary Did You Know.”  It’s #1 on the ITunes chart after Jordan Smith’s excellent performance Monday night.  Even Mark Lowry called it the best version he had ever heard.  Why is that important?  Mark is the guy who wrote those amazing words.

I first heard the song in 1996.  James Rogers was performing daily to sold-out crowds at the Music Mansion in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. He performed a medley of “O Holy Night/Mary Did You Know.”

I took my sons, who had never seen James’ great stage show.  James performed many of the familiar holiday favorites, and then the lights dimmed as he sang one I’d never heard before.  I usually have to hear a song several times before I fall in love with it, but not this one.  It haunted me for days.  This was in the pre-Google, pre-YouTube era, so I called James a few days later.  “What was THAT song?” He told me all about it, and I finally found it on a CD a while later.  Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd recorded a duet version, which has been to the go-to for me ever since, until I heard Jordan Smith sing it on “The Voice.”

Mark Lowry is a talented singer-songwriter, but may be best known for being the funny guy on the Gaither Gospel tours.  He’s a terrific storyteller, whether performing solo or in a group setting.  He wrote the lyrics in 1984, but the song had no melody.  Those notes remained untouched in his songwriter’s notebook until 1991.  He asked Buddy Greene, a fellow Gaither artist, to put some music to his words.

Mark told the website in 2011: “My pastor asked me to write the Christmas program for our church, called The Living Christmas Tree, and I wrote a monologue to go in between the songs.  I started wondering if Mary realized the power, authority and majesty that she cradled in her arms that first Christmas.  I wondered if she realized those little hands were the same hands that scooped out oceans & formed rivers.  I started thinking of the questions I would have for her: “What did you know? What didn’t you know?” A classic Christmas song was born.

Over the course of a weekend, his friend Buddy came up with the melody, and he called Mark on Monday morning to sing the song on the phone.  The song that sat idle for seven years came together, lyric and melody in only thirty minutes, according to Buddy.  He said his friend Gloria Gaither tried to correct his English: she told him it should be sung, “Mary DO you know.”  He told her, “My way sings better!”

Since it was first recorded by Michael English, Kathy Mattea, and the Christ Church Choir (another great version), it has been recorded by hundreds of artists.  And now Jordan Smith from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee has taken it to the top of the charts.  On Facebook, Mark Lowry had this to say about Jordan’s performance: “It was both spectacular and anointed. (A great combo). Bravo Jordan!!”

Now more Americans, including “The Voice” judge Adam Levine (who had never heard it) can enjoy this song.

From David Carroll's  To hear more versions of "Mary Did You Know," including many of the artists David referenced in this article, click here.