One of my great joys is collaborating with others to create something new. A few years ago, my wife and I were at an office warming party for our good friend, Darlene. One of our other good friends, Karene, had the idea for a new song and had written down a few phrases. She asked me if I would help her complete the song and I said “Yes.” I pulled out my guitar to work out the chords for the melody and we brainstormed the rest of the lyrics. The resultant song came to be titled Let Your Inner Light Shine. We completed the song in time to share it with everyone else present at the party, as part of a blessing ceremony.
The chorus of this song has the repetitive nature of a chant with the title phrase being sung a number of times. I sang it at my house concert in early 2015 and the folks attending the concert readily joined in on the chorus. I like songs that are easy and inviting for others to join in and sing along. It helps to co-create a feeling of being in this life together, as part of something greater. When I was working on the song with Karene, I had the sense there was a spiritual connection between Let Your Inner Light Shine and the old classic, This Little Light of Mine.
Let Your Inner Light Shine This Little Light of Mine
When I did some research on this song, here’s what I found out. This Little Light of Mine was written in the 1920s as a song for children with music composed by pastor/music teacher, Harry Dixon Loes, and lyrics by writer/poet, Avis Burgeson Christiansen. It became a staple of Sunday School teaching across the U.S. In 1952. The Ward Singers were legendary pioneers of the modern gospel sound. They turned it into a gospel song for adults. Soon after, Zilphia Horton adapted it further still. She taught it to Pete Seeger (as she did with We Shall Overcome) and other folk singers of the 1950s.
It became a Civil Rights anthem, and was generally assumed to be a symbolic old slave song from the south. As it turns out, This Little Light of Mine journeyed quite a distance to become a crossover hit. It moved from being a spiritual song for kids to an adult gospel tune to a Civil Rights classic.
Let Your Inner Light Shine takes the spiritual concept of This Little Light of Mine and expands on the idea of each individual shining forth their inner goodness to the world around them to bring more peace into the world. “All the time, let it shine!”