"I’LL FLY AWAY"
"Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest" (Ps. 55.6)
INTRO.: A song which looks forward to flying away like a dove and being at rest is "I’ll Fly Away" (#436 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written and the tune (Fly Away) was composed both by Albert Edward Brumley, who was born on a cotton farm at Rock Island near Spiro, OK, on Oct. 29, 1905, the son of William Sherman and Sarah Isabelle Brumley, and was educated in the public schools of LeFlore County, OK. Becoming a member of the Church of Christ, he developed an interest in music from his childhood days and began his study of music in 1922 by means of singing schools and normals. Probably the person who influenced and encouraged him more than anyone else was one of his early teachers whom he met in 1926, Eugene Monroe Bartlett, Sr. (1885-1941). Bartlett, who is best known as the author and composer of "Victory in Jesus," was a well-known songwriter and the founder of the Hartford Music Institute, which Brumley attended, and the Hartford Music Company, both in Hartford, AR. Also, Brumley sang with the Hartford Quartet.
Some of Brumley’s other teachers included Thomas Benton, J. B. Herbert, Homer Rodeheaver, V. O. Stamps, and James Rowe. In 1926, Brumley himself began teaching some 51 singing schools and normals in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. In 1929, he was picking cotton and singing the popular song, "If I Had the Wings of an Angel," when suddenly he thought about flying away from that cotton field and penned one of his first and perhaps best-known songs, beginning "Some glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away." It was at one of his singing schools in Powell, MO, that he met Goldie Schell, whom he married in 1931, and they settled at Powell. Goldie encouraged him to try to have some of his songs published, so he mailed "I’ll Fly Away" to the Hartford Music Company, who published it in their 1932 book The Wonderful Message. At that time, Brumley was working in his father-in-law’s general store, but soon was employed by Hartford as a staff writer. Through the years, he produced over 600 religious songs, such as "If We Never Meet Again," "Jesus, Hold My Hand," and "Salvation Has Been Brought Down," many of which were intended for special groups at country music conventions, as well as a number of sentimental songs. A lot of his songs have been translated into foreign languages and Braille.
The Brumleys had six children: Bill, Al Jr., Bob, Tom, Jack, and Betty. After serving first with Hartford Music Company and then with Stamps-Baxter Publishing Company, Albert founded Albert E. Brumley and Sons Music Company at Powell, MO, and eventually purchased the Hartford Music Company. The copyright on "I’ll Fly Away" was renewed in 1960 by Brumley and Sons. In 1970, he was inducted into the Country Song Writers Hall of Fame, and in 1972 became a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, prior to his death at Powell on Nov. 14, 1977. His son Bill became general manager of the company until his death in 1995, when Bob, a member of the Church of Christ in Powell, became owner and operator of the business. A 160-page book, entitled The Best of Albert E. Brumley, contains 100 of Brumley’s songs along with much biographical information and pictures. When the Smithsonian Institution made a study of gospel music, its researchers called Brumley "the greatest white gospel songwriter before WW II." His songs have been estimated to have been printed fifteen million times in sheet music and songbooks, and he is still one of the most widely recorded gospel music composers in America.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "I’ll Fly Away" appeared in the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today it can be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition) and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song has some excellent thoughts about the attitude toward death and heaven for the Christian.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that when thie life is over we shall have a home on God’s celestial shore
"Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away."
A. We might think of the dawn of eternity as a morning: Ps. 30.5
B. When this life is o’er, of course, referst to the time of death: Heb. 9.27
C. Paul says that we can look forward after death to that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens: 2 Cor. 5.1-8
II. Stanza 2 tells us that when the shadows of this life have grown we shall fly like a bird from prison
"When the shadows of this life have grown, I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away."
A. The shadows of this life might refer to times of sadness and sorrow: Jer. 6.4
B. The fact of their having grown indicates that night is coming, which symbolizes the end of life: Jn. 9.4
C. Moses reminds us that when that time comes, we shall be cut off and fly away: Ps. 90.9-12
III. Stanza 3 tells us that when our weary days are gone we shall go to a land of endless joy
"Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away;
To a land where joys shall never end, I’ll fly away."
A. Our lives on earth seem as "just a few more weary days" because we are as the grass that withers and the flower that falls away: 1 Pet. 1.24
B. However, when we leave this earth, we can look forward to another land: Heb. 11.13-16
C. Its joys shall never end becuase someday Jesus will come, the dead shall be raised, the living will be changed, and the righteous will meet the Lord in the air where they will ever be with Him: 1 Thess. 4.15-17
CONCL.: The chorus views the time of death for the Christian with gladness rather than sorrow.
"I’ll fly away, O glory, I’ll fly away;
When I die, Halleljuah, by and by, I’ll fly away."
It is generally agreed that this song so epitomizes the religious fervor of the American South that the title was chosen for the name of a television show a few years ago that was designed to portray southern small-town life. When I stop and think that death will be the gateway into an eternity with God, I too will look forward to that time when "I’ll Fly Away."
Copyright 1932 in "Wonderful Message" by Hartford Music Co. Renewed 1960 by Albert E. Brumley & Sons/SESAC (admin. by ICG). All rights reserved. Used by permission.