Janny Grein: Paying tribute to a Jesus music pioneer

Sunday 9th October 2011

Tony Cummings remembers the five decade ministry of singer, songwriter, teacher and author JANNY

Janny Grein
Janny Grein

The death this year of singer/songwriter Janny Grein brought to a close a ministry of song and teaching which stretched back five decades and touched tens of thousands across the US and to the numerous countries she visited.

Janny was born in Joplin, Missouri. As a teenager her home life was far from happy and she dabbled in drugs and booze. Her musical gift seemed to be an escape route and her wistful voice and elegant piano playing began to bring her more and more engagements. Janny married photographer Bill Grein and the couple relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. There were plenty of gigs in bars and nightclubs but Janny's sense of emptiness continued to haunt her. Then one night in April 1973 the singer/songwriter and her husband turned on the TV to find a Hollywood film called King Of Kings just beginning. Janny's website took up the story: "Janny watched with great interest as the story of Jesus unfolded. Her heart pounded as if it would come through her chest. She turned to her husband and asked, 'Is this for real? Did this man Jesus really die for our sins?' Bill, who had grown up knowing the Lord, said, 'Yes. It's all true.' She knew in her heart that if someone would die for her, she needed to know more about him. That night she found new life in Jesus Christ. It forever changed her destiny."

Janny's conversion led to a whole new songwriting focus. Songs of faith began to pour from her. As she told one reporter, "All I know is what God has called me to do, that is to minister the Word to the extent that I know it. And to be uncompromising in standing on his Word, encouraging others to do the same. . . the medium I present it through is music."

In 1976 the singer was signed to Billy Ray Hearn's fledgling Sparrow Records, whose releases with Jesus music acts like 2nd Chapter Of Acts and Terry and John Michael Talbot were changing the face and sound of US Christian radio. In fact, a good sprinkling of Sparrow signings appeared on Mrs Grein's Sparrow debut 'Free Indeed', released as by Janny (much publicity of the time mis-spelt her name 'Grine'). 'Free Indeed' received an enthusiastic review in Jesus music magazine Harmony who began by quoting one of Janny's lyrics. "'Hey Lord, it's me/Friend of yours in Tennessee/I want to thank you for this melody/Lord it really set me free.' And with that introduction, Nashville's Janny Grein joins the Jesus music family. Sharing in the liner notes her activity in the secular music field prior to her conversion, 'Free Indeed' displays the musical experience she gained there. Janny's choice of material is excellent; all the songs weave together beautifully. Tempos vary from the up-paced title song to the quiet uplifting in 'Doesn't It Feel Good'."

Janny Grein: Paying tribute to a Jesus music pioneer

It was Janny's second Sparrow release, 1977's 'Covenant Woman', which proved her breakthrough album. The song "Bread On The Water", with its haunting Carole King-style vibe, became a major Christian radio hit (number seven in 1978) while the title track, though subsequently mangled by preacher/gospel crooner Kenneth Copeland, had, in its original rendition, a sublime acappella passage.

The following year Janny released an album that like 'Covenant Woman' is now considered a classic by Jesus music historians. 'He Made Me Worthy' contained Christian radio hits "By His Word" and "Count It All Joy" and musically moved from the Janice Ian-like "Love To Me" to the more rock orientated "Don't Give The Devil The Opportunity" all accompanied by some of Nashville's best Christian musicians.

1979 saw another Janny album, 'Think On These Things' which, like its predecessors, was produced by Billy Ray Hearn. Yet despite containing one of her greatest recordings in the haunting "Praise Him" it didn't produce any major radio hits. After a 'Best Of Janny' compilation in 1980 the songstress - now firmly established in ministry with teaching alongside her music - made occasional albums in between much touring. Foundation Records released 'Be Strong In The Lord' in 1981, in 1983 she momentarily returned to Sparrow for 'Like The Wind' and in 1988 the singer/songwriter had 'Stronger Than Before' released on Mighty Wind. Bill and Janny were by now very involved in global mission and led Covenant Crusades in Mexico, South Africa and Easter Europe. Janny authored the book Called, Appointed, Anointed (Harrison House, 1985) which dealt with the ministry of music and worship leadership. And in October 2001 she re-recorded the song "Stronger Than Before" as a tribute to the emergency workers and others who lost their lives or their loved ones in the terrorist attacks on 11th September 2001. In the following years she released independent albums, her last being 'River Rising' in 2009. Janny also took part in a Beginnings Tour with other CCM pioneers such as Barry McGuire, Chuck Girard, Don Francisco and David Meece with a DVD being released.

A year long battle with cancer finally came to an end for Janny on 4th August 2011. But as her website reported, "Janny is now dancing on the streets of gold and we are rejoicing in her life and legacy. She ran her race and now has obtained the ultimate victory. God's presence is embracing us and surrounding us as we celebrate her life and remember her love." CR

About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


Reader Comments

Posted by Cheryl s in Bloomfield nj @ 07:48 on Feb 24 2015

Right this moment I am heartbroken. I am just learning of Janny's passing. Years ago her music & witness for Jesus helped to sustain me through a very difficult time. Recently 'Stronger Than Before' kept welling up in my spirit. So, when I was awakened this morn & began searching I made this discovery. However, in the midst of momentary sadness I heard in my spirit "Well Done" she entered The Master's Joy. Her ministry lives on because it still rescues the perishing & strengthens the struggling.
4ever Love Jesus

Posted by Yvonne in Washington State, Tennessee @ 05:50 on Dec 21 2014

Janny Grein's song, Stronger Than Before, spoke to me and encouraged me during a very bleak time. I wasn't very familiar with it, but had heard it once a few months before darkness of grief descended upon me. I was commuting at the time and driving time was used for praying. However, on the particular day of which I write, I turned on the radio to a Christian station. I thought, "If I could just hear that song about broken wings, it would encourage me." I considered asking God for that, but decided that was silly. God, who knew my heart's desire, took pleasure in answering even when I was too faithless to ask. It was the next song to be played in the radio. I will never forget that. I was encouraged by the song, and assured that God cared about my heartache. Janny Grein's music continues to speak healing and hope to those who are broken. What a blessing she has been to me!

Posted by Karen Lafferty in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA @ 04:20 on Sep 13 2014

I actually had not heard of Janny's home going. She was one of my heroes as a songwriter and minister. Wrote powerful songs. We were contemporaries in the CCM scene in the 70s and 80s but I never had the pleasure of meeting her. Glad to know that that WILL come someday though. I honor this woman of God.

Posted by Mark Bridgewater in Sydney, Australia @ 06:11 on Aug 16 2014

I became a Christian in Feb 1972 after being in some very dark places. A Christian friend gave me Janny's Free Indeed album. Whoa, I was blown away with it's the power of it's relevance for me at that time. Janny's songs and the power of music to touch the heart and emotions helped me immeasurably on the first 5 years of my Christian journey. Thank God for the musicians, poets, writers and artists of the world who speak powerfully to the heart and spirit! The message of hope in this album struck a powerful chord in me. Love all her music.

Posted by Greg Whitehead in Sydney Australia @ 23:57 on Jul 29 2014

I posted this on another site when I learned of her passingFor me this is a real shock, Janny was and is my all time favourite Christian music minister. God gifted her with a beautiful musical talent, coupled with her integrity to sing the scripture and not compromise on any lyrical content made her exceptional. Her first 4 albums “Free Indeed”, the classic “Covenant Woman”, “He Made Me Worthy” and the phenomenal “Think On These Things’ (all produced by Billy Ray Hearn) were by far the best you can ever hear in CCM. Her book “Called Appointed Anointed’” is one that any potential Christian Music minister MUST READ continually and carry it with their Bible. I have lost count of the number of times her songs helped and encouraged me to keep going and stand for God and His Word since 1976.
I thank God for Janny Grein and the great contribution that she made, (as I write this I am mourning the loss, which I haven’t experienced like this since the passing of Keith Green)
God bless you Janny.

Posted by Michelle in Santa Clara, CA @ 20:23 on Jul 10 2014

Wow! I grew up singing Covenant Woman and More Than Conquerors/Count It All Joy with my mom. My mom would sit on the floor with her guitar, put on Janny and harmonize with her. Their voices blended so well together. My mom went to be with Jesus in 1989 (at the age of 37).

When I read that Janny passed, I was a little sad that I had never contacted her and told her about my mom and the foundation that they both laid for me growing up... then I realized that she probably already knows and they're both up there worshiping God face to face, harmonizing. I bet they still sound so good together.

Posted by Bill in Los Angeles, California @ 10:45 on Apr 27 2014

Just happened to check this website and tributes for your dear mom. She inspired me when I first accepted Jesus years ago and thereafter. Her music continues to be a living testament of God's love and your dad also. I look to meet both in Heaven and you too. God's best to you now & always!

Posted by Bobette Dupertuis in mariposa,Calif @ 23:39 on Apr 9 2014

In 1986 Janny came to our church in portland Oregon. We had started a Christian school under david Hummel at Victory Christian. it is now 20 years later and I am once again teaching kids. During my time of my husband cheating janny sat on my desk and sang to me. I just had a thought of her and would like to get ahold of her music. Please contact me by email. All in for Jesus

Posted by Don King in Paola, Ks @ 15:17 on Jan 13 2014

We met Janny at the Knott Berry Farm gospel night many years ago! A night we will never forget. Her demonstrated Love of Christ changed lives that night. She dedicate a song to non believers and our friend was the only one that admitted to being a non believer so it was dedicated to him! He is now a faithful Christian. Love in Christ, Don King

Posted by gustavo gonzalez t. in mexico d.f. @ 22:14 on Jan 1 2014

a mis hermanos de la familia de janny les doy mi mas sentido pésame x el fallecimiento de mi hermana janny grein.
por otro lado en donde puedo comprar el CD de la antología de janny grein aquí en México D.F. saludos y que en Señor los siga bendiciendo

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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