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 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

Brian,
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



Posted by Pat Cronkhite in Enid Oklahoma @ 03:25 on Sep 11 2013

I shall never forget Janny and Bill coming to my "GLORY BARN" and ministering the WORD. She and Bill were always a true BLESSING. Her music is STILL inspiring us ... BY HIS WORD.



Posted by Bernadette Waugh in Newfoundland, Canada @ 22:36 on Aug 27 2013

Janny was my first introduction to true Christian music and I would for hours and for years to come listen to her music. Then I had a daughter who when she was 8 fell also in love with Janny's Worship. We contacted Janny -never expecting to hear back from her but we did. May 5, 2008 she wrote us thanking us as she was on tour. You can never know how it did my heart good for years to know my favourite all-time Worship leader wrote us..What a connection!!!



Posted by Carolyn Radcliff in Colorado Springs CO @ 17:09 on Jun 17 2013

I was VERY blessed by Janny Grein, especially her song "Stronger Than Before". Her life changed and blessed thousands. I was able to attend her concert in Moline, Ill. in the early '80s. She lifted me higher!



Posted by Brian in Florida @ 06:08 on May 29 2013

While reading so many of these comments below, it has truly blessed me indeed. Janny is my Mom. To hear about how many we're touched thru her ministry is simply incredible. Thank you to ALL who have shared. May God richly bless each of you. Brian


Reply by Diana in Florida @ 17:00 on Mar 13 2014

Brian,

I'm so sorry for your loss. My father passed away the month before and I can only hope that the 2 of them have connected on the streets of Gold.
I wish I could tell your Mom how much she impacted my life. As a baby Christian in the 80's her music touched my soul. Her message was spot on. By his word, he made me worthy. Count it all joy..... I still sing her sings of worship today. Sang them the whole morning I was getting dressed for my wedding. :)) a part of her will always be with me.
Not sure you'll ever get to read this.... But blessings to you and yours....... Diana

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Reply by Natalie Campbell in Augusta, Gerogia @ 10:49 on Aug 20 2013

Oh, Brian, your precious mom and her music are so badly missed by so many of us out here to whom she has ministered! We are praying for you and look forward to the day when her website will one day be up and running again delivering her music to hungry souls! Bless you!

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Posted by Cecilia Bernard in Las Vegas, Nevada @ 10:27 on May 7 2013

I first heard Janny in Las Vegas in possibly the 70's, she put on a little concert in a storefront on Maryland Parkway. I was extremely moved by her music, she is so annointed! I bought her album and loved her music which carried me through many tough times in my life. I had several of her tapes besides the album, but lost most in a house fire. I only had 2 tapes by her left. They were probably in my car. I searched for her music for years and it seemed like she did'nt even exist. The record stores never heard of her. Then I heard "Stronger than before", on a christian radio station, and called them to try to find her music. I did get that one tape, and called Sparrow Recording, but could never get her music. How can I get her music? I loved her, will miss her.



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