Will Thompson wanted to write songs. And there was nothing stopping him, so write he did. But he was unable to garner any interest in his music from the music publishers of his day. He received rejection letter after rejection letter. But instead of giving up, Thompson started his own publishing company, Will L. Thompson & Company, with offices in Chicago and East Liverpool, Ohio.
His song “Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” was first published, by his company, in the collection "Sparkling Gems, Nos 1 and 2” in 1880. His company did so well that eventually it began selling pianos, organs, other musical instruments and supplies.
Thompson was born in East Liverpool, OH in 1847. During a tour of Europe he got sick and came back home. He died several weeks later in New York City.
“Softly And Tenderly,” the song for which he is best remembered, has become a favorite invitation hymn at revival services. And it’s been featured at funerals, including the memorial service of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The story goes that evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who was friends with Thompson, was in the hospital dying. He wasn’t allowed visitors but insisted on seeing Thompson. Moody told the songwriter, “Will, I would rather have written ‘Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.”
Here’s Amy Grant’s version of “Softly And Tenderly,” from her 2015 album “Be Still And Know…Hymns & Faith.”
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