Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
I am weak, but Thou art strong
Jesus, keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.
“Just a Closer Walk with Thee” is a traditional gospel song that has been covered by many artists. Performed as either an instrumental or vocal, “A Closer Walk” is perhaps the most frequently played number in the hymn and dirge section of traditional New Orleans jazz funerals. The title and lyrics of the song allude to the Biblical passage from 2 Corinthians 5:7 which states, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
The precise author of “A Closer Walk” is unknown. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests it dates back to southern African-American churches of the nineteenth century, possibly even prior to the Civil War, as some personal African American histories recall “slaves singing as they worked in the fields a song about walking by the Lord’s side.”. Songs with similar chorus lyrics were published in the 1800s, including “Closer Walk with Thee” with lyrics by Martha J. Lankton and music by William Kirkpatrick, which was published in 1885. Some references in Atchison, Kansas credit an African-American foundry worker and vocalist, Rev. Elijah Cluke (1907-1974), for the current rendition of the song. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” became better known nationally in the 1930s when African-American churches held huge musical conventions. In 1940 Kenneth Morris arranged and published for the first time the well-known version after gospel musicians Robert Anderson and R.L. Knowles listened to William B. Hurse direct a performance of it in Kansas City and then brought it to Morris’ attention. Morris added some new lyrics and a choral arrangement. In the 1940s, a boom of recordings recorded the number in many genres, ranging from Southern gospel to jazz and brass bands.
“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”
Single by Selah Jubilee Singers
A-side A Walking In The Light Of God
Format 78 rpm
Recorded October 8, 1941
Label Decca 7872
The first known recording was by the Selah Jubilee Singers on October 8, 1941, (Decca Records 7872) New York City; with Thurman Ruth and John Ford lead vocal; Fred Baker, lead baritone; Monroe Clark, baritone; J. B. Nelson, bass vocal; and Fred Baker on guitar. Rosetta Tharpe also recorded the song on December 2, 1941 (Decca 8594), with Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra.
The revived interest in traditional New Orleans jazz resulted in multiple recordings of the number, including a 1945 session by Bunk Johnson’s Brass Band featuring numbers Johnson had played in New Orleans before he left in 1915.
In 1950, it was a million-seller for Red Foley.
In 1958, an unreleased home recording was recorded by Elvis Presley, made in Waco, Texas, on May 27. Presley’s studio version can be heard on Just a Closer Walk with Thee (2000) (Czech CD on Memory label). Tennessee Ernie Ford made the charts with it in the late 1950s. By the end of the 1970s, more than a hundred artists had recorded the song.