As the 60s turned into the 70s, a new genre of music called Jesus rock was beginning to gather steam. The Hippie counterculture had also spawned a new movement in Christianity with its members being called Jesus freaks. But what started out as two common ideologies began to split by the time Hollywood started to make a dime off of it. The success of Jesus Christ Superstar on stage, film and record began to inspire others to follow their divine pursuit.
Lyricist/composer Steven Schwartz has won 3 Grammies, 3 Oscars and has been nominated for 6 Tonys. But his career was jump started by hooking up John-Michael Tebelak, a guy writing his master’s thesis at Carnegie-Mellon. The musical he was writing, Godspell, was based on the Gospel of Matthew (though I don’t see him name on the credits) with lyrics from various Episcopal hymns. Schwartz wrote a new score and they debuted it off-Broadway in August 1971. It ran for 5 years before moving to Broadway, but not before hitting the pop charts. The 45, Day By Day was released from the Original Cast recording album from the production at Cherry Lane Theatre in the Village and hit the Top 20 in the Summer of 1972. All it took was this group of lyrics repeated over and over until the tambourine player had blisters on his palm:
Day by day. Day by day
Oh Dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day
More importantly, it became a staple of every vacation Bible school from that point until now. Especially if you went to an Episcopal church. How many Sundays did I sing this song?