The Story Behind In the Sweet By and By
Sanford Fillmore Bennett was born in New York, 21 June 1836. In 1864 enrolled in the Wisconsin Volunteers and served as Second Lieutenant. Following the war, he returned to Elkhorn and started a drug store and began the study of medicine. He graduated from Rush Medical College in 1874.
Bennett described the composition of the hymn in his autobiography.
Mr. Webster, like many musicians, was of an exceedingly nervous and sensitive nature, and subject to periods of depression, in which he looked upon the dark side of all things in life. I had learned his peculiarities so well that on meeting him I could tell at a glance if he was melancholy, and had found that I could rouse him up by giving him a new song to work on.He came into my place of business [in Elkhorn, Wisconsin], walked down to the stove, and turned his back on me without speaking. I was at my desk. Turning to him, I said, “Webster, what is the matter now?” “It’s no matter,” he replied, “it will be all right by and by.” The idea of the hymn came me like a flash of sunlight, and I replied, “The Sweet By and By! Why would not that make a good hymn?” “Maybe it would,” he said indifferently. Turning to my desk I penned the words of the hymn as fast as I could write. I handed the words to Webster. As he read his eyes kindled, and stepping to the desk he began writing the notes. Taking his violin, he played the melody and then jotted down the notes of the chorus. It was not over thirty minutes from the time I took my pen to write the words before two friends with Webster and myself were singing the hymn.—Sanford Fillmore Bennett (1836-1898)
The hymn, very popular in the nineteenth century, became a Gospel standard and has been included in hymnals ever since. In the New Orleans jazz tradition 'Sweet By-and-By' is a standard hymn played in so-called "jazz funerals". The American composer Charles Ives quoted the hymn in several works, most prominently in the finale of his Orchestral Set No. 2, written between 1915 and 1919. Translations of the lyrics are in a number of world languages.
'Sweet By-and-By' continues to be commonly performed. Memorable recordings over the years have been done by Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn and Kenny Rogers.
Popular Hymn Lyrics with Story and Meaning
Day by Day and With Each Passing Moment
Jesus Loves Me
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Nearer My God to Thee
Abide with Me
His Eye is On the Sparrow
Be Thou My Vision
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty