Let There Be Chet Atkins on Earth
It’s a little late, but this past Christmas I stumbled across one of the most spectacular live performances I’d ever seen. The song is “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and it was performed by Vince Gill, Amy Grant, and Michael McDonald with Chet Atkins on guitar.
It came out of nowhere from a 1993 Country Music Christmas special (check). I’d never seen it or even heard the song, which was written by
and Sy Miller in 1955. It was written for the International Children’s Choir.
Jackson-Miller had bit acting roles in seven old westerns and lived a tragic life. Following the failure of her first marriage, she made a suicide attempt but found peace in God instead. She later met songwriter Seymour “Sy” Miller, and they married soon after, leading to a deeply spiritual life for Jill.
In 1955 they wrote “Let There Be Peace on Earth” together, and the song has been sung worldwide by children’s choirs in addition to recordings by Mahalia Jackson (check this out), Gladys Knight, Carlos Santana, and many others. It has become a Christmas song to many over the years, symbolizing all sorts of causes and celebrations.
What got me was the performance I mentioned at the beginning. Vince Gil begins with the lead and not long after is joined by McDonald for the second, and he steals the show. I’ve been a fan for years, but this one sticks out, seeing him in a spiritual setting.
Chet Atkins takes the guitar solo for the third verse and plays such a sweet melody on his hollow-body Gretsch guitar. Incredible. It’s mellow but so heartfelt, and it’s Chet Atkins. Unbelievable.
Gill and McDonald take the fourth verse with a duo, followed by a piano solo bridge in front of the 40-piece orchestra. Everything is seemingly perfect. You can tell by the looks on their faces.
Amy Grant sings the next verse and nails it, looking stunning in the process.
They all join together for the next verse (number seven?) before the choir steps on stage, and they sing a couple more verses to end the show. Spectacular. I learned a new song and saw four familiar musicians play as I’d never seen them.
I search for performances like this every Christmas season, but I thought I’d seen them all. Not the case.
If you can remember next Christmas or add it to a playlist now, it’s well worth the effort.
Merry Christmas to all (in late January), and to all, a good night.