|Darrell, Eugene, Ronnie Hinson, and David singing “The Lighthouse”|
One of the most beloved songs in Southern Gospel music is “The Lighthouse.” Ronnie Hinson wrote it when he was just a teenager. He and his brothers and sisters were singing in church out of hymnals when he had the chance to hear the Speer family, a well known gospel singing group. That night, he says he fell in love with the Southern gospel sound. He took all the money he had and bought tickets for his family group to go to the Speers’ next concert 150 miles away. Ronnie’s family lived in California and most Southern Gospel groups were on the East Coast, but Ronnie had friends who sent him the new music on 8 tracks. That lets you know it’s been a few years ago. The big groups started letting the Hinsons open up concerts for them when they came to California. The kids would sing some of those groups’ top songs since, as Ronnie says, they didn’t know any better. The groups had to politely ask them not to so that they could sell some of their own music to be able to pay for their travel out west.
So the young Hinsons had a concert coming up opening for some of their favorite singers, and they were trying to find original songs or songs out of the hymn book they could recreate and that wouldn’t be a copy of any of the groups. Nothing was working and it was around 2 a.m. on the day they needed to sing. Ronnie told the others he was going to the boys’ room and that when he came back he would have a new song. The other kids laughed at him and laughed even harder when he came back with some words scribbled on a piece of toilet tissue. One of them wadded it up and threw it in the trashcan. They went back to searching through hymn books, but it got later and later. Then Kenny, Ronnie’s little brother, pulled the crumpled toilet tissue out of the waste basket and sang Ronnie’s song. Ronnie said it was just before daylight, but that the presence of the Lord filled the church where they were practicing and made it seem as light as noon. That song was “The Lighthouse.” It has gone on to be one of the most beloved songs in all Gospel music. Ronnie says nearly every group has sung it and that at one time it occupied several spots on the Top Twenty list where different groups were performing it.
Now comes the most amazing part. Ronnie Hinson had never actually seen a lighthouse when he wrote that song. He says he couldn’t figure out why the song resonated with so many singers and listeners, and so he got on his bicycle and rode 30 miles to the California coast to see a lighthouse. He says the ocean was gray that day, and the area desolate, but there stood the lighthouse. Hope in the midst of dreary hopelessness. And he knew that the song came from God because he didn’t even know what a lighthouse was when he wrote the song.
If you want to read more about Ronnie and his story of writing “The Lighthouse” you can go to Southern-Gospel-Music-Lyrics.com where I got most of this information. At the National Quartet Convention last week, Ronnie had the booth across the aisle from the Patriot Quartet’s booth. Several years ago the Patriot Quartet recorded “The Lighthouse” for a very special reason. Joe White, who sings lead in the group, had just found out his mother had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. “The Lighthouse” had long been Mrs. White’s favorite song and had helped her through some difficult years in her life. She had asked Joe to have the quartet sing it numerous times, but Joe always told her that the song had been sung by every other group and there was no way the Patriots could improve on the versions already out there. But when his mother became ill, the group made a special recording of that one song just for her. But then others began asking for them to sing it and so they put it on their next recording project. Since then, “The Lighthouse” is one of their most requested songs. It doesn’t matter how many groups sing it. The message of the song still touches hearts every time it’s heard.
Joe had already gone home at that last hour of the Quartet Convention Saturday night, but the other three guys were still there. While everybody was packing up, Ronnie was kind enough to agree to come over to sing a bit of “The Lighthouse” with them. The treat of the week for them and all the people still around that night. Ronnie told them that he wrote the song in about seven minutes and that it was a good thing he was so young at the time. That now he’d probably mess it up trying to use all he’s learned about song writing over the years.
Have you ever heard the song “The Lighthouse” and if so, did it speak to your heart?