Norman Clayton was born on January 22, 1903 in Brooklyn, New York, the ninth of ten children.
He was converted at the age of six in the South Brooklyn Gospel Church, where his mother had been a foundation member … and was church organist by the age of 12. He kept up the role of church organist for the rest of his life.
Clayton’s profession was in the building industry, but he also created his own publishing house, Gospel Songs, which was later absorbed into the Rodeheaver Company.
In 1942 he was working with Jack Wyrtzen’s Word of Life organization, providing music for both the radio broadcasts and crusade meetings.
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That same year Clayton wrote his most popular gospel song, words and music, Now I Belong to Jesus:
Jesus, my Lord will love me forever,
From Him no power of evil can sever;
He gave His life to ransom my soul,
Now I belong to Him…
Another of Norman Clayton’s choruses goes …
He holds my hand,
Jesus holds my hand.
Safely to Heaven He leads the way,
He is my Keeper from day to day…
Another lovely and popular song is “Every Moment of Every Day”.
According to Kenneth Osbeck, Norman Clayton “tells how it is his usual practice to write the music first before the words,” and that “he feels it is vitally important that every song he writes be biblically based” (101 More Hymn Stories, page 204).
In order to create songs worthy of His Lord, Clayton made it his practice to memorise scripture, so his songs would have a strong Biblical basis. He also found it easiest to write songs for special occasions. Clayton’s gospel songs were eminently singable, musically sweet and tender of sentiment.
Clayton’s most popular songs reflect his evangelical emphasis, focused on the saving work of Christ and the sweetness of relationship with God through Him. The absence of deeper or more divers theological issues may have robbed Clayton of a more enduring place in Christian song-writing. By the time of his death churches were beginning their push into more upbeat music and more Charismatic themes.
Normal Clayton died in 1992, at the age of 89.
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com