Influential Christian Musician Ray Hildebrand Passes Away at 82

By | August 21, 2023

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death – Obituary News : Renowned Contemporary Christian Music Pioneer Ray Hildebrand Passes Away at 82

Overland Park, Kansas – Ray Hildebrand, a beloved resident of Overland Park and a pioneer of contemporary Christian music, passed away on Friday at the age of 82. Hildebrand had relocated to the Kansas City area to work for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and his presence was deeply felt at FCA summer camps, where he impacted the lives of many.

While Hildebrand is best known for his hit song “Hey Paula,” which he wrote and performed alongside his partner Jill Jackson in 1963, his contribution to the world of music extends far beyond this chart-topping success. Hildebrand and Jackson, who adopted the stage names Paul and Paula, first crossed paths at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. The iconic song not only reached the No. 1 spot on the music charts but also sold over three million copies. It held the top position on the Billboard Hot 100 for the entire month of February 1963, catapulting Hildebrand and Jackson into the limelight as they embarked on a tour with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars.

Hildebrand’s impact on the music industry extended to his pioneering efforts in contemporary Christian music. He produced several memorable songs in this genre, including “He’s Everything to Me” and “Say I Do.” Notably, Ray Price’s rendition of “Say I Do” reached the pinnacle of the country music charts. In the 1980s, Hildebrand joined forces with local musician Paul Land, and the duo combined music and comedy under the name Land & Hildebrand, leaving a lasting impression on their audiences.

Aside from his musical accomplishments, Hildebrand also made significant contributions to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In 1967, he wrote the first of eight FCA Camp theme songs, “Courage To Conquer,” aligning with the camp’s theme derived from Romans 8:37. Throughout the years, he continued to compose additional camp songs, such as “The Life That Wins” (1968), “A Special Kind of Man” (1972), and “We Really Do Need Each Other” (1975). FCA credits Hildebrand with writing numerous other beloved songs associated with their organization, including “Say I Do” and “Turn It Over To Jesus.”

Reflecting on his decision to leave behind a promising pop music career and embrace a music ministry, Hildebrand shared his motivation on his website. He expressed a fatigue with chasing worldly success and the uncertainty it brought. Recording a hit album had not brought him the fulfillment he sought. Instead, he found solace and purpose in his faith, which he had revisited after years of neglect. Hildebrand recognized that the Lord was guiding him towards a path of spiritual enlightenment, leading him to embrace a music ministry that resonated with his beliefs.

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Ray Hildebrand’s passing leaves a tremendous void in the world of contemporary Christian music. His unique contributions, both as an artist and a minister, have touched the lives of countless individuals. As the news of his death reverberates throughout the community, friends, fans, and fellow musicians mourn the loss of a true pioneer. Ray Hildebrand’s legacy will undoubtedly live on, inspiring future generations to embrace their faith and use their talents to make a positive impact on the world.

  • Alan Goforth, Metro Voice.