In 1981, David T. Clydesdale stepped into the Benson Company and introduced what would become one of the greatest Easter musicals for the church. As employees of the company gathered around the piano to sing David’s 12 arrangements, the president of the company was moved to tears and The Day He Wore My Crown was put on the fast-track for an Easter release.
35 years later, it’s still a best-selling collection of music and a moving account of the Easter story. The songs continue to speak to congregations and connect them with the redeeming power of Christ. We had a chance to sit down with David to talk about the inspiration behind The Day He Wore My Crown and his hope for the 35th anniversary release.
How did the idea for this project start?
I took what I thought were the best 12 songs about the passion of Christ, the songs that moved me. I wanted to weave those together into a musical, so I went in to see my boss at the Benson Company and said, “I have an idea. I’d like to take these 12 songs and write a musical with that.” And he said, “David, absolutely not. Musicals are not written by 12 different writers…so I’m going to have to discourage you not to do his.”
So of course I went home and wrote the musical in the next three days, brought it back, and asked the secretary, “Is there any way I can see him for an hour today?” Finally [my boss] agreed to see me and said, “It’s a waste of time David, but I’ll listen.” I even went a step further and asked the secretary if she could get two sopranos, two altos, and two tenors from the workers of Benson. We played it at the piano and he was kind of shocked. The singers reacted to it, and he was very moved, even to the point of tears.
Since the initial release of this project 35 years ago, so many people have been touched by it message. What is the core idea?
Easter is very interesting. I tell people Easter is very A-B-A. It starts with a hosanna and that joyful moment and it goes to the lowest moment in history, the crucifixion and it comes back to the highest moment in history—the resurrection and the promise of the return. So really the way it’s structured, if you put great songs in there…it takes you on the journey.
Technology has changed so much since the initial recording of this project, what are some of the changes that have been made so it can be accessible to a wider audience?
Everything back in those days was done on two-inch tapes and there were twenty four tracks….the tapes [for this project] had been sitting in a warehouse in 110 degrees for 35 years and they hadn’t been taken care of, so if you put them on the machine, they could literally destroy and turn to dust.
Now I don’t know who came up with this but somebody, somewhere found out if you baked those tapes for a certain amount of time at a certain degrees, you had a shot of one more time playing it without it breaking and sending it over to digital. The day we did that we said, “Okay, this is probably not going to happen. Because it’s 45 minutes of music, it’s probably going to break somewhere,” but I remember getting the email from Luke late in the day saying it went through without one mistake.
Are you excited for a new generation to experience The Day He Wore My Crown?
I’m excited that the generation that sang this will get to sing it again. I’m also excited that new people, people who are in their 20s, who have not experienced the musical, that it will come to life for them and they will find some friends in these songs or some meaning in these songs. I just hope that it’ll reach new generations and touch their lives.
What is your hope for the people who are singing this collection or listening to it in the congregation?
My prayer for people would be that it wouldn’t be bringing back the old but it would be a fresh, new powerful statement for this Easter.