Sunday, May 25, 2014

What are the lyrics to "Hallelujah Anyhow"?

I've noticed that people sometimes come to this website when searching for the lyrics to the hymn "Hallelujah Anyhow." Finding the lyrics to this particular song is a challenge, but the mysteries surrounding the hymn are deeper than that. For me, the story of this hymn has local interest as well, because it starts in Indiana, where I live. 

If you search for the lyrics of "Hallelujah Anyhow," you'll get too many results and too much contradictory information. Why? For two reasons:

  1. "Hallelujah anyhow" has become a common expression that people say to express abiding faith when things go wrong. 
  2. Many songs use the title "Hallelujah Anyhow," and all of the songs have different lyrics. 
That's right, there's not a hymn called "Hallelujah Anyhow"—there are many hymns called "Hallelujah Anyhow." I searched the databases of three major song publishers—BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC—and found 22 songs with that title. That number doesn't include songs that include "hallelujah anyhow" as only a part of the title. 

A further complication is that many of these songs are very similar and yet are copyrighted by different composers. This situation often occurs with songs that are based on a traditional song that is in the public domain. 

The 2007 book "Mek Some Noise": Gospel Music and the Ethics of Style in Trinidad, by Timothy Rommen, talks about a song called "Hallelujah Anyhow" that people sing in Trinidad, the chorus of which is "never, ever let life's troubles get you down. When life troubles pass your way, lift your head up high and say, 'Hallelujah anyhow.'" This reference suggests that the song is traditional.

I don't think it's a traditional song, though. Many of Rommen's field notes are from around 2000, which was many years after this song was first published and recorded. 

The first published version of the song is by Ruth Munsey. An image of the original sheet music appears above. Munsey was the mother of Steve Munsey, the pastor of the Family Christian Center in Munster, Indiana, who can sometimes be seen on TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Ruth Munsey published this song in 1970 and it was originally recorded by The Hemphills for their 1970 album Old Brush Arbor Days

The first line of the song is "When you're in the valley dark and low," and the chorus is "Hallelujah anyhow. I'll never let my troubles get me down. Whatever problems life may bring, I'll lift my head up high and sing, 'Hallelujah anyhow.'"

Not only is Munsey's composition the first published version of the song, but it also contains the earliest use of the phrase "hallelujah anyhow" that I've been able to find anywhere. On Google Books, I find no example of this phrase that predates 1970. 

This suggests to me that Munsey wrote an original song and that subsequent composers adapted it, perhaps thinking that it was traditional, and perhaps sometimes coming too close for comfort from a copyright standpoint. 

Another very popular—but very different—version of "Hallelujah Anyhow" is by Minister Thomas A. Whitfield, who wrote a song by that title and included it on his album of the same name. This album charted on Billboard's Top Spiritual Albums chart in 1985. Whitfield's song uses the phrase "hallelujah anyhow" but is otherwise unlike Munsey's song. 

Below is an incomplete survey of songs that are either based on Munsey's "Hallelujah Anyhow" or incorporate the phrase "hallelujah anyhow." Good luck with finding the version that you're looking for. 

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Ruth Munsey

Munsey herself appeared on an album that included this recording. The album, titled An Unfinished Task, was released on the Sounds of Pentecost Recordings label of Hammond, Indiana. The Good, Bad & Ugly Gospel Record Barn blog did a post on it with sound clips from the album, including "Hallelujah Anyhow." 

A tweet by Ruth's son, Phil Munsey, on the anniversary of "Hallelujah Anyhow"

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Minister Thomas A. Whitfield

The lyrics are mostly "hallelujah anyhow" over and over. This album was a hit on the Billboard Top Spiritual Albums chart in 1985. 

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Joe Pace

The chorus is "no matter what comes my way, I'll lift my voice and say 'hallelujah anyhow.'" 

You can find the full lyrics here.

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Jonathan Howard 

The chorus is "Hallelujah anyhow, never let your troubles get you down. When trials come your way, hold your head high and say 'hallelujah anyhow.'"

You can find the full lyrics here. And here is a sample of a recording by the Miami Mass Choir.

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Pastor Ronald Williams

The chorus is "Hallelujah anyhow, never never let life's problems get you down." Hear a sample here.

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Milton Biggham

The chorus is "when Satan blocks your way, stand right up and say 'Hallelujah anyhow.'" Most of the song repeats the chorus over and over. 

Here's a great performance of it by Rev. Clay Evans:

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Herman A. Dade

The chorus is "something about that phrase, 'hallelujah anyhow.'"

You can hear a clip of Kenton Rogers's recording of this song here

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Ronny Hinson

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Rev. Raymond Wise

The chorus is "won't you lift your voice and say 'hallelujah anyhow.'" You can hear a clip here

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Chris Byrd

The chorus is "Hallelujah anyhow, never let your problems get you down, if problems come your way, hold your head up high and say 'hallelujah anyhow." 

Here's a clip of a recording by Steve Middleton.

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Vicki Farrie

The chorus repeats the phrase "hallelujah anyhow." 

"Hallelujah Anyhow" by Gina Taylor

The title track of her 2013 album. The chorus is "I've learned to say 'hallelujah anyhow.'" Hear a clip here


  1. Hello: I added the Ruth Munsey Hallelujah track to the GB&U Gospel Barn page. – Cheers, Mark

  2. Does anybody know the copyright legality of hearing this tune, writing out my own arrangement using the tune and lyrics I heard, putting it on the screen at church, and singing it in worship? I don't want to do it if it is against copyright laws, especially in today's litigious society.

    1. According to the United Church of Christ's FAQ about copyright and the church, you should be fine. Here's the link and relevant quotation:

      "Do I need permission to ‘perform’ music in a worship service?

      No. You don’t need permission to perform music in worship. This is specifically allowed in copyright law. But, if you are performing music in a concert setting you would need permission."