The Life and Times of a Gospel Songwriter
Dianne Wilkinson’s career took off in the 1980s, when the Cathedral Quartet started recording her songs—songs like “We Shall See Jesus,” “Boundless Love,” “Homeland,” and "Jesus Has Risen." Her songs have been recorded by virtually every major Southern Gospel group; around fifty have been radio hits, with seven reaching #1. In this autobiography, Southern Gospel's most recognized non-performing songwriter shares her unforgettable life story and the stories behind over 150 songs she has written.
A Glimpse Behind The Scenes At Southern Gospel Songwriting
Dianne Wilkinson has collaborated with Southern Gospel blogger and author Daniel Mount to write her autobiography, The Life And Times Of A Gospel Songwriter. The book is down-to-earth and conversational, completely in first person.
The first two-thirds of the book relates how Wilkinson grew up in Arkansas, her first exposure to music, her influences, her career outside of songwriting, and how she became one of the most in-demand writers in Southern Gospel.
The last third of the book features an appendix listing many of her most popular songs along with descriptions of the circumstances that led her to write each song. A few of those descriptions run for a couple of pages, but most are limited to half a page or so.
It’s obvious to any Southern Gospel fan who is paying attention that Wilkinson is one of this industry’s most consistent and respected songwriters. She averages more than one song per week. More than two-thirds of her songs have been recorded.
Her book reveals that Wilkinson is also a huge fan of Southern Gospel. She bubbles with praise for the way groups have recorded her songs over the years. She recalls which groups recorded her songs just the way she imagined them and which songs featured something unexpected.
It’s in this respect that Wilkinson offers a rare mix of confidence and humility. She expresses her gratefulness for her success, and yes, she is a fan, but you can tell she’s not the least bit shy about promoting her songs. Early on, of course there were butterflies when she approached her heroes asking them to listen to her song, but there are spots later in the book where she describes her fame among Southern Gospel artists with dignity and grace.
I didn’t imagine anyone so immersed in Southern Gospel would have a full career outside of the industry. Readers who don’t know her may be as surprised as I was to learn that Wilkinson is an expert in medical records. She hasn’t merely worked for doctors and hospitals; she has advised them on how to set up their systems. Her late husband, Tim, also worked in the medical field, which caused them to relocate several times over the years.
I wanted to close by mentioning Daniel Mount’s contributions to the book. The best compliment I can pay him is that his work remained transparent. Aside from a brief introduction, he stayed out of the way. I’m sure he was responsible for the look and structure of the book, but I was happy to see he was careful not to interfere by inserting any pesky notes, self-references or ham-fisted over-editing to “correct” any of Wilkinson’s own colloquialisms. Her unique characteristics are left intact as it should be.
I received this book 24 hours ago and read it from beginning to end. I highly recommend The Life And Times Of A Gospel Songwriter to Southern Gospel fans, particularly those who are most inclined to enjoy the music of groups like the Cathedrals, the Kingdom Heirs, Legacy Five and the Mark Trammell Quartet. It’s very likely that Dianne Wilkinson has written several of your favorite songs if you’ve followed those groups or a number of others.
Worth more than it costs!
If you know the smallest amount of anything about southern gospel music or have ever had any interest in songwriting you will not want to put this book down. What an amazing collection of song stories and the life events that shaped the existence of gospel music's greatest treasures...Diane Wilkinson. Hated for it to end.