Wednesday, January 1, 2020 1:00 AM Posted by writeSantaletter.com'Dear Mr. Jesus,' a 1986, Turns Into Radio Phenomenon

'Dear Mr. Jesus,'
a 1986, Turns Into Radio Phenomenon


Letter to SantaThe hottest topical record of the Christmas season isn't another hunger-relief song or a catchy remake of a yuletide classic. It's "Dear Mr. Jesus," a gentle lullaby featuring a little girl singing about child abuse. Sample lyric:

Dear Mr. Jesus I just had to write to you Something really scared me when I saw it on the news A story about a little girl beaten black and blue. ... Please don't let them hurt your children.

The song is the radio phenomenon of the year, crossing format lines from Top 40 to country to adult-contemporary. A radio station in Australia even had it transmitted by telephone from a U.S. station so it wouldn't have to wait for the record. And radio stations aren't just playing the song--they're also following through on its message by supporting child-abuse prevention.

At the center of all this is a song that was recorded three years ago and came out in early 1986 on an album that's been available only in Christian record stores and by mail order. Since "Dear Mr. Jesus" caught on, the LP, "Shelter From the Storm," has sold more than 30,000 copies in the last six weeks.

"Mr. Jesus' " impact on radio was strong enough to put it on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart at No. 82 even though there are no singles available to sell (the initial pressing of 20,000 is due soon, and is sold out on advance orders).

"Shelter From the Storm" (on Power Vision Records) was performed by Power Source, a children's chorus that is part of the Ministry Gospel Workshop for Children, a nonprofit Christian organization founded five years ago by Jan Batts in Bedford, Tex. Batts, a free-lance journalist, wanted to compile an album and video featuring songs "about problems children face."

One of the board members of her organization had been abused as a child and suggested abuse as a topic.

"So we asked her to write down negative emotions and we gave positive answers in the song," Batts said in a telephone interview from her Fort Worth headquarters. Los Angeles songwriter Richard Klender was commissioned to write and produce the tune, and Batts' daughter Sharon sang the lead in a sweet, whispery voice when she was 6 years old (she's now 9).

The album, which also addresses topics like self-esteem and loneliness, had generated low sales and modest air play on Christian music stations until Tampa's Top 40 station WRBQ played "Dear Mr. Jesus" in early November. Then New York's WHTZ picked up the song and played it during the week of the funeral of highly publicized child-abuse victim Lisa Steinberg.

Calls flooded the station. News shot through the radio grapevine and the song was quickly added to play lists around the country.

"I have been in radio a long time and I've never seen reaction like this to a record," said Liz Kiley, music director at L.A.'s KOST-FM. "We started playing it Dec. 2, and we've had a few thousand requests since then."

As the newspaper and television requests roll in, Jan Batts, 39, is quickly learning to juggle multiple roles as spokeswoman for her organization, record-marketing executive and mother of "the voice" on the song.

"People don't realize Sharon's only one of several soloists in Power Source, but that's OK--when I think of the logistics of carting 20 kids in the concert cast around to the places she's been invited to sing at."

Nine-year-old Sharon, who hopes to be a veterinarian and/or oceanographer, is taking her sudden and unconventional fame in stride.

During a phone interview this week, she spoke softly and seriously about wanting to help abused children, hoping the record would encourage them to tell someone about their problem. But she couldn't suppress giggles about the media attention she's getting. "All these newspapers are calling me a 'media darling,' " she said. "Itís a joke around our house now."

What is it about the "Dear Mr. Jesus" that's triggering such a strong and emotional response?

"I think everyone can relate to this song in a way because there's been a time in everyone's life when we felt misunderstood, so it strikes a chord," suggested Odile Robinson, foster-care coordinator for the Children's Bureau of Los Angeles, a private, nonprofit agency.

"People think, 'Maybe I wasn't abused by my parents, but this one time they sure were mean to me and I felt lost and lonely and could have used Mr. Jesus or somebody to soothe me.' "

KLAC disc jockey John Driscoll pointed out that the rise--and fall--of a song like "Dear Mr. Jesus" is nothing new. "Every so many years, we get narrative songs that pull at the heartstrings that become novelties," he said. "At first you get a little chill and tears in the eye, and then you say, 'Hey--I've heard enough of it.' It seems to be a traditional pattern, especially around the holidays."

Driscoll remembered a recording in the early '70s of "What the World Needs Now Is Love" overdubbed with newscasts about the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King. "It was another one of those hits people wanted to hear every hour."

Driscoll said KLAC has tapered off its air play of "Dear Mr. Jesus" for fear of overkill. "Now I ask people to let me know if they want to hear it or not. Wednesday, out of 50 calls, 45 still wanted it."

Detractors have called the song everything from opportunistic to blatant, obvious, crass and melodramatic. One person objected to the song because he felt "it does absolutely nothing to make anyone understand the problems of child abuse any better."

Jan Batts maintains that a song can be expected to do only so much, and believes that "Dear Mr. Jesus" is effective in its original purpose: as a catalyst urging abused kids to tell someone about their problem.

"A lot of the mail and the phone calls we and the radio stations are getting indicates it is doing exactly what it was intended to do," she said.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020 1:00 AM Posted by writeSantaletter.comDear Mr. Jesus Song

Dear Mr. Jesus Song

a Christmas letter from Santa The story above deals with highly publicized child-abuse victim Lisa Steinberg and the song written honoring her, but reminds me of the verbal and physical abuse that a child went through wondering why no one was there for him and three women in the family. That person was myself and listening to Mr. Jesus it reminds me of the sad and emotional time that I went through with my mother and two sisters in our household and wondered how we survived. I realized that Jesus was there to protect our Quality of Life and Safety from harm.

Many arenít so lucky unless it is stopped and are able to catch it by system before itís too late. The story and facts are true above and the song, "Dear Mr. Jesus" I find that it makes its point loud and clear. We are his children and no matter how many times "Dear Mr. Jesus" is played, it honors the victim Lisa Steinberg and others with our heavenly Father.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020 1:00 AM Posted by writeSantaletter.com

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