Sankey, Ira D(avid)

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Sankey, Ira D(avid)

Sankey, Ira D(avid) , noted American evangelistic singer, gospel hymn composer, and hymnbook compiler; b. Edinburgh, Pa., Aug. 28, 1840; d. N.Y., Aug. 13, 1908. As a youth of 17, he became choir leader in the Methodist Church of New Castle, Pa.; served for a year with the N.Y. 12th Infantry Regiment at the time of the Civil War. In 1870 he was a delegate to the YMCA convention at Indianapolis, where his forceful singing attracted the attention of the evangelist preacher Dwight L. Moody. He joined Moody as music director and remained at this post for some 30 years, until approaching blindness forced his retirement in 1903. Of his many gospel tunes, the most popular has proved to be The Ninety and Nine (1874), which he improvised at a moment’s notice during a service in Edinburgh, Scotland. His chief publications were Sacred Songs and Solos (London, 1873) and 6 vols, of Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs (1875–91). As president of the publ. firm of Biglow & Main (1895–1903), he brought out numerous works, including many of his own. He also pubi. My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns and of the Sacred Songs and Solos (Philadelphia, 1906). He is not to be confused with another gospel song writer, Ira Allan Sankey, a lesser light than Ira D(avid) Sankey.


E. Goodspeed, A Full History of the Wonderful Career of Moody and S., in Great Britain and America (N.Y., 1876); The I.D.S. Centenary: Proceedings of the Centenary Celebration…with Some Hitherto Unpublished Correspondence (New Castle, Pa., 1941); C. Ludwig, S. Still Sings (Anderson, Ind., 1947).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire