Words: Johnson Oatman, Jr., in Songs for Young People, by Edwin Excell (Chicago, Illinois: 1897).
Music: Edwin O. Excell
This hymn certainly ranks as one of the most familiar numbers in our hymnals. It is one of the songs that many of us
first sang with gusto during our early Sunday School days, yet one that we still enjoy singing in our gospel type of
Rev. Johnson Oatman, Jr., was one of the important and prolific gospel song writers of the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. He was born near Medford, New Jersey, on April 21, 1856. As a child he became acquainted with
the hymns of the church through the singing talents of his father.
At the age of nineteen Oatman joined the Methodist Church and several years later was granted a license to preach in
local Methodist congregations. Though he wrote over 5,000 hymn texts, Oatman was busily engaged throughout his
life in a mercantile business and later as an administrator for a large insurance company in New Jersey. Other gospel
favorites by Johnson Oatman include "Higher Ground, and "No, Not One!"
"Count Your Blessings" is generally considered to be Oatman's finest hymn. If first appeared in Songs for Young
People, compiled and published by Edwin O. Excell in 1897. It has been sung all over the world. One writer has stated,
"Like beam of sunlight it has brightened up the dark places of the earth."
Perhaps no American hymn was ever received with such enthusiasm in Great Britain as this hymn. The London Daily,
in giving an account of a meeting presided over by Gypsy Smith, reported, Mr. Smith announced the hymn 'Count Your
Blessings.' Said he, 'In South London the men sing it, the boys whistle it, and the women rock their babies to sleep on
this hymn.' "During the great revival in Wales it was one of the hymns the hymns sung at every service along with such
Welsh favorites as "Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah" and "O That Will be Glory."
The composer of the music, E. O. Excell, is a well-known name in early gospel hymnody. He was born in Stark County,
Ohio, on December 13, 1851. At the age of twenty he became a singing teacher, traveling around the country
establishing singing schools. For twenty years he was associated with Sam Jones, a well-known Southern revivalist.
Excell was recognized as one of the finest song leaders of his day. In addition to writing and composing more than
2,000 gospel songs as well as publishing about fifty songbooks. He administered a successful music publishing
business in Chicago. While assisting Gypsy Smith in an evangelistic campaign in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1921, he was
suddenly stricken at the age of seventy and taken home to join the immortal heavenly chorus.