94: What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life

94: What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life

Story by Archie Jordan

Song written by Archie Jordan

Recorded by Ronnie Milsap

When I was living in Nashville, I went to a Bible study every week at the home of my friend Alan Moore. We met in his basement, and one week there were about 25 of us, and someone stood up and told this story. He was from a well-to-do family in Nashville. He was doing very well, making lots of money and living the American dream. He had a beautiful wife and daughter and a beautiful home, but he had gotten to drinking and doing drugs. One thing led to another and he lost his job. He went through his savings and then lost his home. Everything went downhill. His wife got disgusted with him and divorced him and left the state with their daughter.

He was telling us this story and he looked at us and said, “One day, I woke up and realized that I had nothing — no money, no home, and I had nobody. I finally came to the end of my rope, and I turned my life over to God and oh, what a difference He made in my life.”

Right at that moment, I started writing this song. I started getting music and lyrics in my head while he was still talking. If I ever wrote an inspired song, this was it. I continued writing it on the way home, and played it for my publisher the next morning. He loved it. He said, “Not only is this a great gospel song, but it can be about your wife or your mom or dad, or one of your children.”

I started to think maybe I should start with a verse like “You do this and you do that for me, and what a difference you’ve made in my life,” building a laundry list. But when I thought about it, I knew the song should start with the title. And when I got through singing the chorus, I thought, “I think it wants to do the same thing again in the next verse when it says, ‘What a change you have made in my heart,’ and then repeat that at the end for the phrase again.”

Then I knew I would do a bridge and then go back to that first verse again. It was like an old AABA form, like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” and it seemed a little redundant, but nothing else really fit.

I got a chance to write several songs with Hal David, who used to write the lyrics to all those great songs by Burt Bacharach, and he told me one time, “Always go where the song wants to go. Don’t have any preconceived notions about it.” And he was right. He wrote the lyrics to “It Was Almost Like A Song,” which was another big hit for Ronnie Milsap. Hal came to Nashville several times a year and my publisher got me an audition with him, and I put down three of my best melodies on a tape and he liked what he heard, so we ended up collaborating on a few songs.

I did a simple piano and vocal melody and gave it to Ronnie Milsap. When we cut the demo, we went over to the old RCA Studio B, where Elvis and Roy Orbison and those guys used to record. But when we recorded the master, we did it at Woodland Studios in Nashville. They rented another grand piano and Ronnie played one piano and I played the other. We are both playing on the record.

B.J. Thomas later recorded “What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life,” and it was a big gospel hit for him. A number of other people recorded it after that. It was nominated for a CMA Award, but didn’t win. That’s okay. I was just glad to get that story out.

I went to a church in Statesboro, Georgia, one time and there was a pastor who stood up and started telling a story about a mission trip he took to Russia. Several members of his church went to a remote part of Russia. While they were there, these Russians at this little tiny church said, “We heard this American song and we learned it and want to sing it to you.” So, they started singing, in broken English, “What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life.” Small world.

What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life

What a difference you’ve made in my life

What a difference you’ve made in my life

You’re my sunshine day and night

Oh what a difference you’ve made in my life

What a change you have made in my heart

What a change you have made in my heart

You replaced all the broken parts

Oh what a change you have made in my heart

Love to me was just a word in a song

That had been way over-used

But now I’ve joined in the singin’

’Cause you’ve shown me love’s true meanin’

That’s why I want to spread the news

What a difference you’ve made in my life

What a difference you’ve made in my life

You’re my sunshine day and night

Oh what a difference you’ve made in my life

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