History and Lyrics of The Lighthouse by Ronnie Hinson

Ronnie Hinson is one of the great songwriters of our day.Songs such as "The Lighthouse" have become some of Southern Gospel music's Greatest Hits. As a founding member of Southern Gospel Hall of Fame group, the Hinsons, Ronnie wrote such classic Southern Gospel songs as, “Oasis”, “Mercy Built A Bridge” and what many consider to be one of the top Southern Gospel songs of all time, “The Lighthouse”.

I asked Ronnie to tell us the story of how “The Lighthouse” came to be written. His answer is a part of the rich history of Southern Gospel music itself. It was a special Ronnie Hinson and the Hinsons, singers of the Southern Gospel music classic song, The Lighthouse time as I caught up with Ronnie. His song, “A Little Song Comin’ On” as performed by Three Bridges, was just about to hit the number one spot on the Southern Gospel music charts.

As our conversation progressed I asked Ronnie Hinson the question that he must have been asked a thousand times in his career; which of his songs was his favorite. Ronnie paused just for a second and replied, “I cannot say that I have one that I like the way I wrote it better than another but I can say that, due to the testimonies that have had a chance to accumulate, I’d have to say…”and he broke out in that deep, low voice, “There’s a lighthouse, on a hillside, that overlooks life’s seas.. and there you go”

A private solo of “The Lighthouse” by Southern Gospel music legend Ronnie Hinson, that’s the way to start a day! Moments like that are definitely one of the perks of the job. I asked Ronnie about the history of “The Lighthouse”. It’s a history that is an integral part of the history of The Hinsons.

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History of The Lighthouse is History of the Hinsons

“ ‘The Lighthouse’ was written in the latter part of my teens." reflects Ronnie Hinson. "The way ‘The Lighthouse’ came about…We were just ignorant little kids coming out of church singing from the hymnals. (We) really couldn’t understand anything about paid concerts – buy a ticket to go hear people sing church music – that didn’t make sense to us.”

Ronnie continued explaining how the group started singing. “Someone bought me a ticket to hear the famous Speer Family. That night I feel in love with Gospel music. I took all of my savings, all of my allowance as a kid, and bought everybody else tickets to go hear them 150 miles away at another town. I was hooked.”

“So we started our own little singing group and we were singing on the program as a warm up group with all of the big, major groups that came from the east coast with their big tour buses – we lived in California.”, Ronnie explained. “They would sing all of their newest songs. The Goodmans, the Rambos, the Oak Ridge Boys when they were singing Gospel music.”

Ronnie paused reflectively, “We knew nothing about competitiveness – trying to out sing one group or the other – we knew nothing about that. We were just from the church and loving this new sound of Southern Gospel music and we were getting to sing.”

Ronnie Hinson went on to explain how his relatives in Arkansas and out east would send him 8 track tapes of the latest Southern Gospel music from his favorite groups. “We would learn all of the latest, newest, hit songs like ‘Who Am I’, ‘I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My (and he paused slightly and chuckled) Jersey Cow’, and ‘Had It Not Been’, all of the big hit songs.”

Rookie Mistakes

“We were a little warm up group singing at the concerts and we thought that we were complimenting them by singing their songsRocket So before they got up to sing we would sing ‘Who Am I’, ‘Had It Not Been’. We’d sing it through six or seven times and people would just swarm our table wanting tapes of latest songs ‘Who Am I’ . They’d almost get upset with these big groups for singing ‘our songs’.”

Ronnie Hinson continued, “So they (the bigger groups) came to the promoter and said ‘please ask the Hinsons not to sing our latest songs because we have to sell some tapes to come out here all this way and we have to sell tapes to get home.’ They were very, very gracious and said it in a nice way and we began to learn that you don’t do that.”

A Classic Southern Gospel Song is Written

“We found out that we had another concert coming up with the groups we loved, ‘The Goodmans’ and ‘the Rambos’ and we had to come up with some original songs. So we are scanning the songs books at two o’clock in the morning trying to find something that we could recreate and sing. We couldn’t find anything. We were in a big church where we were rehearsing and I said to my brothers and sisters, ‘I’m gonna go to the little boys room downstairs and I’m going to come back up here in just a few minutes with a hit song.’and I just laughed and they laughed at me.”

“I came back up and had written some words on a piece of toilet tissue and I opened it up on the pulpit and said ‘This is my song. Are you ready?’ and I started singing it. One of them grabbed it, wadded it up, laughed and said as hard as it is let’s get back to the hymn books that’s not it.”

“So we tried two more song books”, Ronnie remembered, “and it was almost daylight and my brother Kenny, sleepy young kid, guitar bigger than he was, said, ‘Get that piece of toilet paper out of the trash and open it up. I’ve got an idea’ and he started singing. The presence of the Lord filled the place. It was as bright in that place, it seemed in my spirit man, as noon.”

Ronnie Hinson paused briefly then continued to tell the history behind his song, “The Lighthouse”. He continued, “From that point on it just took off. Everybody who’s who has recorded ‘The Lighthouse’. At one time I think they had several positions in the top twenty that were taken up by somebody else’s version of ‘The Lighthouse’ which is unheard of today.”

First Glimpse of a Lighthouse

Ronnie Hinson then told me something that I find incredulous. He had never seen a lighthouse before he had written the song and didn’t understand what was so special about his song. “I was so curious as a novice at writing. ‘What is so important about this song? What was –as we say in Tennessee – all of the hoopla about?’ I was so intrigued by it, what it was about this song, that I got on my bicycle and rode 30 miles to find a lighthouse. “

“It was the first time I ever laid eyes on a lighthouse, to my knowledge, unless I was a child and had seen it in a social studies book. I parked my bike, chained it to a fence post, climbed up on a sand dune and for the first time – at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Santa Cruz, California, I sat there and I saw the lighthouse and I thought, ‘What a picture. What a scene.’ The ocean was gray. It was desolate looking. It was like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie but there stood the lighthouse; hope in the middle of all that dreary hopelessness.”

“Then I looked at my paper, my toilet paper, and I saw the picture that I’d never seen before. It came to life on that paper and tears ran down my face and I knew that there was something God had orchestrated and as I have learned how to write and have received a lot of awards for writing, I always look back and remember and God always keeps me humble with that one trip to the Lighthouse and remembering that I didn’t even know what a lighthouse was when I wrote it."

Click here for a wonderful video of Ronnie Hinson singing "The Lighthouse".

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Lyrics to “The Lighthouse”

By Ronnie Hinson

There's a Lighthouse on the hillside
that overlooks life's sea.
When I'm tossed it sends out a light
that I might see.
And the light that shines in the darkness,
now will safely lead us o'er.
If it wasn't for the lighthouse
that ship would be no more.

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Everybody that lives around me says,
tear that lighthouse down,
The big ships don't sail this way anymore,
there's no use of it standing 'round.
Then my mind goes back to that stormy night,
when just in time I saw the light,
Yes, the light from that old lighthouse,
that stands up there on the hill.

And I thank God for the Lighthouse,
I owe my life to Him,
For Jesus is the Lighthouse,
and from the rocks of sin
He has shone a light around me
that I can clearly see,
If it wasn't for the Lighthouse
where would this ship be?
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Ronnie Hinson has penned the lyrics to some of Southern Gospel music's greatest songs. "The Lighthouse" is one such song that has indeed stood the test of times. It bears testimony to the power of God's Holy Spirit and His Word to lead wayward souls to the safe harbor of Christ's Grace.


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