What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Album: Amazing Grace (1868)
Play Video


  • Irish-born Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1886) wrote the words of this classic hymn near Port Hope, Ontario, in 1855. Scriven's life was filled with difficulties, poor health having forced him to give up his ambition of a career in the army, and in 1844 his fiancée died in a drowning accident on the eve of their wedding. In the wake of his grief, Scriven moved to Ontario, Canada where he made a new life for himself as a teacher. However, his plans for marriage were dashed again when his new bride-to-be died after a short illness in 1855. Scriven wrote this heart-warming hymn, with the words "Oh, what needless pain we bear," to console his sick mother in Dublin. Originally a poem, it is thought his intention was to comfort her after the death of his second fiancée.
  • Scriven originally published the poem anonymously in Horace Hastings's 1865 Social Hymns, Original and Selected. Charles Crozat Converse, a United States attorney who also worked as a composer of church songs, set the text to music three years later. Scriven finally received proper credit in Hastings's 1886 Songs of Pilgrimage, but in the same year he tragically drowned in Rice Lake.
  • Aretha Franklin recorded "What a Friend" for her Amazing Grace double album. The record was recorded live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles during January of 1972 and stands as the biggest selling pure gospel album in history.

Comments: 2

  • Rich from Portsmouth, NhMy Japanese wife is watching a (Japanese) video with the Friend/Jesus tune playing over + over in the background!
  • Terry from Willmar, MnYou can sing the words to the hymn to the melody of "The Rose".
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust

Lajon Witherspoon of SevendustSongwriter Interviews

The Sevendust frontman talks about the group's songwriting process, and how trips to the Murder Bar helped forge their latest album.

The Fratellis

The FratellisSongwriter Interviews

Jon Fratelli talks about the band's third album, and the five-year break leading up to it.

Randy Houser

Randy HouserSongwriter Interviews

The "How Country Feels" singer talks Skynyrd and songwriting.

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?


AC/DCFact or Fiction

Does Angus really drink himself silly? Did their name come from a sewing machine? See if you can spot the real stories about AC/DC.

Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"

Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"They're Playing My Song

Wilder's hit "Break My Stride" had an unlikely inspiration: a famous record mogul who rejected it.