This song was first recorded by the Imperials, and was the title song of the album, Sail On.
This song was written by Chris Christian. Chris (born February 7, 1955) is an American songwriter, record producer, and a record label executive. His songs have been recorded by dozens of Pop and Contemporary Christian artists. As a member of the trio of Cotton, Lloyd & Christian (put together by Mike Curb) in the early 1970s, he enjoyed 2 hits on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart on 20th Century Records. As a solo artist, he performed on The Merv Griffin Show, Solid Gold, and was a judge on Star Search. Christian also played guitar with Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, and the Wayne Newton band.
As a record producer, he is best known for starting Amy Grant’s music career by signing her at age 16. Christian produced her first album and acted as executive producer for her second. He owned her songs until 1997, when they were sold to Gaylord Entertainment.
Christian has produced dozens of artists and groups, and has also produced hundreds of albums. He has been nominated for 9 Grammy Awards, and has won 4. He has also been nominated for 7 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards as an artist, songwriter, and producer; winning 5. He has also released 16 albums as a solo artist.
In 1966, Jake Hess turned the reins of the Southern Gospel group, the Imperials, over to Armond Morales, Joe Moscheo, and Jim Murray. With new members: Roger Wiles and Terry Blackwood, a new name (now simply known as The Imperials rather than “Jake Hess and the Imperials”), along came a new, more contemporary sound on the 1967 album New Dimensions. It also brought them their first of many awards.
Elvis Presley had long harbored a love for gospel music, and Jake Hess in particular. The group recorded with Elvis in sessions from May 1966 to June 1971. This included his last 2 Grammy Award-producing albums: How Great Thou Art and He Touched Me (which used many of the songs that The Imperials had recorded on their own albums and, again, won a Grammy for the title song). In 1969, Elvis hired the group to perform in concert with him after the Jordanaires had turned down Elvis’ invitation to play Las Vegas and tour.
The Imperials surprised gospel music fans in February 1972 by hiring Sherman Andrus, a former member of Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, to replace Greg Gordon. This made them the first interracial Christian group America had ever seen. The lineup of the group stayed stable with Andrus and Blackwood sharing lead vocals through 1975 when Moscheo left. The following year, the pair themselves left to form the Contemporary Christian act Andrus, Blackwood & Company.
In Early 1976, the group hired baritone David Will, who would stay on for 23yrs with the group, and soulful belter Russ Taff as their new lead vocalist. The Taff-led outfit (Taff, Will, Murray & Morales) is heard on the albums Sail On, Imperials Live, Heed the Call, One More Song for You, Christmas With the Imperials, and Priority. It was during this era that the group found their biggest success, both with awards and on the charts.
Jim Murray sings lead on this song.
This song likens the Christian life to a sailing voyage on uncharted seas.
Bible Reference… Deuteronomy 30:19,20; 1Timothy 6:12.
I was first introduced to the Imperials by Eddie Leslie at Formosa Youth Camp (in Formosa, AR) as a teenager in 1977. He was a huge Imperials fan… and I’d never heard music like theirs before.
Sail on… when the water gets high.
Sail on… when the wind starts to die.
Sail on. It’s just a matter of minutes,
‘til His ship comes to get us and we’ll all get in it.
When we’re all born, we set out to sea;
looking for answers continuously.
Then, when we find out to Him we belong,
we watch for the signs and keep sailing on. (CHORUS)
Cast up your sails, and let the wind blow;
Jesus will never let your ship lose control.
Just keep your compass set on the Son,
and He’ll guide you safely to His beautiful Home. (CHORUS)
We can’t afford to throw our lives to the wind (to the wind).
We’ve got the Lord in control of our ship,
and He’ll guide us safely in. He’ll guide us in… (CHORUS)